Money Wellness
A drowning piggy bank

How can breathing space help me with my debts?

If you’re struggling with debt, breathing space offers short-term relief so you have time to get advice and find a longer-term solution.

What’s breathing space?

Breathing space gives you temporary protection from creditors you owe money to. If you’re struggling with debt, breathing space gives you time to get advice.  

 It’s available in England and Wales. 

 During breathing space:  

  • most interest, fees and charges on your debts are frozen 
  • creditors can’t chase you to pay your debts 
  • enforcement action is paused 

Types of breathing space

There are two types of breathing space: 

  • standard
  • mental health crisis 

Who qualifies for breathing space?

Standard breathing space

You may be eligible if you:

  • have a qualifying debt
  • live in England or Wales
  • don’t have a current insolvency solution and you’re not in the process of applying for one e.g. debt relief order or individual voluntary arrangement
  • haven’t had standard breathing space in the last 12 months 

If you live in Scotland, there’s a similar scheme called a statutory moratorium.

There’s no equivalent scheme in Northern Ireland. 

Mental health crisis breathing space

To qualify you must be in one of the following situations:

  • receiving acute, emergency or crisis care from a specialist service for a serious mental health disorder. You might be getting help from a community mental health team, liaison mental health team, crisis home treatment team or any other specialist mental health crisis team
  • detained under the Mental Health Act (commonly known as sectioned)
  • removed to a safe space under the Mental Health Act

What are the qualifying debts for breathing space?

You can get breathing space for most personal debts, including:

  • personal loans
  • payday loans
  • credit cards
  • store cards
  • overdrafts
  • mortgage arrears
  • utility bill arrears
  • council tax arrears
  • hire purchase agreements
  • overpaid benefits
  • tax debts

Do joint debts qualify for breathing space?

You can get breathing space for joint debts, even if only one of you wants it. But it’s always best to let the other person know you’re applying for breathing space.

You can also get breathing space for a guarantor loan if you’re the borrower, but not if you’re the guarantor.

What debts don’t qualify for breathing space?

You can’t get breathing space for some debts, including:

  • court fines
  • universal credit advance payments
  • child maintenance payments
  • student loans
  • confiscation order debts
  • debts you’ve built up through fraud
  • damages you’re paying for causing someone’s death or injury

Applying for standard breathing space

You can only apply for standard breathing space through a debt adviser. We can do it for you – just get in touch with one of our debt advisers.

Standard breathing space lasts for 60 days. 

Applying for mental health crisis breathing space

There is a special type of breathing space for people in mental health crisis treatment. An approved mental health professional (AMHP) will need to help with the application. It lasts while you’re in treatment plus 30 days. 

 You can find an AMHP by talking to:

  • your local community mental health team
  • the healthcare professional you usually deal with
  • the AMHP team at your council’s adult social services department

The AMHP will fill in an evidence form to confirm you’re receiving crisis mental health treatment.

In England, the form should be submitted to Mental Health & Money Advice.

In Wales, the form should be submitted to Citizens Advice.

The evidence can be submitted by any of the following people:

  • you
  • the AMHP
  • a carer, social worker or nominated representative

What do I need to do during breathing space?

Standard breathing space

During standard breathing space, you must keep talking to a debt adviser and explore possible debt solutions.

There will be a review with your debt adviser after 25 to 35 days to check you:

  • are actively engaging with advice
  • have let your debt adviser know about any changes in your situation
  • haven’t borrowed more than £500 during breathing space
  • are paying essential bills and debts not covered by breathing space

Mental health crisis breathing space

There aren’t as many conditions to meet during mental health crisis breathing space. Every 30 days, a nominated representative will just need to confirm you’re still receiving mental health treatment.

You should continue to pay essential bills and debts if you can, as they’re not covered by breathing space and you may still be contacted about them.

What happens after breathing space?

After breathing space, your lenders can resume trying to recover the money you owe them. That’s why it’s important to use the time provided by breathing space to try and find a long-term solution to your money issues.

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