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How a DRO can bring debt relief in more than one sense

One of our clients, Christine*, is a good example of someone benefitting from a debt relief order (DRO).

The rules around DROs have changed since we helped Christine. In England and Wales, there is no fee to apply for a DRO as of April 6th, 2024.

Christine’s financial difficulties originated while in a relationship with someone who didn’t manage money well, and escalated due to having to move when the relationship broke down.

Like so many people, Christine tried to manage and get by for a long time before seeking help. Finally, she was advised to contact StepChange and taken through the debt advice process which resulted in a DRO being recommended.

Christine said:

“So with applying for the DRO, I had help to work out a budget and then gather proof of my income, information about all my debts and save up for the £90 fee. I’ve done all that, and now I am waiting for a few days to find out if the DRO is granted.

"In 12 months’ time, the DRO will be finalised. At the moment, I’ve still got that fluttery feeling in my tummy – I don’t quite believe it yet, it’s still a bit scary. But it has given me a light at the end of the tunnel, which I haven’t had for a long, long time.”

Young woman reading a letter

A couple of weeks later, our CEO received a thank-you letter to the charity from Christine, saying that her experience of debt had been “scary, upsetting and feeling silly and stupid for getting myself into this mess. I have this week started my debt relief order. The feeling I have is relief from knowing in 12 months’ time I won’t have this pressure of owing money.”

Common DRO questions

DROs are specifically designed for people who have a smaller amount of debts and a lower income, and can be a cheaper alternative to bankruptcy. To apply for a DRO, you must:

  • live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland
  • owe less than £20,000
  • have less than £1,000 in assets (and a car worth no more than £1,000)
  • have less than £50 in surplus income per month after paying your household bills and living costs

Our free, confidential online debt advice tool is the easiest way to see if a DRO is your best option.

Debt relief orders are not available if you live in Scotland. In Scotland, a minimal assets process (MAP) bankruptcy is a similar solution. 

If you live in Scotland, read our debt advice in Scotland page for more information on the solutions available to you.

A debt relief order will stay on your credit file for six years from the date it's approved. This may make it difficult to take out credit during this time. 

A DRO freezes your debt repayments and interest for 12 months. If your financial situation hasn’t changed at the end of this period then all of the debts included will be written off.

England and Wales

There is no fee to apply for a DRO.

Northern Ireland

A DRO costs £90. You need to pay this before your application can be submitted. Once your fee has been paid and your application is submitted, you cannot get your money back, even if the DRO is rejected or revoked.

Find out more about DROs

If you’re on a low income and have few assets, you may feel that a DRO is the best solution for you. As with any debt solution, it’s important that you have all the facts before proceeding. Our DRO guide has useful advice about the entire process.

* Client's name has been changed for confidentiality

This story was published in 2019.