Breathing Space – For People in Debt

New rules giving those in England and Wales who are struggling with problem debt a two-month grace period to get their finances back under control come into force on 4th May 2021, in a huge victory for and others who’ve campaigned hard on the issue.   

From today, those struggling with serious debt can get a 60-day respite during which all interest and charges on their debt will be frozen, and they won’t face enforcement action from their creditors. If someone is receiving mental health crisis treatment, they can get a longer grace period, dubbed a ‘recovery space’, which lasts as long as their treatment plus a further 30 days. In both scenarios you need to ask for this help though – it’s not automatic. 

The Government’s impact assessment estimated that millions will benefit from breathing space over the next decade, with 700,000 people helped in the first year, rising to 1.2 million per year by the tenth year of operation. Between 25,000 and 50,000 of those helped each year are expected to be individuals in mental health crisis treatment. founder Martin Lewis has long campaigned for the Government to introduce breathing space for debt sufferers, to give them time to get advice and sort out their finances. In 2016, both Martin and debt help charity StepChange issued a joint statement calling for the help to be introduced. For more on where to get help, see our Debt Help guide and free Mental Health & Debt booklet.

Petar Lekarski | News Reporter said:

“I’m especially thrilled that our Money and Mental Health Policy Institute suggestion for ‘recovery space’ is coming into fruition as part of this. That means from now on, everyone receiving NHS crisis care for their mental health can recover without being hassled for escalating debt, fees and charges. Finally, people returning home after being hospitalised for their mental health, an extremely anxious and depressing time, can do it safe in the knowledge there’s no threat or reality of bailiffs knocking.”

  • If you’re getting treatment for a mental health crisis, ask a mental health professional about breathing space. They can apply on your behalf if it’s appropriate for you. Others such as carers, mental health nurses and social workers can also apply for you, but to do so they’ll need a mental health professional to confirm that you’re receiving crisis treatment.

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