Millions of people across England are in debt. Some due to shopping addictions and not handling money well. But often it is for innocent reasons: people being widowed or divorced or losing a home (or being ripped off by greedy business). All of these are genuine and common reasons for people going into serious debt. Losing a self-employed business is also another big reason people get into debt.
It’s done now. So forget those TV debt consolidation ads (these companies are gradually going bust, as they can’t keep up with customer complaints). And know that there is real help out there for you. And most of it is free. Obviously you have to change your lifestyle and spending habits (to stop going back into debt). But even then, you can get good advice. CAP (Christians Against Poverty) offers a free CAP Money Course in churches (you don’t have to follow a faith) based on a cash system of living, which means you apparently spend a third less.
Free Debt Charities
All of these charities offer free help. The staff never judge (they have heard worse). So just make a strong cup of tea, write out all your debts, and give one of them a call. Most are funded by industry, so you don’t pay a penny. If you live in a major town or city, you are likely to also find many local charities to help:
- Stepchange is the UK’s major debt charity. Take the free online 20-minute debt quiz. Then armed with the info, give their free phone helpline a call. They can set up a Free Debt Consolidation for you, taking over your debts (so you don’t get hassled) and then based on your budget, they set up a free monthly affordable amount, until you’re out of debt. This may take years, but there is no interest to pay, and they are a phone call away at any time.
- Christians Against Poverty will help people of all faiths and none. They can send an expert to your home, to help set up a CAP Account, to pay off debt and save at the same time.
- Payplan (not to be confused with Paypal!) is a for-profit company that uses some of its money to offer a free helpline to people in debt. It specialises in negative equity and mortgage arrears.
- National Debtline & Business Debtline (for self-employed people) offer expert advice over the phone. Both are established organisations.
- Debt Advice Foundation is a respected charity.
- The Farming Community Network offers free help to any farmers in financial difficulties. Talk to someone who understands rural issues (7am to 11pm every day) to discuss anything of concern including tenancy issues.
The Truth on Bailiffs
If you have serious debt problems, please contact one or more of the charities above. They will all help you, at no charge. If you are being threatened with bailiffs, the government’s website says what they can and cannot legally do. Most bailiffs are sent after people ignore letters or don’t pay anything, so the charities above can work with others to ensure that you pay back a little at a time.
Bailiffs are allowed to enter your home, but are not allowed to push you, enter if children or vulnerable people are present, use any opening except the front door and they can’t visit at night. They can legally take possessions like a car, furniture, electrical goods (not cookers, fridges or minimal dining furniture) and jewellery.
But they are not allowed to take clothing, bedding, heating/lighting goods or medical equipment. They are never allowed to take pets (or assistance dogs) so know this is the law, if this is threatened. Bailiffs must show proper ID and you can use the government’s website to make complaints, if needed. Stepchange Debt Charity has more information on dealing with bailiffs.