The Money and Pension Service’s Breathing Space scheme could help you cope with debt while you’re suffering a mental health crisis. Here’s how the scheme works and how you can access it.
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What is the Breathing Space scheme?
If you live in England or Wales and you’re in debt, the Breathing Space scheme could help.
Developed by the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), the Breathing Space scheme gives you legal protection from creditors for up to 60 days. It’s designed to take the pressure off for a while so you can focus on managing your debt rather than dealing with distressing calls and letters.
The scheme launched on 4 May 2021, and it’s part of a £94.6 million investment by MaPS into providing vital debt services during the Covid-19 pandemic. So, if you’ve lost your job through Covid-19 or you’re struggling to manage your debt, the scheme could be great news for you.
How does the scheme work?
There are two types of Breathing Space you can apply for: standard Breathing Space, and Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space. Let’s break them both down so you can see how they could help you.
Standard Breathing Space
If you’ve got debt you can’t afford to repay, you can apply for standard Breathing Space. During the 60-day period, creditors can’t take any action against you to chase debts. They can’t start a court action against you, and they should freeze any charges on your accounts. They shouldn’t charge you any interest, either.
To be clear, this is not a payment holiday. During the 60 days, you should still make any payments you can afford to make. However, you’ll work with a debt adviser to decide on the best way forward, which can help you get back on track financially.
Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space
The Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space is slightly different. As the name suggests, it is only available to people experiencing a mental health crisis.
The scheme stays in place for however long your crisis treatment lasts plus an additional 30 days. It’s highly valuable for people trying to recover their mental health without worrying about what’s happening with their debt in the meantime.
MaPS has invested £2.4 million in this pilot scheme, and it’ll run over the next 12 months.
How do I apply for the Breathing Space scheme?
To apply for standard Breathing Space, you need to consult a debt adviser. They’ll help you decide if the scheme is right for you and they’ll walk you through the application.
You can’t apply more than once within 12 months, but your debt adviser can give you other suggestions if you need additional support.
You can only get Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space if you’re seen by an Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) who then puts you in touch with a debt adviser to start the process. There’s no limit to how many times you can apply for this service, so it’s available whenever you need it.
Where else can I turn for debt or mental health advice?
If you’re dealing with debt or money worries, remember you can always contact Citizens Advice. They’ll talk through your debt problems with you and help you negotiate a payment plan with your creditors. Alternatively, you could reach out to the National Debtline or StepChange.
When it comes to mental health, you should never struggle alone, especially during challenging times like the Covid-19 pandemic.
Talk to your GP in the first instance or, if you prefer, contact a charity like Mind or try out some mental health apps. However, if you’re experiencing a mental health crisis or you’re concerned about someone else, it’s best to seek emergency medical assistance immediately.
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