Debt: Where to Get Help
You can obtain free and impartial advice from the following organisations, and they will offer you advice to suit your particular circumstances:
Payplan provides free debt advice and free debt solutions for anyone experiencing financial difficulties. We will find a solution that is right for you, your family and your home.
Or you can call on freephone 0800 917 7823. Phone lines are open 8am to 9pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 3pm on Saturdays
Consumer Credit Counselling Service
CCCS is a charity, so you won't pay a penny for any of their services - whether you need immediate debt advice tailored to your situation or more general budgeting advice.
Their Freephone helpline 0800 138 1111 is open from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday.
The Consumer Credit Counselling Service does not charge users - costs are recovered from creditors. Typically, the agency obtains a voluntary payment from the creditors, often 9%-15% of the amount owed.
Who are they?:
The CCCS is a charity funded by the financial services industry and donations which had nearly 100,000 calls last year. An alternative is Payplan, administered by Paylink Trust, a not for profit organisation recommended by unions such as Unison.
CCCS in England, Wales and Northern Ireland 0800 138 1111, open Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, closed weekends. In Scotland, 0800 138 3328. Payplan can be contacted via Federated Credit Ltd on 0800 716239.
Setting up debt management plans. Individuals complete a budget and list their creditors. This goes back to the CCCS or similar, who reach agreement with creditors to reduce the regular payments owed on the various debts. The client pays the new total amount to the CCCS, who distribute it to the creditors. Many creditors will put their collection procedures on hold if they know the debtor is in touch with CCCS. For complex cases, the adviser will arrange to call back, usually two to three weeks later, for a detailed 40-minute to one-hour advice session.
National, well-resourced, finds realistic solutions.
Weaknesses: Critics say debtors are encouraged into repayment plans when bankruptcy or other moves may be more suitable. A debt management plan will not neccesarily stop creditors passing you to a debt collection agency, issuing default notices and seeking county court judgments.
National Debt Helpline
The helpline that provides free, confidential and independent advice on how to deal with debt problems.
On this website you can:
- Download an information pack to deal with your debt problems.
- Use the personal budget section to work out what repayments you can afford.
- Use a suite of sample letters to write to your creditors.
- Visit the debt advice section to get information that may help you deal with your debt problem.
- Access the library of factsheets.
- See if you can pay your debts via a Debt Management Plan (DMP)
Freephone: 0808 808 4000 Monday to Friday 9am to 9pm Saturday 9.30am to 1pm
Cost: There's no charge.
Who are they?
A national free confidential and independent telephone advice helpline funded by the DTI and the financial services industry. Callers offered advice over the phone with follow-up self-help packs sent free to their homes. It also assists in setting up debt management plans, also for free.
Contact: 0808 808 4000. Open Mon-Fri 9am-9pm and Saturday 9.30am-1pm.
Similar to CABs but over the phone. Service encompassing all types of debt advice, including bankruptcy, insolvency and state benefit entitlements. A benefits check system will tell callers if they are receiving the correct benefits. If you are on benefits and offered paid employment it runs a "better off calculation" to see whether it is worthwhile taking the job. The debt management plan is run with CCCS and Payplan.
Over-the-phone advice avoids the need for travel and embarrassment for the client - the phone gives a person a sense of control. National Debtline emphasises that its staff undergo rigorous training and have considerable resource materials at their fingertips.
It is unable to deal with people with numeracy and literacy problems - around 4% of calls have to be referred to a local agency who can help with face to face advice. They cannot help small businesses, and the advice is for individuals only. Like CABs, National Debtline faces resource strains. It has 16 advisers in total, but typically only 10 are available at any one time. During the busy times, 9.30am to 12pm and 2pm to 3.30pm, callers may have difficulty getting through.
Debt Question Forum
Practical and informative help on all aspects of debt. This site is owned by Totemic Ltd, parent company of Payplan. There are forums for:
- Debt Questions
- Property Issues
- Credit Reference Agencies
- Debt Solutions,
- Individual Voluntary Arrangement
- Debt Management Plan
- Before, During and After Bankruptcy,
The Debt Handbook
Produced by Tameside Council as a guide for Social workers to help deal with their clients debt. Download as a PDF [here]
Written in plain english, it has good information on:
- Calculating a Personal Budget
- Money for Creditors
- Priority Debts
- Money for Credit Debts
- Personal Budget
- Rent Arrears
- Mortgage Arrears
- Secured Loans
- Council Tax
- Child Maintenance Arrears
- Gas and Electric
- Hire Purchase
- Magistrates Court Fines
- Social Fund Deductions
- Unsecured Loans
- Credit Cards and Store Cards
- Catalogues and Mail Order
- What Happens Next
- Court Paperwork
- Paylink Trust
- Credit Referencing
- Opening a Bank Account
- Sample Letters
- Personal Budget Sheet
- Useful Numbers
National Debtline Debt Help Pack
Comprehensive help and advice on every aspect of debt problems.
It can be downloaded in full (68 pages) from National debtline Help Pack
Or the individual sections , together with factsheets and sample letters here
- How to use this pack
- Increasing your income
- Working out a personal budget
- Dealing with priority debts
- Credit debts
- Pull-out draft personal budget sheet
- Mortgage arrears
- Rent arrears
- Bailiff and Rent Arrears
- Getting Re-housed
- Fact sheets and useful contacts
- About National Debtline
Citizens Advice Bureaux
Please make sure you book your appointment with the specialist money advisor as many of the volunteers don’t have the necessary experience and knowledge:
Citizens Advice Bureaux Citizens Advice Bureau
Cost: There's no charge. Who are they?:
There are 2,000 CAB outlets across the country. Each is an independent charity, funded by local authorities, charitable trusts and donations. Around 26,000 people work in CABs, with 82% volunteers.
Try local Yellow Pages, directory inquiries, Most offer morning and lunchtime drop-in service. Some also offer telephone-based advice.
Everything. Holistic approach takes in person's full financial and social situation. For debt problems, clients offered wide range of strategies: repayment plans, bankruptcy advice, information on individual voluntary arrangements, letters of full and final settlement. Advisers will also talk about benefit entitlements and legal rights. Will represent you in court.
National coverage, face to face advice and its independent and impartial. Volunteer advisers will pass complex financial cases to specialist, full-time money advice workers. Also advisers reflect ethnic make-up of local communities they serve.
Stretched resources: not unusual to wait three weeks for an appointment. London CABs in particular often only open two or three days a week for drop-in clients. Also CABs do not offer creditor payment systems in which you make a single payment which is then disbursed around creditors. Once a plan is agreed, it is the responsibility of the client to make separate payments to creditors. Local authority money advice centres work on similar lines to CABs.
Debt Management Agencies
High. Typically, customers pay charges equal to 15-25% of their total debt. The debt management firm also pockets the first month's payment as an upfront fee.
Who are they?:
You've seen them advertising on afternoon television with slogans such as "Write off all your debts!" or "Make a fresh start!" There are around 70 private debt firms across the country, with a high concentration in the North West. Unfortunately, they are the fastest-growing part of the debt "advice" market.
Contact details: Don't bother.
Ripping you off. Debt management companies claim to bring all your loans, credit cards, store cards and debts into one "easy to pay" reduced monthly payment. In reality, they take your debt, extend it over longer periods and add an extra interest rate on top. This will mean that their customers will end up owing thousands of pounds more in extra debt.
None. Anyone facing debt problems should go to the other advice centres listed on this page.
How much space have we got? There have been widespread reports of cowboy debt management companies taking extortionate amounts of money from debtors, leaving them worse, not better off. These companies spend millions on television advertising. They have to recoup their money somehow. Callers are subject to hard-sell techniques, misleading information and pyschological scare tactics. Last year the Office of Fair Trading set out tough new guidelines for debt management companies after a deluge of complaints from ripped-off borrowers, and has threatened to withdraw their credit licences
If you live in Scotland, then there are different rules that apply, so you should in he first instance make contact with:
If the debts are related to your business, see :