What is Breathing Space and how can it help me

If you’re struggling with debts, you might be able to get support through the debt respite scheme, also known as Breathing Space. This could give you valuable time to find an effective and long-term solution for dealing with your debts and help you move forward.

What is Breathing Space?

Breathing Space is a new debt option that gives you temporary protection from the creditors you owe money to if you’re struggling with debts. This includes:

  • freezing most interest, fees and charges on debts; and 
  • pausing most enforcement action and contact from creditors.

It’s a short-term option, to give you time and space to engage with debt advice and find a longer-term solution.

There are two types of Breathing Space:

  • Standard Breathing Space – which you apply for through debt advice, and which lasts for up to 60 days, with a review between days 25 and 35
  • Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space – which is specifically for people in mental health crisis treatment and can only be applied for with an Approved Mental Health Practitioner (AMHP). It lasts for the duration of your treatment, plus 30 days.

Am I eligible for Breathing Space?

Standard Breathing Space

You might be eligible for Breathing Space if you:

  • live in England or Wales 
  • have a qualifying debt 
  • do not have a debt relief order (DRO), individual voluntary arrangement (IVA), interim order, or are not an undischarged bankrupt at the time you apply
  • have not already taken Standard Breathing Space in the last 12 months.

If you live in Scotland, there is a similar scheme called a Statutory Moratorium.

If you live in Northern Ireland, there is no equivalent scheme.

Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space

To qualify for Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space you must be receiving specific treatment.

You are only eligible if you have been:

  • detained under the Mental Health Act (also known as being sectioned).

  • removed to a space of safety under the Mental Health Act 

  • getting care in a hospital or the community from a specialist mental health team such as the crisis team or the home treatment team. 

What are qualifying debts?

Most personal debts will qualify for Breathing Space including:

  • credit and store cards
  • personal loans
  • payday loans
  • overdrafts
  • arrears on mortgages, utility bills, hire purchase agreements and other secured debts
  • most government debts, including tax and benefit debts
  • Council Tax arrears.

Joint debts, like a joint mortgage, qualify, even if only one of you wants Breathing Space. However, where possible you should talk to the person you hold a joint debt with to make them aware that you are applying for Breathing Space.

Guarantor loans qualify, but the Breathing Space does not cover the person guaranteeing the loan.

What debts don’t qualify?

Some debts will not qualify for Breathing Space, including:

  • debts run up because of fraud
  • court fines
  • child maintenance payments
  • crisis or budgeting loans from the social fund
  • Universal Credit advance payments
  • student loans
  • damages for the death or personal injuries caused to someone else
  • obligations from a confiscation order.

How to apply for Breathing Space

Standard Breathing Space

You can only apply for Breathing Space though a debt adviser. 

If someone approaches you directly about Breathing Space or offers to arrange it for you for a fee, it is likely to be a scam.

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Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space

You cannot apply for Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space by yourself. You can only apply with the support of an Approved Mental Health Practitioner (AMHP).

An AMHP means someone approved under section 114(1) of the Mental Health Act 1983 by any local social services authority in England, or approved under that subsection by any local social services authority in Wales.

If you want to find an AMHP, you should speak to:

  • the healthcare professional most involved in your care

  • the AMHP team at your local adult social services department

  • your local community mental health team.

The AMHP will need to complete an official evidence form to show you’re receiving mental health crisis treatment. This will then be submitted to a debt advisor by the AMHP, yourself, or by another person, such as a carer, social worker or a nominated representative. 

Evidence forms should be submitted through the single point of entry provided by the Money and Pensions Service.

What do I need to do during Breathing Space?

Standard Breathing Space

Breathing Space is designed to give you time to get debt advice and look at any possible debt solutions.

This means you must keep talking to a debt adviser throughout Breathing Space to continue to receive its protections.

The adviser must conduct a mid-way review with you between days 25 and 35 to confirm that you are engaging with advice and meeting the conditions of Breathing Space, which are:

  • informing your debt adviser if there’s been any change in your circumstances
  • not taking out extra individual or joint borrowing exceeding £500, including overdrafts
  • continuing to pay your essential bills and any debts not covered by Breathing Space.

If you’re in any doubt about what you need to do during Breathing Space, you should talk to your debt adviser.

Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space

Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space is designed to give you time to receive treatment without being pursued for your debts.

You do not need to meet the same conditions as Standard Breathing Space, but a Nominated Point of Contact (to be included within the evidence form) will need to confirm you’re still in mental health treatment every 30 days. 

You should also continue to pay bills and make your regular debt repayments if you can, as Breathing Space is not a payment holiday, and you may still be contacted about these.

What happens after Breathing Space has ended?

At the end of Breathing Space, the protections will end and the creditors you owe money to can:

  • start adding interest, fees and penalties to your debts
  • take action to enforce the debt
  • resume or start legal proceedings.

This is why it’s very important that within Standard Breathing Space you actively engage with a debt adviser to find a longer-term debt solution that works for you that could avoid these things happening. 

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What other options are available?

If you’re applying for Standard Breathing Space, the debt adviser dealing with your application will look at all the options available to you and might recommend something other than Breathing Space. They will talk through the pros and cons of other options available to you.

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impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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