You are here:

Understanding Debt

Published on




We've been helping people with their debt and money worries since 2006 by providing free, expert debt advice - in that time, we've supported over 80,000 people.

Our trained and accredited advisors are based across 9 charities at over 20 locations and can help with all types of money worries from rent and council tax arrears to credit card and catalogue debt.

No matter how large or small your debt problem is, we can help. We'll look at your financial situation and give you expert debt advice and recommend debt solutions to suit your situation. We can work with you to prioritise your bills & debts, helping you to write letters and advocate on your behalf.

Types of Debt

Debt, it's more common than you think. In the South West, over 700,000 adults struggle to make ends meet - each year we help over 6,000 people with their money worries. Our advice is always free and impartial.

rent arrears icon

Rent arrears

In the South West - where rents are some of the highest in the UK outside of London - thousands of people struggle to pay their landlords every month.

Council Tax

This is one of the most common debts that we see.  Last year, a third of those we helped had fallen behind with their Council Tax payments.

Utility bills

No-one should have to go without heating or electricity at any time. Get help to repay your utility debt now before these vital services are cut off.

Credit cards

It's easy to fall behind on your credit card payments. Last year, over a quarter of those we helped owed on their cards.


Many people struggle to repay their loans. We can help you with bank loans, payday loans But Now Pay Later as well as alternatives to payday loans and loan sharks.

Managing Debt

Prioritising Debts

There are some bills and debts that should be dealt with as a priority, this is because the consequences of not paying them can leave you at risk of losing your home or other assets.

Breathing Space

With Breathing Space, those in problem debt have the right to protection from creditors – the people they owe money to – for a period of 60 days. 

Debt Solutions

We can support you with a wide range of practical debt solutions to suit every situation and you can read more about some of these options below.

Admin Orders

If you’re struggling with debt, you may be able to apply to the County Court for an Administration Order – a formal, legally-binding arrangement that allows you to repay what you owe over a manageable period of time.


Declaring bankruptcy is one way to clear your debts and start afresh. If you’re a homeowner, your house may be sold off to release equity. So may your car and any other luxury items you own.

Debt Management Plans

A Debt Management Plan (DMP) allows you to pay off your debts at a rate you can afford - it’s suitable if you have non-priority debts like credit or store cards, overdrafts and personal loans.

Debt Relief Order (DRO)

A Debt Relief Order freezes your debts for a year, then writes them off completely if there’s no change to your financial situation.

Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA)

An Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) freezes your debts and allows you to pay them back over a set period of time. Any money you still owe after this is then written off altogether. 

How to access our advice

During the pandemic we've had to temporally close face-to-face services at our advice centres. We are still here for you and you can still access our free and impartial advice in the following ways:

In Person

We have locations across the South West through our partner agencies including local Citizens Advice and Independent Agencies.  Find your nearest Debt Free South West partner Advice Centre here


Give us a call on freephone 0800 138 3422, or use our form to request a callback.


Need to speak to an Adviser face-to-face but can't make it to one of our centres? Use our new Video Advice service.

WhatsApp & Text message

Can't talk? No problem! Use WhatsApp or SMS Text message to drop us a message us on 07445 124 284.


Our Advisers can help you via the webchat feature on our website. To start a webchat, click on the orange button at the bottom of the page.

How we've helped others

Gwen & Vincent's Story

Gwen and Vincent contacted us after receiving a letter of court action. As parents to four children they were claiming Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit but they had been overpaid by £8,450.00 due to incorrect information on their initial claim form.

Shamiya’s Story

Shamiya found herself in receipt of a County Court action brought about by her utility company for arrears of over £2,000. The debt had escalated as Shamiya’s utility meter hadn’t been read for some time resulting in an unexpected bill that she couldn’t afford to pay.

Jasmine's Story

Jasmine came for debt advice in relation to an outstanding Major Work repairs debt carried out on her property. Jasmine, widowed and suffering from long term ill health, was harassed by her landlord who was demanding she pay the outstanding figure of over £3,000 in full and referred Jasmine’s debt to their solicitor to issue her with a forfeiture of her leasehold.