Many people have difficulty managing their money and, increasingly, are finding themselves in debt or at risk of being in debt.
Almost everyone owes money - bills are a fact of life, but sometimes you may feel that you are swamped and can't see a way of paying them all. The worst thing you can do is to ignore the problem - it won't just go away.
If you address your debt at an early stage, there are more options available to you. The options can vary according to the type and size of your debt, your circumstances and other key factors. The action creditors can take also varies according to the type of debt.
For most debts, the creditor will need to go to court for a County Court Judgment before they take more serious action, although other creditors might be able to take different and more serious action at earlier stages. This can include debt rent or mortgage arrears, Council Tax, gas and electricity arrears, and child maintenance.
If you receive debt advice, you may find that your debt adviser can help you achieve some long term solutions to help your situation. Receiving advice can also often help you cope with the stress and difficult feelings that debt can cause. The solutions may be informal, such as negotiating lower repayments (also known as a "Debt Management Plan"), or formal, including Debt Relief Orders, Individual Voluntary Arrangements or Bankruptcy. There are advantages and disadvantages of each, and an adviser will run through your circumstances and help find the most appropriate solution to you and provide support.
When receiving debt advice, it is important that the advice is independent, impartial, confidential and free. There are many organisations who will offer to negotiate your debts and charge you a fee for this. These paid services however rarely achieve a more successful outcome than the free advice which is available, and creditors might be reluctant to work with them.
We do not offer a debt advice service ourselves, however we are able to signpost you to appropriate debt advice services. We can also refer you directly to some organisations. Some agencies may provide a face-to-face service, others a telephone service, and others provide an online, self-help service.
Face-to-face debt advice is the most traditional form of debt advice, and can often make the process easier. Speaking to an adviser in person allows them to run through your documents, easily obtain your consent to act on your behalf, and help with completing and signing forms.
Your local Citizens Advice Bureau may have a specialist debt department and we recommend you contact them to find if they offer this service. To find your local Citizens Advice Bureau, visit the CAB website.
There are many other reputable, free, face-to-face debt advice providers. You can find a local provider by visiting the Money Advice Service website.
There are alternatives to the traditional face-to-face method of advice, including telephone advice. An advantage of this is that if you have difficulty getting out and around, you can receive the relevant advice from your own home. There can be challenges with getting help over the phone, including describing the contents of documents over the phone, or sending paperwork by post.
However, for many people telephone advice can be a way in which you can still seek help and receive a quality service, but still keep some privacy. Accepting that you need help with debt or money issues is a very difficult thing to do. Asking for assistance is the first hurdle to overcome and an achievement in itself. To find a telephone based debt advice service, visit the Money Advice Service website.
As technology has changed, so too has the way in which we can receive advice. Some organisations offer web chat, or online self-help tools to help you manage your debt. The adviser can be involved in your case in a more flexible way - this could depend on the tools available and your ability to manage your own case.
If you feel you would like to seek advice using an online resource, you can find an organisation through the Money Advice Service website.