Money worries: help and advice

A guide to options available if you are worried about money and the cost of living.

Breathing space debt respite scheme

In May 2021 the Government launched the breathing space scheme to help people in debt to better manage their finances. Breathing space can give individuals with problem debt the opportunity to legal protections from their creditors in order to seek advice and guidance on their debts.   

There are two types of breathing space: 

  • standard breathing space

This is available to individuals with problem debt. It gives them legal protection from creditor action for up to 60 days.

  • mental health crisis breathing space

Is only available to someone who is receiving mental health crisis treatment. It lasts as long as the person’s mental health crisis treatment, plus 30 days.


To be eligible for a breathing space, you need to be an individual who:

  • is a resident, or normally lives in England or Wales
  • is not undischarged bankrupt
  • does not have a current debt relief order, individual voluntary arrangement or an interim order
  • has not already been entered into a Breathing Space
  • has a qualifying debt where they cannot meet payments

To enter a mental health crisis breathing space, you must meet the above requirements, plus be receiving mental health crisis treatment.

Qualifying debts

The debts that qualify for a breathing space are:

  • Council tax arrears
  • benefit overpayments
  • parking fines
  • penalty charges
  • rent arrears
  • any other debt, either in a sole or joint name

Debts that are excluded are:

  • repayment of advances of Universal Credit, PIP, JSA or ESA
  • ongoing Council Tax and Business Rates payments
  • ongoing taxes, duties or NI contributions
  • ongoing rent, insurance or mortgage payments
  • ongoing utility charges (e.g. gas or electric charges)
  • VAT owed from running a business
  • debts or liabilities owed due to fraud
  • child maintenance orders

Breathing space can only be started by a debt advice provider who is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to offer debt counselling.

More information

Find out more about breathing space scheme on the GOV.UK website (external link).