Getting debt advice
If you’re dealing with debt, there are free advice services that can help. A debt adviser can support you to:
access benefits and grants
reduce your costs and make a budget
negotiate with creditors and manage your repayments
Check where to get advice in your area and how it can help you.
Where to get money and debt advice
There are national charities that give advice online, over the phone, or in person:
You could also find a local service near you that provides debt advice. Search for services in your area using one of these tools:
If you have rent or mortgage arrears and you’re worried about eviction or repossession, contact a Shelter Scotland adviser.
Be wary of debt solutions advertised by companies online. You may end up paying more than you need to. Get advice from an approved money adviser at a registered charity.
When you should get debt advice
There are some signs that you should get advice as soon as possible.
You’re struggling to pay priority debts
Priority debts include any debts that could put you at risk of homelessness:
loans that are secured against your home
Priority debts also include money you owe to the council or government, because these can have serious legal consequences. The money could be taken directly from your wages or benefits. For example:
council tax arrears
unpaid income tax or National Insurance
overpaid tax credits
child maintenance arrears
Your household bills are priority debts because essential services like gas or electricity could be cut off. If you're struggling with energy costs, talk to your supplier and explain your circumstances. Check Citizens Advice to see whether your supplier is allowed to cut you off.
Non-priority debts include things like overdrafts, credit cards, store cards, catalogue debts, payday loans, and loans from family or friends. These have less serious consequences if you do not pay them.
Always focus on paying priority debts first, even if your non-priority debts are larger.
You’ve had letters about legal action
Get advice right away if you receive:
any letters about arrears from your landlord or mortgage provider
a charge for payment, a summary warrant, or any other letters from the sheriff’s office
Do not ignore these letters, as the consequences could be very serious. An adviser can support you and help prevent further legal action.
If you're getting letters or phone calls about non-priority debts, get advice before agreeing to repayments.
Debt collectors do not have the same powers as sheriff officers. They cannot enter your home, take your belongings or force you to pay more than you can afford. They must follow a strict legal process and take you to court to recover the debt.
How an adviser can help you
A debt adviser will not judge you or pressure you. Their job is to help you understand all your options and get your debt under control.
Your adviser will check if you can claim any benefits and help you apply. Even if you’re in work or you already get benefits, you might be missing out on money you’re entitled to.
If you need emergency money help, your adviser will look for crisis grants, charity grants and other funds. They can apply for these on your behalf.
Budgeting and reducing costs
Your adviser will look at the details of your income and outgoings. They’ll help you find ways to cut your costs, and work with you to make a monthly budget.
Based on your budget, your adviser will work out how much you can afford to pay towards your debts each month.
Negotiating with creditors
Many debts can be negotiated to reduce your monthly payments. Your adviser can contact creditors on your behalf to agree on affordable repayment plans.
Creditors may be less likely to take action against you if they know you’re engaging with debt advice.
Recommending debt solutions
Your adviser might recommend a formal debt solution based on your circumstances. For example, you could be eligible for a debt management plan, where you pay back what you can afford and the money is split between your creditors.
StepChange has more information about the different types of debt solutions. Usually you can only access these solutions with an adviser’s help.
What information you’ll need
Before speaking to a money and debt adviser, it can help to gather information about:
all of your debts, including how much you owe and how long you’ve had the debt
any missed payments
any actions creditors have taken to recover the debt
your income and outgoings
Collect any documents about your debts, like letters, contracts and statements.
If you’re not sure about the details of any of your debts, the adviser can help you work out where to find the information.
Last updated: 4 October 2022