What to do if you get into financial difficulty? Answer 6:
Although not strictly a 'legal' question we often find that our clients face financial difficulties which can be very stressful: sometimes this can also be the back-story as to why a criminal offence has been committed. However there are steps that can be taken to help in such a situation as well as organisations willing to help for free.
Many individuals have some form of creditor whether it be a mortgage lender, landlord, credit card provider, bank overdraft or store card. However in times of crisis other organisations can also quickly become creditors such as your energy supplier, your local authority (for council tax) and other utility providers and the more the problem is ignored the worse it gets. So what to do when difficulties arise?
Collect as much information about your debts as can*. This will help your debt advisor to prepare a plan for tackling the problem (see below). This can include gathering all the information about your debts, such as contracts, bills and statements. It might include rent arrears, bills that are owing for council tax, credit cards, money you have borrowed from family or friends.
When you have this information write down the details for each debt*. These details might include: who you owe the money to? This is your ‘creditor’. When you first missed a payment? How much you owe? This might be in a recent statement. Your account or reference number? This information might be at the top of your statement. What the creditor has done to get the money back? For example, sending you letters or taking you to court. Don't worry if it looks terrible - you are taking the first important steps in tackling the problem!
If the situation is going to be short-term one option is to contact each of your creditors and explain the situation and come to an arrangement to pay. For example you have lost your job but have another job starting in two months time. This means you have temporary shortfall but that the problem is not going to last. Remember also that it is best to come to an arrangement with priority creditors first such as for rent, council tax or gas/electricity supplier. These creditors are likely to be able to assist you in coming to an arrangement to pay.
However if the situation looks more serious - for example, loss of a job with no prospect of quickly finding work or a serious illness, promptly seek advice from a debt advisor. The earlier you do this, the better. The fact is there are many good organisations out there who can help you by contacting your creditors and making a plan to deal with the debt. This will take some of the stress out of the situation at what is an already stressful time. Here are five organisations that can help:
1. Citizens Advice Full debt and consumer advice service. Many bureaux have specialist caseworkers to deal with any type of debt, including repossessions and negotiation with creditors.
Find your nearest CA centre
Tel: 03444 111 444
Opening Times: Different for each bureau
Citizens Advice Northern Ireland is separate, but offers the same service.
2. StepChange Debt Charity A full debt help service is available across the UK. Online support is also available via its debt advice tool where you can create a budget and get a personal action plan with practical next steps.
Tel: 0800 138 1111
Opening Times: Mon - Fri 8am to 8pm, Sat 8am to 4pm
3. National Debtline National Debtline provides free advice and resources to help people deal with their debts. Advice is available over the phone, online and via webchat.
Tel: 0808 808 4000
Opening Times: Mon - Fri 9am to 8pm, Sat 9.30am to 1pm
4. C.A.P. (Christians Against Poverty) https://capuk.org
5. PAYPLAN: https://www.payplan.com
Aways remember it's best to act sooner rather than later. We hope you are able to get the help you need.
Adrian Rohard is a Partner and HCA at Tuckers Kent Branch.
Credit to CAB for much of the content of this paragraph: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt-and-money/help-with-debt/dealing-with-your-debts/collecting-information-about-your-debts/