January 2020 - CSA L&D Conference 2020.
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|Help with your finances|
Receiving any form of communication from a debt collection agency can be stressful. Understandably, the first place to investigate this is online. However, the internet contains a lot of conflicting information about what is the right thing to do and in most cases this can make the process of resolving the issue even more confusing and time consuming.
If you are investigating a debt or experiencing any financial difficulties, we have gathered together a list of organisations who offer free, confidential and impartial advice.
This section also contains information about Credit Reference Agencies (CRAs). A lender or any company you have applied with for any form of credit from will approach a CRA to check your credit history.
AdviceUK is the UK's largest support network for free, independent advice centres. AdviceUK was formed in 1979 as the Federation of Independent Advice Centres (FIAC). As a UK-wide organisation AdviceUK is a key member of the Advice Services Alliance.
A national charity, working across the UK to lift people out of debt and poverty offering free debt counselling through a network of 260 debt centres based in local churches.
Citizens Advice provides free, independent and confidential advice on getting out of debt, and a variety of other issues. With branches across the UK they have useful resources online, such as debt FAQs and budgeting tools.
Work out your budget
Citizens Advice provide an online tool to help you understand what you are earning and spending, and where you might be able to cut costs. The tool can be accessed here.
Legal aid can help you pay for legal advice, family mediation and representation in court and some tribunals. This could include help for housing, debt, family or education problems. You can also get legal aid if you’re accused of a crime.
The Continued Path website offers links to free, independent support organisations as well as practical advice for survivors in the areas of heath & wellness, wills & probate and estates & finance. This site is designed purely to provide an objective online resource, available at the visitor’s convenience with useful information including definitions for common terms associated with the probate process.
Counselling Directory provides a huge support network of counsellors, enabling visitors to find a counsellor close to them and appropriate for their needs.
Debt Action NI is a project run by Advice Northern Ireland which offers free, confidential and impartial debt and money advice.
The Financial Ombudsman Service was set up by law to resolve individual disputes between consumers and financial services businesses. It can deal with complaints about a wide range of financial and money matters, from insurance and mortgages to investments and credit. And it covers complaints about debt collection where the debt relates to consumer credit or hire, when a complaint can be brought by the person owing the money – or by someone who has been pursued for a debt owed by someone else.
The business (debt collector) concerned should be given the chance to look into the complaint first – and has up to eight weeks in which to do this. But if the consumer (usually the borrower) is not satisfied with its response they can refer their complaint to the ombudsman service. The service is independent and impartial – it looks carefully at both sides of the story and weighs up all the evidence before reaching a conclusion.
If the ombudsman service decides the business has treated the consumer fairly it will explain why. But if it decides that the business has acted wrongly – and the person complaining has lost out – then it has the power to order matters to be put right.
The Information Commissioner's Office is the UK's independent authority set up to promote access to official information and to protect personal information.
This is a free 44-page PDF booklet supported by Mind, Rethink, CAPUK and others, for people with mental health problems and those caring for them.
It covers how to handle debts when unwell, work with banks, free debt counselling, specific tips for bipolar disorder or depression sufferers, whether to declare a condition and more.
Money Advice Scotland (MAS) is the national umbrella organisation which promotes the development of free, independent, impartial, confidential money (debt) advice and financial inclusion. The organisation is a registered charity, with clear charitable objectives.
A service set up by the government to give free, unbiased, independent advice.
Visit The Money Advice Service's online debt advice services section.
The Money Charity (formerly Credit Action) is a charity with over 20 years’ experience in money management. As well as free and confidential advice, they provide several useful money management apps, such as the “Spendometer”.
National Debtline is a debt charity providing free, confidential and impartial advice as well as a library of online resources – including an information pack, personal budget planning, sample letters and information that will allow you to determine whether you qualify for a debt relief order.
For those based in Northern Ireland, nidirect contains specific information about how to manage debt.
PayPlan offers a fresh approach to dealing with financial difficulties. They provide free debt solutions, including free debt management plans and Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs).
StepChange (formerly the Consumer Credit Counselling Service) provides free advice, help with budgets and debt management plans tailored to personal situations.
welldoing.org is an independent, UK-wide directory of therapists and counsellors who are all members of reputable professional organisations. It also supplies information and advice in the areas of mental health, wellbeing and self-development.
Credit Reference Agencies (CRAs)
Credit Reference Agencies (CRAs) obtain information from creditors (bank or building society, government department, local authority or utility company, etc.) about how people manage their credit accounts (eg how much is owed; whether there have been recent missed payments; what type of credit they have). This information is used to create your credit file, which provides a picture of your recent credit history and your credit commitments.
This information is then used in a number of different ways. The main purpose is for existing and potential creditors to make informed decisions about granting credit to people. They use this information, along with other information that you provide, to decide whether to lend and how much. You can find out more about lending decisions from the financial services regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, and from the Lending Standards Board.
In most cases, outstanding debts will be listed on your credit file, with information about amounts outstanding and whether the account is in default. You can ask the Credit Reference Agencies for a copy of your credit file at any time, although they may charge a fee for this service. If there is anything incorrect on your credit file, you can ask them to add a ‘Notice of Correction’, which would allow you to provide an explanation for any errors or inaccurate information on your credit file. There is more information about dealing with incorrect or inaccurate Credit Reference Agency information in the FAQs section of our tracing information sheet.
Website links to the three Credit Reference Agencies (CRAs) can be found below.
TransUnion (formerly Callcredit)