In 2017, the Money Advice Service (MAS) estimated that 8.3 million people in the UK were in debt, and that the average household debt was standing at a record high of £15,400.
The MAS also claimed as many as 22% of UK adults had less than £100 in savings. This isn’t ideal for millions of people, as it makes them vulnerable to debt crises. Life can be unpredictable, and it’s bad enough struggling to make ends meet as it is.
If you or someone close to you is facing debt problems, this resource could help you tackle those debts.
To learn more about being open about possible problems with debt, check out our guide to talking about debt.
A wide range of people can help you
There are many ways you can find yourself in a debt crisis. Read here to learn about the psychology of debt and how it affects us all on a fundamental level.
Before seeking professional debt advice, it’s important to be fully aware of the extent of your debts, or those of the person close to you. If you think you’re facing a debt crisis, don’t worry - you’re not alone. There are plenty of organisations and charities who can offer you independent, impartial and free debt help on a regular basis.
When your finances are already under immense pressure due to an underlying debt burden, it would be sensible to avoid putting them under even more unnecessary strain by seeking out costly debt advice, when there are lots of places offering free debt advice.
There are not only financial reasons for approaching charities and other organisations for help with debt problems. It can’t be stressed enough how important it is to have an impartial voice, giving you the facts you need to take the correct approach to personal or household finances.
The Money Advice Service (MAS) is a great place to start. It’s free and impartial, having been created by the government to provide the tips and tools to help anyone who might be experiencing problems with debt. Alternatively, there are charities such as StepChange and Citizens Advice, who can also offer free help to those with debt problems.
Contacting credit providers - how it should be done
Your creditors are ultimately the people to whom you owe your debts, and any responsible provider of free debt advice would most likely tell you to be up-front and be honest about your situation. It’s especially important to keep a clear line of contact with creditors, especially if you have a suspicion that there’s something wrong.
For example, it’s quite possible you might find that your creditor is asking you to repay debts in a way that doesn’t seem correct - a responsible organisation offering the proper debt advice would suggest that you should always request a detailed breakdown of exactly what’s owed.
Assuming that the debt is properly regulated by existing UK law, requesting this breakdown should be possible - this is your right, as laid out in the Consumer Credit Act.
Receiving a definitive list of debts you owe would allow you to review the situation, right down to the last penny, so you know exactly what your obligations are, just in case there are extra amounts apparently owed that simply shouldn’t be there.
Getting the right advice on what you owe creditors can make the difference between being able to function financially or having a full-blown debt crisis.
Time limits may apply on some debts
In some cases, it’s possible you might have an old debt, and a creditor chasing you up on it. A debt advice provider would inform you that under the Limitation Act 1980, a creditor has a maximum of six years to chase up on unsecured debts, or 12 if it comes down to mortgage shortfalls.
This forms what they would call a “limitation period”, a window of time which is kick-started from the moment you made your last payment, or when you were last acknowledging your debt. Any creditor trying to chase you up on these debts in either case, beyond the clear limitation period, shouldn’t be doing so.
However, it’s important to note that this doesn’t apply if a county court judgement (CCJ) is involved. If a CCJ has been registered against you regarding a debt at some point, before a limitation period has actually been completed, the limitation periods won’t apply and creditors are entitled to seek repayment.
This is exactly the kind of free debt advice you’d expect any independent organisation with your best interests at heart to tell you, in case you are unclear about what to do. This comes especially when you find yourself being requested to repay a debt, years after it was originally incurred.
The right kind of debt advice
The main signs to spot, to know you’ve found the right kind of free debt advice, are things like being given credible steps to move forward if you’re in the midst of a debt crisis. It shouldn’t have to cost you even more than you already owe to receive fair and impartial advice on how to do things such as arrange debt management plans.
Credible debt advisors offering free advice should leave you feeling like you’ve been given constructive information that didn’t ultimately cost you in some way.
No matter how serious your debt crisis may be, there are plenty of people to talk to who can help you through your experience and offer what you need to move forward. With charities being capable of offering free debt advice, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to get in touch with the right people and make that important first step towards getting on top of your finances again.
Where to go for debt advice
We have pulled together a list of organisations designed to help individuals who are in debt. You can contact these services directly for personal and confidential advice.