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What Is Breathing Space?

With the cost of living at an all time high, following the devastating impact of the pandemic on people’s livelihoods, it seems that debt is also on the rise – perhaps unsurprisingly.

Figures published earlier this year show that the number of households in the UK struggling with large debts rose by a third in 2021, even before we saw the removal of the £20 uplift in universal credit payments and the hike in energy prices seen during the winter months.

With all the additional pressure we’ve seen over the last few months, including rent, fuel and food price hikes and even more energy price increases, debt problems may well become a reality for many more households around the country.

It’s important to remember that, if you are struggling financially, you’re not alone and there is help available out there to get you back on a more even keel. 

It is advisable to get in touch with your creditors immediately if you do think you’re going to find it hard to make repayments at any point, even if it’s just one. Ignoring the problem will likely only make it worse and can make it more difficult for you to extricate yourself from your situation.

If your debt has started to feel overwhelming and problematic, it could be worth looking into breathing space, a government scheme set up to give debtors time to seek advice and find solutions to their problems.

It gives people temporary protection from debt collection so they can take the necessary steps to get on top of their debts. You can apply for 60 days’ breathing space through a debt adviser, but you’ll need to meet certain conditions, such as continuing to engage with your adviser and not taking on any new debt above £500 during this time.

As long as you continue to meet these conditions, all interest and fees will be paused on your debts, as well.

In order to be eligible for breathing space, you will need to live in England or Wales and you must be unable to repay some or all your debts. You must not have had breathing space before at any time within the last 12 months of your application and you must not be in an IVA, DRO or be an undischarged bankrupt.

If you’re in Scotland, you can apply for a six-month debt moratorium, which allows you the time and space you need to gain control of your situation, without having to worry about creditor action.

If you’re being treated for a mental health crisis, you will need a mental health professional to confirm that you are receiving care. You can then seek help from the breathing space scheme, with a pause on enforcement in place for as long as you’re receiving treatment, plus 30 days.

Looking for debt advice online? Get in touch with Fresh Start today.


Money Helper has replaced the Money Advice Service and brings together the support and services of three government-backed financial guidance providers: the Money Advice Service, the Pensions Advisory Service and Pension Wise.