Many people are borrowing to cope with the cost of living crisis. That, of course, only takes you further into borrowing – and at some point those debts will have to be paid. Currently there’s no sign that the price rises causing the problems are going to end any time soon.

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Last year the Government introduced a new scheme to help people in serious debt. Known as “Breathing Space”, its official name is the Debt Respite Scheme. It provides a breathing space of up to 60 days for anyone with a debt problem. During that time creditors cannot enforce debt or contact the person owing them money. Normally all interest payments and charges are frozen. There is also an extended breathing space for people with debt and a mental health crisis. It lasts as long as they are getting treatment for their mental health plus an extra 30 days. Already nearly 64,000 people have made use of the scheme.

To get a breathing space you must go to a regulated debt adviser. There are only three places you should go for debt advice. They are Citizens Advice (0808 223 1133, citizensadvice.org.uk), National Debtline (0808 808 4000, nationaldebtline.org) or StepChange (0800 138 1111, stepchange.org). All three are charities and put your best interests at heart.

Never use commercial debt management firms whose main concern is often to make money out of you; and never google for debt advice as that will bring up those commercial firms.

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During the breathing space your debt adviser will inform your creditors and explain ways to manage your debt, perhaps even getting some of it written off. If you’re worried about your debt, especially if you can’t sleep because of it, then contact one of those three charities now. Debt only gets worse if it’s ignored. Do not be embarrassed: however bad your problem, chances are they’ve seen far worse! Breathing Space might give you exactly what it says on the tin.

Paul Lewis presents Money Box on Radio 4. To read more of his advice, see radiotimesmoney.com
QUESTIONS? Send any questions to Paul.Lewis@radiotimes.com.

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