The Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space) came into force on 4 May 2021. The creditor service is currently being developed.
The Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space) will give someone in problem debt the right to legal protections from their creditors.
There are two types of breathing space: a standard breathing space and a mental health crisis breathing space. Where there is a difference between them, we’ll refer specifically to either a standard breathing space or a mental health crisis breathing space. Where there is no difference, we will simply refer to a breathing space.
A standard breathing space is available to anyone with problem debt. It gives them legal protections from creditor action for up to 60 days. The protections include pausing most enforcement action and contact from creditors and freezing most interest and charges on their debts.
A mental health crisis breathing space is only available to someone who is receiving mental health crisis treatment and it has some stronger protections. It lasts as long as the person’s mental health crisis treatment, plus 30 days (no matter how long the crisis treatment lasts).
The legislation this guidance references is The Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space Moratorium and Mental Health Crisis Moratorium) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020. This guidance is intended to support creditors in understanding the regulations.
As a creditor, if you’re told that a debt owed to you is in a breathing space, you must stop all action related to that debt and apply the protections. These protections must stay in place until the breathing space ends.
The electronic service will send you a notification to tell you about each debt owed to you in a breathing space and the date the breathing space started. You need to make sure you apply the protections to these debts from the date set out in the notification.
If you’re a creditor, it’s also possible your debt might be added to a breathing space at a later date, because it is only identified after the breathing space has started. In this case, you have to apply the protections from the date you get the notification, or when the regulations consider you to have received it, whichever is the earliest.
For electronic notifications this is the date they are sent. For postal notifications this is 4 working days after it was posted.
If you have any questions about a breathing space you’ve had a notification for, you should contact the debt advice provider whose details are in the notification.
Debts included in a breathing space must be qualifying debts. Debts are any sum of money owed by the debtor to you, while liabilities are any obligation on the debtor to pay money to you. Most debts are likely to be qualifying debts. These will include:
Qualifying debts can include any that the debtor had before the Breathing Space legislation came into force on 4 May 2021.
New debts incurred during a breathing space are not qualifying debts. Neither are new arrears on a secured debt that arises during a breathing space.