The Debt Respite Scheme (England & Wales)

The Debt Respite Scheme (England & Wales)

The debt respite scheme

If you're struggling with serious debt, you may be able to get 'breathing space' under the debt respite scheme. During this breathing space period, the people you owe money to must not chase you for the debt. The idea is that you can use the time to get advice and form a plan to pay off your debts.

There are 2 types of breathing space:

Standard breathing space

This lasts for 60 days, although can be cancelled before then. To get it, you must speak to a professional debt advisor. The advisor can grant the breathing space period if they think it's appropriate in the circumstances (there are also other criteria – see below).

Mental health crisis breathing space

To be eligible for this, you must be receiving mental health crisis treatment as defined in the debt respite scheme. It lasts for however long your mental health crisis treatment lasts, plus 30 days after that treatment ends. It can be cancelled before then.

You don't have to get debt advice from a debt advice provider – an approved mental health professional can certify that you're receiving mental health crisis treatment and provide the following information:

  • information to identify you
  • their own name and contact details
  • the name and contact details of your nominated point of contact
  • as much information about your creditors and any enforcement agents or other agents instructed by those creditors to collect the debt from you.

You do, however, still need to meet the eligibility criteria (see below).

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible for either type of breathing space, you must be living in England or Wales. You can have personal debts, or you could be a sole trader with business debts.

The debt must be a qualifying debt. Most debts are qualifying debts, including those that arose before the debt respite scheme came into force.

Debts that arise after a breathing space period starts are not qualifying debts. Other non-qualifying debts include any new arrears on secured debts, such as a mortgage.

You can only get a standard breathing space once in any 12-month period. However, you may be able to get a mental health crisis breathing space if you've already had a breathing space (of either kind).

A debt advisor should only grant a standard breathing space if you can't, or you're unlikely to be able to, repay all or some of your debt.

What you're entitled to during a breathing space period

If you're granted breathing space, the Insolvency Service will tell the people you owe money to. If this happens, they must stop any attempts to recover the debt until the breathing space period is over. This includes:

  • Collecting the debt from you
  • Contacting you for the purposes of enforcing the debt, including to demand payment or as a precursor to starting legal proceedings
  • Charging you any interest or other fees that become due during the breathing space (if interest has started to build on the debt, it stops accruing when the breathing space period starts and doesn't start accruing again until it's finished)
  • Enforcing a judgment or order issued by a court or tribunal either before or during the moratorium
  • Enforcing security held in respect of the debt
  • Getting a warrant
  • Selling or taking control of your property or goods
  • Starting any action or legal proceedings against you for non-payment of the debt
  • Applying for default judgment in respect of a claim for money against you
  • Installing a pre-paid meter to take payment in respect of the debt, unless you consented to it before the start of the breathing space
  • Disconnecting your home/premises from a supply of gas or electricity, unless the supply was taken illegally
  • Serving notice to take possession (or taking possession after serving notice) of your home
  • Apply for you to be committed to prison over the debt

They also can't instruct someone else (e.g. a solicitor or a debt collection agency) to do any of these things on their behalf. If they've already done so and they're then told that you have been granted breathing space, it's their responsibility to then tell whoever they've instructed to act on their behalf. If they don't, they'll be responsible for any losses you suffer as a result of that failure.

If they've already started legal proceedings when a breathing space period is granted, they'll need to tell the court. In the case of a bankruptcy petition, the court will then stay (pause) the petition. However, other pending actions may continue to progress – but if they do, the court is unlikely to allow any resulting order or judgment to be enforced during the breathing space period.

In summary, those owed money should avoid all contact with you during the breathing space period unless you approach them with a query or complaint, or want to talk to them about a debt solution.

Getting the breathing space period cancelled

If those owed money feel that the breathing space unfairly prejudices their interests or that there has been some reason why it shouldn't have been granted, they can request that your debt advisor reviews it. If that fails, they can try to apply to the county court to ask for it to be cancelled.

More information

See the guidance on the debt respite scheme on GOV.UK.

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