What is Breathing Space and how can it help me

If you’re struggling with debts, you might be able to get support through the debt respite scheme, also known as Breathing Space. This could give you valuable time to find an effective and long-term solution for dealing with your debts and help you move forward.

What is Breathing Space?

Breathing Space is a new debt option that gives you temporary protection from the creditors you owe money to if you’re struggling with debts. This includes:

  • freezing most interest, fees and charges on debts and
  • pausing most enforcement action and contact from creditors.

It’s a short-term option, to give you time and space to engage with debt advice and find a longer-term solution.

There are two types of Breathing Space:

  • Standard Breathing Space – which you apply for through debt advice, and which lasts for up to 60 days, with a review between days 25 and 35
  • Mental Health Breathing Space – which is specifically for people in mental health crisis treatment and can only be applied for with an Approved Mental Health Practitioner (AMHP).

This article is about Standard Breathing Space, which you can apply for yourself through debt advice.

To find out more about Breathing Space, you can find a free, independent debt adviser online, over the phone or near to where you live with our Debt Advice Locator tool.

Am I eligible for Breathing Space?

You might be eligible for Breathing Space if you:

  • live in England or Wales
  • have a qualifying debt
  • do not have a debt relief order (DRO), individual voluntary arrangement (IVA), interim order, or are not an undischarged bankrupt at the time you apply
  • have not already taken Standard Breathing Space in the last 12 months.

If you live in Scotland, there is a similar scheme called a Statutory Moratorium.

You can find out more about this on the Advice Scotland websiteopens in new window.

If you live in Northern Ireland, there is no equivalent scheme.

What are qualifying debts?

Most personal debts will qualify for Breathing Space including:

  • credit and store cards
  • personal loans
  • payday loans
  • overdrafts
  • arrears on mortgages, utility bills, hire purchase agreements and other secured debts
  • most government debts, including tax and benefit debts
  • Council Tax arrears.

Joint debts, like a joint mortgage, qualify, even if only one of you wants Breathing Space. However, where possible you should talk to the person you hold a joint debt with to make them aware that you are applying for Breathing Space.

Guarantor loans qualify, but the Breathing Space does not cover the person guaranteeing the loan.

What debts don’t qualify?

Some debts will not qualify for Breathing Space, including:

  • debts run up because of fraud
  • court fines
  • child maintenance payments
  • crisis or budgeting loans from the social fund
  • Universal Credit advance payments
  • student loans
  • damages for the death or personal injuries caused to someone else
  • obligations from a confiscation order

How to apply for Breathing Space

You can only apply for Breathing Space though a debt adviser.

If someone approaches you directly about Breathing Space or offers to arrange it for you for a fee, it is likely to be a scam.

You can find free, independent debt advice using our Debt Advice Locator tool.

What do I need to do during Breathing Space?

Breathing Space is designed to give you time to get debt advice and look at any possible debt solutions.

This means you must keep talking to a debt adviser throughout Breathing Space to continue to receive its protections.

The adviser must conduct a mid-way review with you between days 25 and 35 to confirm that you are engaging with advice and meeting the conditions of Breathing Space, which are:

  • informing your debt adviser if there’s been any change in your circumstances
  • not taking out extra individual or joint borrowing exceeding £500, including overdrafts
  • continuing to pay your essential bills and any debts not covered by Breathing Space

If you’re in any doubt about what you need to do during Breathing Space, you should talk to your debt adviser.

What happens after Breathing Space has ended?

At the end of Breathing Space, the protections will end and the creditors you owe money to can:

  • start adding interest, fees and penalties to your debts
  • take action to enforce the debt
  • resume or start legal proceedings

This is why it’s very important you actively engage with a debt adviser during Breathing Space to find a longer-term debt solution that works for you that could avoid these things happening.

What other options are available?

The debt adviser dealing with your application will look at all the options available to you and might recommend something other than Breathing Space. They will talk through the pros and cons of other options available to you.

Find free, independent debt advice in your area with our Debt Advice Locator tool.

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