- What is Breathing Space?
- Breathing Space training
- Support for debt advisers
- Mental health access mechanism
- Process improvement
What is Breathing Space?
Breathing Space is a debt respite scheme launched on 4 May 2021. It provides protections for people living in England and Wales who are in debt. This includes pausing enforcement action and contact from creditors, and freezing interest and charges on their debts.
We believe Breathing Space is a great opportunity for the debt advice sector and will improve outcomes for customers. The protections it will give customers will give them time and space to stabilise their financial situation, engage with advice and find a solution. This has the potential to encourage better engagement with debt advice and improve customer experience.
To ensure this opportunity is maximised, the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) is supporting the debt advice sector with the implementation of Breathing Space.
Breathing Space training
The Money and Pensions Service, The Insolvency Service and Her Majesty’s Treasury have been working together to deliver various elements of Breathing Space to support the debt sector with implementation of the scheme.
One element to support debt advisers with their knowledge of Breathing Space is the delivery of training. MaPS and The Money Advice Trust have worked in partnership to fund and develop a set of e-learning modules for this purpose. E-learning training has been developed to equip advisers to support their clients while applying Breathing Space scheme regulations to debt advice.
There are three e-learning modules :
- Introduction to Breathing Space
- Introduction to Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space, and
- Breathing Space in practice.
Each module will take approximately 45 minutes to an hour to complete.
The training modules are now available to all debt advisers including advisers from local authorities and commercial providers in England and Wales. Advisers will be able to claim two CPD points once they have completed the training.
The courses are available on The Money Advice Trust’s Wiseradviser website.
Debt advisers are encouraged to complete Breathing Space training as part of their learning and will need to set up Wiseradviser accounts to access this free training. If your organisation does not have access to Wiseradviser, please email email@example.com with the names and email addresses of those people within your organisation who will need access to the training.
It is a mandatory requirement for MaPS funded advisers to complete this training.
Support for debt advisers
The specialist support service funded by MaPS and delivered by Shelter will be providing support with queries regarding Breathing Space.
This service does not cover queries that relate to the Insolvency Service online portal, which will need to be directed to the Insolvency Service.
Queries can be directed to Shelter in confidence:
Phone: 0330 058 0404 Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm
Online: Shelter debt advice service Monday to Friday
Enquiries will be answered within 3 working days or sooner if the case is urgent.
Mental health access mechanism
While most customers will access Breathing Space through debt advice, customers receiving mental health crisis care treatment will enter via the mental health access mechanism (MHAM). Within this, advisers will enter individuals into Breathing Space after receiving evidence they are receiving crisis care from an approved mental health practitioner (AMHP).
The mental health access mechanism is a vital component of Breathing Space. It means vulnerable individuals not able to seek debt advice will still be able to receive protection. However, we believe that to ensure the full potential of the mechanism is reached, it is important that:
- there is a clear, simple referral pathway, ensuring that busy mental health professionals do not have to spend time finding or choosing a provider
- provider(s) taking referrals have significant expertise in supporting customers with severe mental health problems, to ensure the needs of the customer group are met
- provider(s) taking referrals are able to support customers consistently and at scale, to ensure all customers receive high quality support regardless of their location or referrer.
As such, MaPS is supporting the mental health access mechanism by providing a single point of entry for the mechanism, making it clear to AMHPs where to refer via Rethink and Citizens Advice Cymru to deliver the MHAM in England and Wales respectively.
In England, MaPS is funding Rethink to support MHAM customers during the referral process. The pilot will run until at least March 2022 and will establish how best to deliver the service. A longer-term partner for the service will then be commissioned based on the learnings from the pilot.
MaPS will work with its suppliers to understand the impact of Breathing Space and, where possible, to harness the value of Breathing Space to customers while optimising operational efficiency.
This activity will seek to understand whether debt advice which includes a Breathing Space application requires greater effort than debt advice which does not, and to quantify and locate that effort in the debt advice journey.
Where supported by evidence, and where appropriate, MaPS will collaborate with its suppliers to minimise the impact of additional Breathing Space effort through the deployment of operational improvement resource.
In addition, MaPS will work with the mental health access mechanism provider to optimise the efficient, effective delivery of Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space.
Specialist resource will support the measurement of customer journeys, and the business processes which underpin them, to quickly identify typical journeys and opportunities to improve customer experience and operational efficiency.