'Breathing Space' debt support

Facing financial difficulties with debt piling up? New support is available to get your finances back on track.

The pandemic has had an effect on everyone with many people falling behind on essential bills and getting into debt. However, a new government scheme has been launched which can help, by giving you the time and debt advice you need without pressure from creditors or mounting debts.

Support available for people in mental health crisis

There are two types of 'Breathing Space':

  • A standard breathing space is available to anyone with problem debt. It gives them legal protections from creditor action for up to 60 days. The protections include pausing most enforcement action and contact from creditors and freezing most interest and charges on their debts.
  • A mental health crisis breathing space is only available to someone who is receiving mental health crisis treatment and it has some stronger protections. It lasts as long as the person's mental health crisis treatment, plus 30 days (no matter how long the crisis treatment lasts).

Regulations define mental health 'crisis treatment' to be when a debtor:

  • has been detained in hospital for assessment under sections 2 or 4 of the Mental Health Act 1983;
  • has been detained in hospital for treatment under section 3 of that Act;
  • has been removed to a place of safety by a police constable under sections 135 or 136 of that Act;
  • has been detained in hospital for assessment or treatment under sections 35, 36, 37, 38, 45A, 47 or 48 of that Act, or
  • is receiving any other crisis, emergency or acute care or treatment in hospital or in the community from a specialist mental health service in relation to a mental disorder of a serious nature.

A Mental Health Breathing Space can be applied for by debtors, their carers, advocates or representatives, mental health professionals and health and social care workers. Residents are advised to contact professional debt advisers who provide a free service.

This online referral should be used to request an Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) provides evidence that a person is receiving mental health crisis treatment.

Debts included in a breathing space must be qualifying debts. Debts are any sum of money owed by the debtor to you, while liabilities are any obligation on the debtor to pay money to you. Most debts are likely to be qualifying debts. These will include:

  • credit cards
  • store cards
  • personal loans
  • pay day loans
  • overdrafts
  • utility bill arrears
  • mortgage or rent arrears.

Government debts like tax and benefit debts are all likely to qualify, unless they are included in the list of excluded debts.