Tuesday, 3 May 2011

When will it end?

Every month we receive at least one personal plea for debt help. Zero-credit is not licensed to provide debt advice because we trade in information and publications about how consumers behave with money. However, our site is full of links through to the main debt charities and professional associations, as well as regular consumer updates from the OFT.

We pride ourselves on breaking down the barriers to accessing advice, because this prevents minor money worries from becoming real concerns. The better prepared we are for an income shock, the more able we are to deal with it, if it happens.

Because we are committed to championing a borrower's right never to feel helpless, we always reply with an outline of our key posts and links, together with some ideas for feeling more in control. Some people feel comforted by faith based support, others a sense of justice that their creditors are paying for help. Its not just about getting out of debt, you see, it's about staying out of debt too, so a sustainable solution needs to make sense to the individuals concerned.

Our starting point is always to point out that borrowers in difficulty have the right to 30 days breathing space when they are trying to sort out repayments. We posted the most recent Office for Fair Trading Guidance for Consumers about this a couple of months ago. There is also a longer version for lenders, for anyone who feels empowered by quoting government advice.

It is important to feel safe and confident in the support you choose. For privacy, an online or phone service may suit, others prefer to see someone face to face, at home or in an office. The most common free charity / community funded advice alternatives include:

Government funded, phone based: http://www.nationaldebtline.co.uk/

Creditor funded, online and helpline: http://www.cccs.co.uk/

Government funded, phone or face to face: http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/getadvice.htm

Christian funded, at home, face to face: http://www.capuk.org/home/index.php

Christian funded, centres, face to face: http://www.communitymoneyadvice.com/

Creditor funded, free debt management plans: http://www.payplan.com/

As some of the government funding for debt advice comes under threat, we are starting to see low cost paid alternatives in the form of digital applications and social enterprises, such as:

former Birmingham City Council advisers, now social enterprise with a face to face centre: http://moneymattersaction.co.uk


DIY online debt settlement tool: http://imoneymanager.co.uk

Fees for these compare relatively well with the costs of taking time off work or for transport in a rural area, especially where there are queues for free advice and more than one appointment may be necessary.

There are also traditional debt management companies, which charge for services from office-based or home visit professionals. Not all of these companies are reliable, so if a paid service looks like an option, it is essential to check membership of either http://www.demsa.co.uk/ or http://www.debtresolutionforum.org.uk/, as these associations at least work with the OFT to raise industry standards. 

Amongst Zero-credit Members there are people who have received support from most of the above. We even have members who have negotiated repayments themselves. There will always be differences of opinion about the best debt advice, because each of us prefers the solution that worked in our own circumstances. However, one thing we all agree on is Annie Shaw's advice about getting a basic bank account. It is one of the best securities you can have for controlling your money, whatever your circumstances, and most likely to help you ensure that the vicious cycle of unmanageable debt does end. 


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