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Citizens Advice Wigan Borough is preparing to support debt clients with new ‘Breathing Space’ initiative

From 4th May 2021, new legislation comes into force meaning that people with qualifying debts can access legal protections, stopping their creditors from taking action for 60 days. Eligible individuals will be able to apply for a ‘breathing space’ period and during this period, interest, additional fees, and enforcement will be frozen, giving people time and information to get on top of their finances. People wanting to apply for a breathing space must do so through either their local authority (if they offer debt advice), or by an authorised adviser (such as a Citizens Advice debt adviser) registered with the Financial Conduct Authority to provide debt counselling. This new initiative is known as the Debt Respite Scheme, or ‘Breathing Space’. There is no charge to apply for a breathing space.

Here at Citizens Advice Wigan Borough, our dedicated debt advice team has been preparing for the introduction of Breathing Space and is able to help clients, free of charge, to work through their debt options without incurring extra interest and fees. Dealing with debt can be an extremely stressful experience, which has a significant impact on people’s health and wellbeing. The new initiative recognises this, and people dealing with problem debt whilst in mental health crisis will receive these protections until their treatment is complete.

Our debt team has been preparing for the introduction of Breathing Space next month by:

  • Completing all the required training on all aspects of Breathing Space, including eligibility, the application process and administration of Breathing Space
  • Discussing any possible issues in our regular team meetings and coming up with solutions to these issues

During the Breathing Space period, our team will help eligible individuals to get on top of their money issues, including empowering them to apply for benefits, going over monthly budgets, and checking eligibility for grants. Our knowledgeable team will support people in problem debt to work towards long term solutions for dealing with money owed, giving them a much-needed opportunity to make a fresh start with their finances.

Elaine Stone, Debt Advice Team Leader, said: “The value of Breathing Space to the people we help will be great. For example, if a person is eligible for the scheme, pausing recovery of the majority of debts will free them from the added stress and worry of their creditors chasing them for a 60 day period. This will give them time to get free, confidential help from one of our team, in a non-judgemental way.

For people who are currently in mental health crisis, this protection will remain for as long as they are in crisis treatment, enabling them to start getting better without the additional pressures of worrying about dealing with people they owe money to.”

For information and advice, contact Citizens Advice Wigan Borough on 08082 787 801 or visit www.cawb.org.uk.

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