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Debt advice

Debt adviceWhether you always pay your bills off on time or avoid borrowing altogether, it doesn’t take much for a person to land themselves in debt.

The long-term effects of debt can be devastating, leading to family breakdowns, mental health problems and even homelessness. However, if individuals tackle the problem early on, most of this stress can be avoided. Click below to find out more.

How do people end up in debt?

There are many reasons why people find themselves in debt. Below are some examples in which people have found themselves unable to pay off debts.

Major life changes

Going through any big change like divorce, job loss or bereavement, people may be forced to borrow money or stop paying bills to cope with new financial demands.

Onset of illness

If you are suffering a physical or mental illness or are caring for someone with either illness, you may experience debt. In both cases, your income will be reduced (through job loss) yet you may need more money for things like medication and travel to health services.

Low incomes

Anyone on a below average income may be more likely to have outstanding debts.

Income disruption

This is quite common among people receiving benefits and those who lose their job.

Spending and new purchases

Splashing cash on things they cannot afford can leave people with hefty debts.

Ignoring paperwork

If you are not organised enough and don’t respond to bills on time, debts can quickly mount up.

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What are my debt options?

If you do find yourself in debt there are ways to manage your situation.

Repay the debt

If you have the income to make a repayment offer, ask your creditor to freeze any interest.

Park the debt

If you are on a very low income, you may be able to make a token repayment of £1 or request payment suspension on your debt.

Full and final repayments

Your creditor may accept a lump sump payment, which is smaller than the original debt.

Write-off the debt

If you suffer from mental health problems, creditors may write off your debts. However, this is not standard practice.

Debt management plans

You may be able to make a single monthly payment to a debt management agency, which will deal directly with your creditors on your behalf. You may be charged for this.

Bankruptcy

If you owe a lot of money and don’t have any assets you can sell to clear your debts, you may be able to declare bankruptcy. Bankruptcy lasts for up to one year during which the individual will have restricted access to financial services. After this, debts are usually written off. However, bankruptcy is registered with credit agencies for six years and can limit access to some financial services such as credit cards, loans and mortgages.

IVAs or Individual Voluntary Arrangements

IVAs help you pay off your debts in agreed amounts over short periods of three to five years. Any debts remaining at the end of the agreed period will then be written off. This is an option if you are able to make sizeable repayments.

DROs or Debt Relief Orders

This is a kind of insolvency or bankruptcy for people on very low incomes. You must speak to an accredited money adviser to apply for a DRO.

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Where can I get debt help?

Don’t stuff those unopened bills under the doormat! There are lots of organisations and people who can help you handle debt.

Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB)

The Citizens Advice Bureau gives free and independent advice on a wide range of financial issues from debt management to benefits. The website has an advice section and allows you to search for your nearest CAB where you can speak to an advisor in person.

Bankruptcy Insolvency Debt Advice Service

This website has a great area especially for students – it explains what help you can get from the government, what you can do yourself and there’s a free phone number if things get out of hand.

National Debtline

The National Debtline is a national telephone helpline for people with debt problems. The service is free and confidential. You will be given advice from a specialist who will help you organise a debt management plan. You can call them Monday to Friday from 9am to 9pm and on Saturday morning from 9.30am to 1pm on 0808 808 4000.
The website also offers useful guides on what to do when dealing with different kinds of debt.

Your bank

It is worth speaking to your bank if you feel like your finances are getting out of control. Banks are much more helpful if you explain the situation as early as possible. They all have student departments designed to help you manage your money and they will have seen students in exactly the same situation as you.

Payplan

Payplan promises to get back to you within 24 hours with free suggestions on how to resolve your debts.
For more information, visit the website or call 0800 716 239.

Money made clear

Money made clear offers offers bags of information about a range of financial issues. It also has interactive calculator tools to help you work out a debt repayment plan.
For more information, visit the website, or call 0300 500 5000

Mind money pages

You're not alone! Mind's website has real life stories from people who have battled their debts and won.
Find out how they overcame the mental distress associated with debt by visiting the website.

Community Legal Advice

Community Legal Advice offers free legal help and information for people who are eligible for legal aid. You may be eligible if you are on a low income or receive benefits. You can find out more by checking out their website, or calling 0845 345 345.

Money Saving Expert

Martin Lewis is a financial journalist and the brains behind this site dedicated to ways of saving, making and spending money wisely. It includes a section on getting out of debt as well as a forum where you can find support from people sharing their tips and experiences of debt management.

Consumer Affairs

Consumer Affairs is a not-for-profit organisation offering free advice about debt and money management via guides and reports on its website. 

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