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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 November 2005, 15:16 GMT
Where to get help with your debt
If you think you are likely to get into borrowing problems, or if your debts are already a real worry, you're not alone.

There are lots of people and organisations who can help you to sort yourself out, and all you need to do is contact them.

It usually won't cost you a penny.

Follow the links below to Citizens Advice, National Debtline, Payplan and other organisations.

They can help you work out a plan for dealing with your debts, suggest what to say to the people you owe money to, and show you how to negotiate a payment plan with them.

WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU GO TO A DEBT ADVISER

Practice varies from one agency to another, but generally you will get advice on steps you can take to help yourself, information packs and fact sheets.

Debt advisers can also help you to work out a budget, prepare a plan for paying off your debts and draw up a financial statement to show your creditors.

Some advice organisations will help you to prepare for a court hearing and in severe cases may even agree to represent you in court.

  • Citizens Advice - an online CAB service that provides independent advice on your rights.

  • Citizens Advice Scotland - the website of the Scottish CAB service

  • Advice UK - the largest UK network of advice-providing organisations

  • Advice NI- for advice and agencies in Northern Ireland

  • Payplan - Debt management and free confidential debt advice on resolving debt problems

  • National Debtline - for free confidential and independent advice on how to deal with debt problems

  • Business Debtline - for business debts

  • Consumer Credit Counselling Service - a charity dedicated to providing free and confidential counselling and money management assistance and advice on dealing with your creditors

  • Money Advice Scotland - search for your nearest independent and confidential money advice agency in Scotland

  • Community Legal Service Direct - helps you find the appropriate legal information and advice for your problems

    WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU TALK TO YOUR LENDER

    It may be best to write to your lenders rather than phoning or meeting them face-to-face.

    Include a copy of your personal budget with your letter and only offer to repay what you can afford.

    By dealing in writing, you have evidence of your offer and, assuming your lenders write back to agree, proof that your offer was accepted.

    There is also less opportunity for the lender to put pressure on you to increase your payments to them at the expense of your other creditors.

    All lenders belong to one or more trade associations, and these will be mentioned on their writing paper, signs, etc.

    The trade associations have codes of practice setting out how lenders should deal fairly with their customers and requiring lenders to have formal complaints procedures.

    Lenders must also follow guidance from the Office of Fair Trading on debt collection.

    So, if you feel a lender is putting unacceptable pressure on you, mention these codes of practice to them.

  • Office Of Fair Trading (OFT) - works to identify and put right trading practices which are against the consumer's interests and regulate the provision of consumer credit.

    CREDIT REPAIR

    If you've had problems with debt but you're now getting yourself sorted out, you might think about trying to repair your credit history.

    Don't be tempted to pay for a credit repair service that claims it can 'clean up' your credit history.

    You can sort out your credit report either yourself or with expert help free of charge.

    You can get free advice about:

    • County Court Judgments, bankruptcy, defaulted accounts and other arrears
    • sorting out your debts
    • applying for credit even if your past is not perfect
    • the contents of your credit report.
  • UK credit repair - provides free help and information on repairing your credit history.

    DEBT MANAGEMENT COMPANIES

    You may be tempted to go to a 'debt management company'.

    These companies offer to sort out repaying your debts, but charge for their services. They can be expensive and free help is available elsewhere.

    For example, the Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) and Payplan both offer free debt management advice.

    They will help you work out the best way of dealing with your creditors without any danger of increasing the amount of money you owe.

  • Consumer Credit Counselling Service - a charity dedicated to providing free and confidential counselling, money management assistance and advice on dealing with your creditors.

  • Payplan - Debt management and free confidential debt advice on resolving debt problems






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