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Safe harbours:
Why we need Breathing Space

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Providing Breathing Space for people struggling with debt

This briefing sets out the need for a new statutory ‘Breathing Space’ scheme to help people recover from financial difficulties and get their debt problems under control. It draws on research we carried out with help from 926 of our clients on their experiences of seeking help with problem debts.

Around four in ten of our clients surveyed for this briefing said that when they fell into financial difficulties they were initially confident that they would get back on track quickly or manage by juggling bills and credit. Instead prolonged use of credit as a coping strategy tended to deepen the hardship and stress they experienced, creating further serious and lasting harm.

The problem with the current system

The problem is that people in England and Wales can only get a guarantee of protection from extra fees, interest and debt collection activities by entering into one of the existing statutory insolvency schemes. While insolvency schemes give vital help to people whose debt problems have already become intractable, they are not generally a suitable or accessible option for people in temporary financial difficulties who still have a good chance of bringing their debts under control given the time and support to recover.

Breathing Space

We believe that the absence of an effective statutory ‘Breathing Space’ scheme protecting people in England, Wales and Norther Ireland before their debt problems become unmanageable is a significant public policy failure. Without that guarantee, people are not seeking help with their debts as quickly as they might and financial recovery is delayed.

Download the report now for the full picture. 

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In this section

Find out more about household and personal debt trends in the UK: 

Research and reports

Policy recommendations

Personal debt statistics

Our work in Parliament

Contact our policy team

Our research and reports

As the UK's leading debt charity, we want to make millions more people aware of the help that StepChange Debt Charity offers. Take a look at our research on household and consumer debt for leading insights on problem debt across the UK.

Helping you become debt free...

“I wish to thank your staff for all the great help they gave me when I was in so much debt.
They were a pillar of support to me.” (Leslie, Essex)

Foundation for Credit Counselling Wade House, Merrion Centre, Leeds, LS2 8NG trading as StepChange Debt Charity and StepChange Debt Charity Scotland. A registered charity no.1016630 and SC046263. It is a limited company registered in England and Wales (company no:2757055). Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

*This is the average rating of our service based on the StepChange reviews on Feefo by DMP and DRO clients three months into their solution.

© StepChange Debt Charity 2017