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It’s easy to stick your head in the sand when you are struggling with debt but it is never a good idea. While you might like to think that not opening bills or responding to telephone calls will make your debts go away, your creditors will continue to pursue you for what you owe and will eventually take legal action to recover the debts. It is never a good idea to ignore debt. Fortunately, there are plenty of free debt advice services (also see our debt guide) that you can turn to no matter where you are and no matter how large your debts.

But what is the best service for your needs:

The Money Advice Service

This free online resource at www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk has a wealth of information about debt, handling your money and how to behave responsibly even when you are struggling with your finances. The service has online advisers who will be able to point you in the right direction or you can call them on 0800 138 7777 for free debt advice.

It also has a section on how to deal with a debt adviser and how these services will be able to help you.

Debt Advice Foundation

This charity was set up specifically to advise and support anybody struggling to repay debts including mortgages, loans and credit cards. It offers impartial free debt advice which the charity says is tailored to individual needs.

When you contact the foundation, an advisor will ask you some questions to determine the best course of action for you. They will then recommend a particular debt solution, the aim of which will be to:

  • Reduce your repayments to a level that you can afford over the long term
  • Halt any action that creditors might have started against you
  • Protect your home and other significant assets

The foundation advises on almost every debt solution including bankruptcy, Debt Relief Orders, Free Debt Management Plans, Individual Voluntary Arrangements, Trust Deeds, Debt Arrangement Scheme, Administration Orders and Debt Consolidation.

Visit the foundation’s website at www.debtadvicefoundation.org or call to speak to an adviser on 0800 043 40 50. The lines are manned between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday and from 9am to 3pm on Saturdays.

Step Change

This is another free debt advice charity specifically tasked with helping people to negotiate their way out of debt and to protect their main assets.

Step Change says that it deals with more than 500,000 people struggling with debt every year and has been helping people for more than 20 years.

The advice is free and impartial and every solution is tailored to the needs of each of the charity’s clients. The charity can advise on virtually every form of debt solution.

Visit its website at www.stepchange.org or call 0800 138 1111. Lines are open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and until 4pm on Saturdays.

The National Debtline

The National Debtline is a charity covering the whole of the UK and its website contains more than 40 fact sheets covering virtually every aspect of debt and managing it. Some of the factsheets include advice on:

  • Bankruptcy
  • Debt relief orders
  • Debt management plans
  • Time limits for recovering debts

It can also advise people who are being pursued by bailiffs, facing court action or on how to deal with creditors when you are seriously behind on repayments.

For free debt advice visit the National Debtline’s website at www.nationaldebtline.org

Debt Management Plans

Anybody who is facing significant debts and is struggling to repay them can apply to start a formal debt management plan with his or her creditors. All of the charities listed above will be able to help you apply for a plan or there are a large number or private companies which will handle a debt management plan for you in return for a fee or commission on your debt.

A debt management plan will ensure that you continue to be able to afford to pay your bills and other essentials like rent and shopping before you start to make repayments towards your debts. It is a flexible way to approach repayment of debt and is generally not legally binding.

A debt management plan might work for you if you are facing a short-term fall in income but are confident that you’ll have more money at some point in the medium term. It can also help if you are trying to sell your house to raise capital to pay off your debts.

Debt management plans protect people’s homes and do not require you to start selling off major assets to cover your debts.

However, these plans are not right for everyone. It’s important to understand that:

  • It will take longer to repay your debts because you will be paying a lower amount each month
  • Your creditors may not freeze interest charges on your debts so you may still be facing significant outstanding sums over the long term
  • A debt management plan provider might charge you a fee
  • Some creditors might refuse to take part in the plan and continue to pursue you
  • Every plan is registered on a creditor’s credit record making it more difficult to get loans in the future

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