The Debt Respite Scheme (‘Breathing Space’)

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Posted on28 Jun 2021

Years of austerity measures and the coronavirus pandemic have negatively impacted on the financial situation of millions of people. Changes in circumstances such as redundancy have left many with a reduced income, struggling to maintain payments towards essential household bills and getting into debt.

As lockdown restrictions are eased, the temporary protections from debt recovery are coming to an end. In light of this, Breathing Space was introduced by the government in May 2021. The scheme is designed to provide individuals experiencing financial difficulties, with the time required to obtain advice and set up a solution for their debts.

The standard Breathing Space lasts for 60 days, during which creditors are prevented from taking enforcement action, adding interest or charges to included debts and requesting payment for them.

Extra protections are also available to individuals receiving medical treatment for a mental health crisis.

In this circumstance, Breathing Space would not be limited to 60 days but would be relevant for the duration of the medical treatment plus an additional 30 days.

Some types of debt are not included in the Breathing Space and these are listed below (payment for these debts are expected to continue unless the creditors have agreed otherwise):

  • Budgeting and crisis loans
  • Business debts
  • Fraudulent debts
  • Magistrates court fines
  • Maintenance arrears
  • Money owed under a Criminal Confiscation Order
  • Ongoing household costs (although arrears can be included)
  • Personal injury claim debts
  • Student loans
  • Universal Credit benefit advances

In order to be eligible for Breathing Space, individuals must:

  1. Live in England or Wales;
  2. Be unable to repay their debts ‘as they fall due’;
  3. Not be an undischarged bankrupt, in a Debt Relief Order (‘DRO’) or party to an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (‘IVA’);
  4. Not have had a previous Breathing Space within the last 12 months (this rule does not apply to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis); and
  5. Have sought advice through a Breathing Space approved adviser.

If you feel that you or someone you know may benefit from Breathing Space, contact our Money, Benefits and Debt Advice team on 0800 5870211 or at [email protected]. Our advisers can provide further details and support through the application process, including assistance with benefit claims and budgeting. Our Money, Benefits and Debt Advice team can also make referrals on your behalf, to approved Breathing Space advisers at: