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Breathing Space scheme: Frequently asked questions

Take a look at our most frequently asked Breathing Space questions, and, once you're ready, get free debt advice to see if you're eligible.

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The Breathing Space scheme is available in England and Wales. In Scotland, the moratorium period is similar, but has different benefits and considerations.

If you’re considering getting debt advice and applying for Breathing Space, you probably have questions about how it works and how it can help you.

We have lots of information about the Breathing Space scheme, including:

Below, you can also find our most commonly asked questions about the Breathing Space scheme and how it could affect your finances.

General Breathing Space questions

Breathing Space is a government scheme designed to give people respite from their debts while they seek advice or are working to put a debt solution in place.

It stops your creditors from demanding payment or taking enforcement action, with some exceptions, for 60 days while the scheme is in place.

It’s not a payment holiday, so you will have to continue paying your debts during this time, but it does prevent action from being taken against you if you’re unable to pay during your Breathing Space. Your creditors will be able to resume taking action to recover missing payments once your Breathing Space ends.

The main benefit of Breathing Space is that, if you apply successfully, you'll have up to 60 days where your creditors are not allowed to contact you demanding payment or take action to collect your debt.

This will give you time to sort out your finances and put a long-term solution in place. Interest and charges are also frozen for the duration of Breathing Space, so your debts won’t continue to increase while you seek help.

With a payment holiday, you don’t need to pay anything to your creditors. However, interest and charges may continue to be added and you’ll need to make up the missed payments in the future. Payment holidays are agreed between you and your lender, so you can’t take a payment holiday if they won’t agree to one.

Breathing Space doesn’t stop your payments from becoming due, so you’ll still need to make them, but interest and charges will be frozen and your creditors won’t be allowed to demand repayments. You apply for Breathing Space via a debt advisor, who will register your details with the Insolvency Service. Your creditors must comply with Breathing Space.

Breathing Space is administered by the Insolvency Service, a government agency. They register people on Breathing Space and notify their creditors. They will also send out communications when Breathing Space ends after 60 days.

The Insolvency Service is a government agency, part of the Department for Business, Enterprise, Innovation and Skills. They are responsible for administering both individual and company insolvencies in England and Wales.

You can’t apply directly to the Insolvency Service for Breathing Space – a debt advice provider has to submit your application so the Insolvency Service can register you on the scheme. StepChange is able to register clients on Breathing Space if they meet the criteria, so when you get debt advice from us, we’ll assess whether you’re eligible for the scheme.

Breathing Space is intended to give you protection while you seek debt advice and work towards putting a debt solution in place. If you're eligible and start the scheme, you’ll know what steps need to be taken next to get your solution up and running. Breathing Space may end early if your debt solution is up and running before the 60 days ends, but normally you’ll get the full 60 days' protection.

Some debts aren’t included in Breathing Space. These are generally similar to the debts that aren’t included in bankruptcy or other formal debt solutions, such as criminal fines, child maintenance, student loans and personal injury debts.

If you have debts that won’t be included in Breathing Space, your debt advice provider will discuss what to do about these while you’re being registered on the scheme.

Student loans aren’t eligible for Breathing Space.

Breathing Space doesn’t directly affect your credit score, but if you miss payments these will be recorded on your credit file as normal. Although Breathing Space isn’t recorded on your credit file, if a creditor knows you’ve had Breathing Space in the past, this may affect your ability to borrow from them in future.

Being self-employed does not necessarily mean you would be ineligible for Breathing Space, although we are unable to help with your application. This is because we usually refer those who are self-employed to Business Debtline, another charity who provide specialist debt advice for the self-employed. They will be able to assist you in terms of your eligibility for Breathing Space, and your subsequent application process.

You can only have Breathing Space once every 12 months.

No. Breathing Space is not available to anyone currently on a DRO/IVA.

Breathing Space isn’t a payment holiday so you would still be required to make your payments during this time.

Breathing Space is not applicable for these types of debts.

If a debt has been passed to a county court, we will need to know which court the debt is with, but it can still be added to your Breathing Space.

During Breathing Space

Enforcement action may still be taken if:

  • - Attachment of earnings (i.e. debt payments taken directly from your wages) were already in place when Breathing Space started
  • - The Court gives permission for a creditor to take enforcement action

You should also note that:

You’ll need to keep your debt advice provider informed of any changes in circumstances while you’re on Breathing Space.

You also need to maintain payments to your rent or mortgage, taxes, utility bills and insurance policies while Breathing Space is in place.

You’re not allowed to borrow more than £500, either alone or jointly with another person.

Finally, during the time you're on Breathing Space you should continue to get debt advice and aim to put a long-term solution in place. We can help with both.

Interest and fees on debts included in the scheme are frozen during Breathing Space.

If your circumstances change, you should tell your debt advice provider. They’ll review your situation and give you new advice. Your Breathing Space will normally continue, unless your change in circumstances means you no longer meet the criteria for Breathing Space.

If you file an admission in response to a money claim before or during Breathing Space, a County Court Judgment can be entered against you.

Although some legal proceedings will be held while your debt is in Breathing Space, the proceedings will not be concluded until the Court makes an Order.

The legal proceedings can continue after Breathing Space ends. If the time limit for taking legal action expires during Breathing Space, the time limit will be extended for eight weeks after the Breathing Space ended.

If the goods were removed before Breathing Space started, they can be sold during Breathing Space and the costs of the sale can be taken from the proceeds. You cannot be charged fees for the storage of the goods during Breathing Space.

Yes, the Court may still send correspondence to you about ongoing legal action during Breathing Space.

Renters - If you’re behind on your rent to your landlord, you cannot be evicted for this while you’re on Breathing Space. However, you can still be evicted on other grounds, for example for anti-social behaviour, or if your landlord needs the property to live in themselves.

Homeowners – If you’re behind on your mortgage payments, your home cannot be repossessed during your Breathing Space. However, mortgage possession claims can start again once your Breathing Space is over, so it’s important to get debt advice before this happens.

If you are within the first five days of Breathing Space you don’t need to do anything due to the grace period in place.

If you have had Breathing Space for over seven days, please contact us. If you have received a letter or email you may want to send us a copy so we can escalate this with the creditor on your behalf.

Once Breathing Space has been applied you can only cancel at the Mid-Point Review. After this point, you need to wait for your Breathing Space to end.

Creditors are still legally required to keep you up to date with things such as your outstanding balance, during Breathing Space they aren’t allowed to ask you to make payments.

Breathing Space application

No, you can only apply for Breathing Space individually - you can’t access it jointly.

However, if you’re living as a couple and you both have debt issues, you could each apply for Breathing Space at the same time.

If a joint debt is included in Breathing Space, the protections will extend to both of you, even if only one of you has registered on the scheme.

It’s quick and straightforward to apply for Breathing Space. Once we’ve submitted your application to the Insolvency Service, it will register your details on a private register by the end of the next working day. The protections will apply from the day after this.

Creditors can object to Breathing Space, or the inclusion of a debt in your Breathing Space.

If a creditor does this, we will review the objection and contact you if we need information or if your Breathing Space will be impacted.

It is important that you provide us with as much information as you can when you submit your application to avoid objections being raised.

Creditors can also appeal to a court to allow interest and fees to be backdated and applied to the period of Breathing Space. They can also apply to the Court to take enforcement action during Breathing Space.

Your details are recorded on a Breathing Space register kept by the Insolvency Service. However, this register is only accessible to your debt advice provider and creditors.

If you hold the debt on your own, no one else will be able to find out that you’re on Breathing Space.

However, it's best to be aware that if you hold the debt jointly with another person, they may be contacted by your creditor about your Breathing Space application.

We’re the largest provider of free debt advice and debt solutions in the UK, so we can review your whole financial situation and recommend a way to get your finances back on track. If you need Breathing Space to help get a solution in place, we can arrange this for you.

If you have additional needs or a condition that makes it harder for you to access our services, tell us as soon as you can. We can make adjustments to our service to accommodate your needs.

Breathing Space protections take effect from the day after your application is approved.

Your creditor must stop any interest and charges immediately, and pause any enforcement action.

If they don’t do this, any action taken can't be enforced, and any charges would have to be refunded.

If we’ve set up your Breathing Space, and you’re still receiving contact from your creditors more than seven days after it started, contact us.

You will need to provide your:

  1. full name
  2. date of birth
  3. home address (in some very limited circumstances, this address might be withheld from the Breathing Space Register and any notifications to creditors)
  4. details of the debts that you owe (including the type of debt), and
  5. the name and contact details for each creditor.

You will need to add your creditors address when apply for Breathing Space on a debt with them. The address of a creditor will never be your own address.

Only debts in your own name can be added to your Breathing Space.

Life after Breathing Space

After your Breathing Space ends, your creditors are allowed to start contacting you again and take further action to collect your debts.

Any action that has been paused as a result of Breathing Space may resume.

You should continue working towards getting your debt solution in place, so that you have a longer-term plan to deal with your debts.

Need Breathing Space?

When you get free, confidential debt advice, you can check if you’re eligible for 60 days’ Breathing Space, to give you time to focus on setting up a debt solution. Get started now, and we’ll help you through the process.

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"I was beside myself with worry and I was referred to have a chat with StepChange. I'm so glad I did. I feel more in control with my finances and they are always ready to answer any concerns or questions I had once things were put in place. Very understanding and non judgemental."

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