Breathing Space for families and young people in debt

Listen to our latest podcast on breathing space

Children living in families struggling with debt are five times more likely to be unhappy than children in families who don’t have difficulty with debt, putting them at risk of developing mental health problems. Falling into problem debt, being harassed by creditors and a court summons puts families and young people under enormous pressure.

People in serious financial difficulty need a breathing space to give them time and space to repay their debts, with no rising fees or visits from intimidating bailiffs.

Thanks to our tireless campaigning, the Government committed to a new breathing space scheme so that people have time and space to repay their debts - but it must work for struggling families.

What is a breathing space?

A 'breathing space' is a scheme that stops debts from increasing by freezing interest and charges and halting enforcement action, allowing families the time and space they need to get back on their feet. 

The Government recently gathered views on what a breathing space scheme should look like, and over a thousand of you contributed on our behalf. We called for three key things:

  • A breathing space of six weeks is a good start, but it’s crucial that families are protected until they have a long-term plan arranged to repay their debts. Some families will need longer than six weeks to get a plan in place.

  • The new scheme must give families a breathing space from all debts, not just some.

  • An affordable long-term plan to help families repay their debts must follow the breathing space period and should be flexible in case of unexpected shocks like a job loss or sudden illness.

We expect the Government to respond later this year, and will continue to press for a breathing space scheme that is good enough to meet the needs of struggling families.  

Listen to our podcast

Listen to our audio briefing on ‘breathing space’, a scheme that will be introduced giving families in serious financial difficulty time and space to repay their debts.

Read our report, which looks into the damage that debt causes to children’s mental health.

Struggling with debt? Download our advice for families and young people in debt.

This is the latest stage in our Debt Trap campaign – tackling the damage that debt causes to children. Previous stages have changed the practices of energy companies and local councils. Find out more about our Debt Trap campaign.

Aaron's animation

Aaron struggled with debt as an 18 year old and has made a short animation about his experiences.