If you find yourself in difficulty unexpectedly, don’t ignore the problem. Getting into financial difficulty doesn’t just mean falling behind with repayments, it could be that you are keeping up with repayments but that you are finding it a struggle.
FLA members recognise that it is difficult and even embarrassing telling someone that you are struggling, but if you do they will do what they can to help you.
Remember: the sooner you get in touch, the easier it will be to find a solution. If you don’t get in touch it will be harder to help you and your financial situation could get worse. For example, in its 2014/2015 Annual Review, the Financial Ombudsman Service said of consumers facing repossession: ‘Unfortunately, we found that many people hadn’t sought help until they received the repossession order.’
Things you could do to help your situation
• Talk to your lender if you are experiencing problems. They may be able to help you or to direct you to sources of help.
• Make sure you pay your priority debts such as mortgages, rent, council tax, gas and electricity. Some debts are more important because of the consequences of not paying are more serious such as losing your home, being taken to court or have gas and electricity supplies cut off.
• Don’t ignore letters from your lenders or court.
• Seek help if you need it. There are a range of charities that can help you and give you advice. If you are in difficulty, FLA members will signpost you to sources of free-to-client debt advice.
Sources of help and advice:
• Citizens Advice. To find your local office, look in your phone book under ‘C’ or in the Yellow Pages under ‘Counselling and advice’, or from www.adviceguide.org.uk
• Call National Debtline on 0808 808 4000 (this call is free)
• Call Stepchange Debt Charity on 0800 138 1111 (this call is free)
• Call Money Advice Scotland on 0141 572 0237
• Call Advice NI – Debt Action NI Service 0800 917 4607
• Call Advice UK on 020 7469 5700
• Call Christians Against Poverty on 0800 328 0006
• The Money & Pension Service www.moneyandpensionsservice.org.uk
• The Trading Standards Department of your local council (also known as the Consumer Protection Department). You can find their details in the Yellow Pages under the heading ‘Consumer organisations’.
• If you are a student, contact the Student Welfare Officer at your students’ union
For the self-employed and small businesses
• Business Debtline is a free debt advice service aimed at the self-employed and small businesses, and advises on problems including business debts, cashflow problems and personal debts. It can also offer advice on potential debt solutions and covers England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Call: 0800 197 6026