The Department has policy responsibility on financial capability, financial inclusion, debt and commissioning of debt advice services in Northern Ireland.


The UK Government launched its “Breathing Space” debt respite scheme in May 2021 to give people in problem debt the opportunity to take control of their finances. 

Breathing Space, which is currently only available to those living in England and Wales, is a period during which an individual in problem debt is provided with respite from creditor action to fully engage with debt advice and seek a sustainable solution to their debts. 

The launch of the Scheme and the UK Government’s plans for the introduction of a Statutory Debt Repayment Plan (SDRP) will enable someone in problem debt to enter a statutory agreement to repay their debts to a manageable timetable.

Plans for a Debt Respite Scheme in Northern Ireland

The Department for Communities is currently developing a local debt respite scheme.  In line with the UK Government’s decision to pause the development of a Statutory Debt Repayment Plan, to allow the findings from the review of the personal insolvency landscape to be taken into account, the Department has decided to also pause plans for a Statutory Debt Repayment Plan element of the scheme and are progressing policy proposals for a standalone Breathing Space scheme at this time.

Call for evidence

To gather the views and gain insight from the debt advice sector, private and public sector creditors, voluntary sector and wider society, the Department launched a ’Call for Evidence’ to inform the policy, design and implementation of a debt respite scheme in Northern Ireland. The Call for Evidence launched on 14 December 2022 and closed on 1 February 2023. The survey also sought views on whether the England and Wales Breathing Space debt respite scheme could best meet the needs of people here.

The Department has analysed the survey feedback and produced a report which analyses the responses provided.

Future plans

The Call for Evidence is the first stage in the Department’s work to develop a Debt Respite Scheme for Northern Ireland. The Department is committed, as part of the process, to engaging with a wide range of organisations.  Therefore, further engagement with stakeholders is taking place to develop specific policy proposals with the intention to undertake a public consultation by the end of March 2024. 


If you have any queries on the development of policy proposals for this Scheme, please email



Back to top