Seeking Advice & Guidance
People become aware they have a debt problem at different stages of the problem. Some people become aware at the onset of any debt arising, or on seeing the difference between their income and expenditure.
Others are made aware of debt problems when they receive letter or phone calls from creditors or debt collection agency notifying of debts or arrears.
How people see debt problems
People view debt anything from something extremely serious to those who consider that it was not of great concern. The perception of debt as a problem does not necessarily depend on the amount of debt but on factors that include:
Being confident that the problem would be resolved, for example individuals may be able increase their income through extra work or disposal of investments etc.
Some people "transfer" the seriousness of their own debts by comparing it with others who have much higher debts.
People, who felt that their debt problems were serious, normally feel frightened and feel that they may lose everything, once again adding to their debt stress and anxiety. This can be the case for those who have been threatened by bailiffs or legal action. The perception of the seriousness of individual's debt problems becomes less serious once the debtor knows the limits of creditors actions.
Type of Help Available
There is a range of services available for those in debt problems, these ranges from informal discussion to using professional services such as Debt Management Agencies and even lawyers to reclaim illegal charges on credit cards and loans.
Although there is a range of services available to deal with the practical part of debt problems, there is little or inadequate services that deal with the emotional impact of debt on the individual, or the impact of debt stress or debt anxiety.
Emotional Support and Debt-Stress Management Support
0Debt.co.uk is a service which offers emotional support in the form of our forum, where individuals can communicate with others who have gone through similar experiences, share advice and guidance, provide one another with helpful guidance and support in getting back on ones feet. In addition to this, 0debt.co.uk have developed extremely useful audios to help learn how to reduce and manage stress and in particular debt stress. The techniques for debt stress management are based on the research and academic studies based on the effectiveness of Mindfulness.
Mindfulness is simple training our attention on how to focus on one breath through guided instructions. Mindfulness has been found to be more effective than drugs for almost all types of stress and even more effective than drugs for severe depression.
Awareness and sources of advice
There is relatively low awareness of where to get advice or information for debt problems. Most people will use CAB, Citizen Advice Bureaux as their first point of call for debt help, however, the lead time for appointments may run into several weeks and with restricted times. Although CAB can offer advice most seekers of debt advice consider the CAB personnel not to be specialist in the area of debt.
Other sources of advice include the National Debtline and the Samaritans as useful sources of debt advice and for emotional support especially in the case of using the Samaritans.
Accessing advice from friends, family or known professionals
The first point of contact and advise people seek is normally from friends, family or even professionals that they have access to, such as their GP in terms of stress related illnesses, anxiety or depression.
Internet is also another increasingly common source of information and advice, however it is also important to note that many sites have sprung up as "debt advice" sites, which were predominantly sites that were selling loans not so long ago. Some of these sites are simply seeking to yet make more money from debt-burdened individuals through provision of "services" such as debt consolidation or remortgage.
Type of advice
The advice that is sought depends on the perceptions of the types of advice available to them and access to the appropriate advice. People who have had good advice from places like CAB are likely to use the CAB their first point of contact, however, those who have had previously poor advice or unsatisfactory guidance tend to avoid their previous choice. However, this makes not reflect the reality nor the usefulness of the advice from such organisations and agencies.
Practical ie Budgeting for debt management
Simple practical advice in money management skills such as budgeting can be relatively easily accessed and are excellent way to manage finance. 0debt.co.uk have developed a number of free budgeting tools for users.
Cost of advice can also be a barrier of accessing advice and support from providers such as solicitors or financial advisors and therefore people are more likely to make use of CAB.
Help with writing letters to creditors
Practical advice such as writing letters to creditors is both helpful and can be done by individuals themselves. Free letter templates may be assessable from Internet forums and sites. Direct contact can greatly help resolve issues before they spiral out of control and also help develop confidence of individuals in knowing they are able to get a handle on their debt problems themselves without the experience of perceived embarrassment in discussing private debt problems with others.
Although legal advice can be perceived to be expensive there are a number of options that can help without breaking the bank. These include using local authority funded and public funded agencies such as law-centres, CAB and community centres, which may offer free access to legal advice.
Companies such as Challangeyour.com are an excellent source for recovering illegal charges on loans, creditcards and PPI (protection payment plans) without any upfront fees.
Dealing with Bailiffs
The UK Government is set to give bailiffs new "vicious" powers during this depression according to the Shadow Housing Minister Grant Shapps.
Currently baliffs can only enter a home if they are invited in, or if a door or window is left open, but the new rules will come into effect later this year 2009, means that a bailiff can smash your door down and enter even when you are not home as long as they leave your house "secure".
The guidance on the use of these new forced entry powers counts as "reasonable" to "break open the door, but probably not to smash a hole in the wall", however if a person attempts to shut the door, it will be "reasonable" to put your foot in the door."
In order to justify breaking into your home by forced entry all that is required is for a bailiff to believe the offender is in due to hearing a TV or radio or movement of a curtain or even if a neighbour informs that they suspect someone is at home.
Most concerning is that the bailiffs are allowed to use handcuffs to detain a resident if they feel at risk, "such as if an occupier attempts to defend their home and family as their door is smashed open"!
In light of these new powers, it is essential for those in debt to contact their creditors before the matter becomes so serious that debt recovery agencies use bailiffs especially with these new "vicious" powers.
0debt.co.uk has created an online petition to the Government to delay or better still to abandon this damaging law during what is now fast becoming a depression.