Dealing with debt

How do I deal with debt? 

The best thing you can do when you have debt is to face it head on. 
To manage your debts, you need to:  

  • Contact your creditors straight away ― they may be able to help work out a payment plan 

  • Make the most of your income 

  • Tackle your priority debts first  

  • Work out your personal budget  

  • Work out a reasonable offer  

  • Always keep copies of payments you have made, as well as any other financial information  

  • Do not borrow more money to pay off existing debts. 

Remember, you are not alone. Do not give up or be afraid to seek advice. 

There are independent specialist debt advice services that you can contact for free that will help. You should not have to pay for debt advice. 

Citizens Advice  


Christians against poverty (CAP) 


National debt line  


Money Helper 

If other adults live with you, explain your financial situation, and ask if they can contribute more to help you with household costs. 

What are priority debts? 

Priority debts are debts with serious consequences if left unpaid. They may not be for enormous amounts or have the highest interest rates, but you could face significant problems if you fall behind on payments. 
Priority debts include:  

  • Rent, mortgages or any loans secured against your home  

  • Income Tax, National Insurance and VAT  

  • Council Tax  

  • Gas and electricity bills  

  • Child maintenance  

  • TV licence  

  • Hire purchase agreements (if what you are buying with them is essential) 

  • Court fines 

Why should I pay off priority debts first? 

Unpaid priority debts could have far-reaching consequences like:  

  • Losing your home or being evicted if you do not keep up with mortgage or rent payments  

  • Receiving a court summons   

  • Being visited by bailiffs  

  • Bankruptcy if you have not paid your tax bills  

  • Having your heating or lighting cut off if you have not paid your fuel bills 

What are non-priority debts? 

The consequences of unpaid non-priority debts are less serious. However, they can still be a significant cause of stress, affect your relationships and may prevent you from borrowing money in the future.   

If you do not pay non-priority debts, your creditor could eventually take you to court or get bailiffs to collect the money from you. 

Non-priority debts might include:  

  • Credit and store cards, or payday loans  

  • Catalogue or home credit, or in-store credit debts  

  • Overdrafts  

  • Bank or building society loans  

  • Personal loans 

  • Money borrowed from friends or family 

If you would like further advice, please contact our Customer Contact Centre on 0300 123 1567, who can refer you to our specialist benefits advisers for a free benefits check.