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What is Breathing Space and how to apply

Take a short break from the pressure and stress of debt.

England and Wales only

Breathing Space gives you a break from interest, fees, and court action for up to 60 days. It is a government scheme and sometimes called:

  • The Debt Respite Scheme
  • The Breathing Space Scheme 

In Scotland you may be able to apply for a 'debt moratorium period' while you set up certain debt solutions. It is similar to Breathing Space, but has different risks and benefits.

Need help with your debts?

Get debt advice to build a budget and find out about applying for Breathing Space.

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About Breathing Space

Breathing Space is a free government scheme that stops you being chased for debts.

What is Breathing Space?

Breathing Space protects you while you seek debt advice and work towards a debt solution.

For up to 60 days, the people you owe money to cannot:

  • Add interest or fees to your debts 
  • Take enforcement action 
  • Contact you for anything other than:  
  • Regular statements or 
  • Auto-generated messages 

This applies to all the debts in your Breathing Space.

How do I apply for Breathing Space?

You need to get debt advice from an approved organisation to apply for breathing space.

A debt advisor will:

Get debt help online or over the phone for free.

You may be able to get Breathing Space if you:

  • Live in England or Wales 
  • Have at least one qualifying debt 

You cannot get Breathing Space if you:

Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space is different. See below.

Watch the video: What is Breathing Space?


What is Breathing Space?
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2:07

Carol on Feefo says:

Support to organise my finances to enable disposable funds to be allocated to debt repayment. Easy to use, breathing space during the initial process, and peace of mind long term.

Get help like Carol

Is Breathing Space a Payment Holiday?

No. Breathing Space is not a payment holiday. You need to keep making regular payments if you can.

Here are the differences:

Breathing Space

  • Creditors must comply 
  • Apply via debt advisor and register with insolvency service 
  • Interest and charges are frozen 
  • Payments are not paused 
  • Keep making payments if you can 

Payment Holiday

  • Creditors must agree 
  • Less formal agreement between you and your lenders 
  • Interest and charges can be added 
  • Payments are paused 
  • Payments must be made up in future 

In some cases the people you owe can still take action against you:

  • After your 60 days is up 
  • If you are facing eviction measures

What debts are included?

Most unsecured debts can be included in Breathing Space. This includes things like:

You cannot get Breathing Space for: 

  • Secured debts. But the arrears on secured debts can be included 
  • Debts you run up after your Breathing Space has started 
  • Debts caused by committing fraud 
  • Court fines. But penalty charge notices like parking tickets do qualify 
  • Obligations from a confiscation order 
  • Child maintenance or money owed under an order from family court proceedings 
  • A crisis or budgeting loan
  • Student loans
  • Personal injury damages 
  • Advance payments on Universal Credit 
  • Council tax liabilities that are not due yet 

Get started now to apply online.

What is Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space (MHCBS)?

This is a debt help scheme for people having mental health crisis treatment.

  • Your mental health breathing space lasts as long as your mental health crisis, plus 30 days
  • You'll need an Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) to provide evidence you are receiving mental health crisis treatment
  • You don't have to get debt advice
  • You can have a mental health crisis breathing space anytime you have crisis treatment

Who can access Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space?

MHCBS is only available to residents of England and Wales with at least one qualifying debt to a creditor and if they're receiving mental health crisis treatment. This means you are either:

  • Detained under the Mental Health Act (this is also known as being sectioned)
  • Removed to a place of safety under the Mental Health Act
  • Receiving crisis care in hospital or the community from a specialist mental health team such as the crisis team or the home treatment team

Visit the Mental Health and Money Advice website to find out more and check if you can access the scheme.

Common Breathing Space questions

Breathing Space is administered by the Insolvency Service, a government agency.

They register people on Breathing Space and notify their creditors.

They also send out communications when Breathing Space ends after 60 days.

Breathing Space does not directly affect your credit score, but missed payments are recorded on your credit file.

Breathing Space is not recorded on your credit file, but if a creditor knows about it, this may affect your ability to borrow from them.

Being self-employed does not necessarily mean you could not get Breathing Space, but we cannot help with your application.

We usually refer self-employed people to Business Debtline, another charity. They provide specialist debt advice for the self-employed.

They can assist you with:

  • Your eligibility for Breathing Space
  • Your subsequent application process

After Breathing Space ends, your creditors can start contacting you again and take further action on your debts.

Any action that paused because of Breathing Space may resume.

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

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We have helped millions of people since 1993.

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