Citizens Advice Column - February/March 21
Having Money Troubles? Independent (And Free) Debt Advice Can Help
This time every year talk amongst independent advice agencies centres on the rise in enquiries about debt. This year, in light of the pandemic and Brexit, many more are feeling the pinch this time around.
Advice and guidance ‘top tips’ generally focus on understanding your circumstances and maximising your income; both of which are vital steps in preparing to deal with creditors. Rarely do these top tips describe the options available to you once these stages are complete.
Below is a brief tour of the options you, or a debt adviser working on your behalf, faces when deciding ‘what next’. It is not exhaustive, and each has limitations which need to be explained, but it might help you realise that there are always options available to you no matter how difficult your circumstances appear. You just need to ask.
Possible Debt Solutions
- Negotiate with your non-priority creditors – offer each of them a fair share of what’s available to pay your debts. If you have nothing available, you can ask creditors to accept token payments of £1 a month or no payments.
- Use a free ‘Debt Management Plan’ (DMP) – make an affordable monthly payment to a free debt management company (DMC). The DMC negotiates with your creditors for you and shares out your monthly payments to them.
- Source a charitable grant payment – apply for financial help from a charitable organisation.
- Get the debt ‘written-off’ – ask your creditors to write-off your debts if you have no money to pay them, no assets or savings and your situation is unlikely to change.
- Organise an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) - apply for an IVA from an insolvency practitioner. You pay back as much as you can for an agreed amount of time. Afterwards, the remaining debts are written off.
- Agree to an Administration Order (AO) – pay a monthly amount to a court. They share it out to the creditors included in your AO.
- Bankruptcy – apply for bankruptcy online. An Official Receiver will contact your creditors and ask you for information about your circumstances.
- Make an offer of ‘full and final settlement’ – if you have a lump sum of money available you can ask your creditors to accept a part-payment towards the debt and have the balance written off.
- Sell assets to pay debts – sell an asset of value that you own and use this money to pay towards your debts.
Unfortunately, debts do not just go away if you ignore them. In almost all circumstances, they get bigger, the demands get louder and the consequences get worse. Dealing with debts is frightening so the earlier you get yourself sorted out the better for everyone concerned.
Fortunately, there is high quality free, independent advice available. Numerous reputable organisations will help you understand your position, maximise your income and choose the best debt solution. They will support you every step of the way.
But please be clear, debt advisers must be fully accredited to practice and this support is available free of charge. Be careful to avoid paying for unaccredited or untrained ‘experts’; they can be more trouble than they are worth.
For independent advice on debt and money issues call:
Citizens Advice on 0800 144 8848
National Debt Line on 0808 808 4000
Step Change on 0800 138 1111
Money Advice Service on 0800 138 7777.
Or visit their websites.
Our thanks to Coventry Citizens Advice (CCA) for submitting this article to us. For more information, contact your local CA offices or visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk.
 The solutions listed here are taken from a National Debt Line document ‘How to deal with debt: the 3-step guide’ (2019).