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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:

  • Are on a debt relief order (DRO)
  • Have an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA)
  • • Are subject to an ‘interim order’. This is an order your insolvency practitioner (IP) may apply for ahead of making a proposal to creditors, as part of setting up an IVA
  • Have an undischarged bankruptcy
  • Have been on the Breathing Space scheme in the past 12 months (not including Mental Health Breathing Space)

Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space is different. See below.

Watch the video: What is Breathing Space?

What is Breathing Space?

Carol on Feefo says:

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.

Common Breathing Space questions

You can only apply for Breathing Space by getting debt advice from an approved provider like StepChange.

Our free, online debt advice tool can help you apply for Breathing Space online.

It will:

  • Build a budget
  • Check your debts can be included
  • Check you can apply
  • Submit your application to the Insolvency Service

Breathing Space is a good idea if your mental health is being impacted by debt.

It is normal for debt stress to impact your wellbeing, and it is normal for mental health issues to make it harder to deal with debt.

Breathing Space gives you a break from the pressure of creditors contacting you for payment and lets you take some time to find the right debt solution.

Our expert team can help you apply and will never judge you.

Our website has some useful resources too:

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Are you having a mental health crisis?

Have you been:

  • 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?

Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space (MHCBS) is a separate debt help scheme for people having mental health crisis treatment.

We cannot help you with it, but the Mental Health and Money Advice website can. Visit to find out more and check if you can apply.

The Breathing Space register is kept by the Insolvency Service.

The Breathing Space Register can only be seen by:

  • Your debt advice provider and
  • The people you owe

This means not many people will know or find out about your Breathing Space.

It is different from the Insolvency Register, which is also run by the Insolvency Service.

The Insolvency Register is public and lists details of anyone with:

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What is the Insolvency Service?

The Insolvency Service is a government agency that deals with individual and company insolvencies in England and Wales

Breathing space stops bailiffs (also called enforcement agents) from:

  • Contacting you
  • Visiting you
  • Giving you notice of enforcement
  • Giving you notice of property posession
  • Starting possession proceedings
  • Getting a warrant of control
  • Taking control of goods

In other words, all enforcement action must stop.

Bailiffs can sell goods they took into control before your Breathing Space started, but they cannot charge you for the storage of those goods during Breathing Space.

Debts included in a CCJ (Country Court Judgment) can be added to your Breathing Space. This halts further action until after your Breathing Space ends.

We will need to know who the debt is with so we can tell them to contact the court.

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A CCJ could be raised against you if you respond to a money claim during Breathing Space.

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.

Possession proceedings cannot start during Breathing Space.

Breathing Space for Renters

You cannot be forced out of your home for rent arrears while you are on Breathing Space.

Your landlord cannot:

  • Serve notice
  • Start a possession claim
  • Even if they served notice before Breathing Space
  • Enforce a possession order
  • They can get one, but they cannot enforce it
  • Even if they already had a possession claim

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In some cases you could still be forced to leave. These include:

  • If you have a "periodic assured shorthold tenancy"
  • If you are an occupier with basic protections such as:
  • Temporary accommodation or
  • Licence
  • For breaking other terms your rental contract like:
  • Sub-letting without permission)
  • Antisocial behaviour

Breathing Space for Homeowners

Your mortgage is split into "capital balance" and "monthly payments". Your monthly payments gradually pay down the capital balance (which is what you initially borrowed).

Arrears are debts from not making your monthly payments.

Mortgage arrears can be included Breathing Space but:

  • You must keep up with monthly payments
  • Interest and charges can still be added to the capital balance
  • They cannot be added to your arrears

Possession proceedingscan start after your breathing space.


Interest only mortgages

The payments on interest only mortgages count as arrears and can be included in your Breathing Space. As long as they are from before your Breathing Space.

However, the people you owe could start possession proceedings for the “capital balance” of your debt.

Discuss options with your mortgage lender if your term is coming to an end.

They may be able to:

  • Extend your mortgage term
  • Switch you to a repayment mortgage
  • Make a payment arrangement

The debts continue to exist even though contact stops and interest and charges are on hold.

After your Breathing Space ends:

  • Your creditors can start contacting you again
  • Your creditors can take further action to collect your debts
  • Any action that was paused for Breathing Space may resume

You should keep working towards a longer-term plan to deal with your debts.

Breathing Space does not directly affect your credit score, but:

  • Missed payments are recorded on your credit file
  • This makes it harder to take out new credit

You may be able to get Breathing Space if you are self-employed. But we cannot help with your application.

Business Debtline give specialist debt advice for the self-employed.

They can help you with:

  • Your eligibility for Breathing Space
  • Your subsequent application process

After Breathing Space ends, the people you owe can:

  • Start contacting you again and
  • Take further action on your debts

Any action that paused because of Breathing Space starts again.

Work on getting a debt solution in place for a longer-term plan to deal with debts.

Debt happens. We deal with it.

We have helped millions of people since 1993.

Find out how.

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