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Debt problems - how to sort them out

Most debt problems can be sorted out, usually by agreeing affordable payments with your creditors. We describe how to do this here.
For Newham residents who want face-to-face advice, we also run a drop in service, on the last Thursday in every month, at Moneyworks, Unit 61-62 Stratford Shopping Centre.  Please note that Moneyworks is closed from Wednesday 25 December 2019 to Wednesday 1 January 2020 inclusive.

A step by step guide to dealing with your debt

There are some situations in which a more formal method can be best, but you would pay a fee and there can be other disadvantages. Check first whether the informal method described in the six stages of our debt advice would suit you. Later, we summarise formal arrangements, so you can check these out too.

Under 'other debt matters', we cover questions you might have on credit reference agencies, different types of court and how to complain about a creditor.

If you have debt problems you cannot deal with yourself, see our list of advice organisations.

Before you start

Some basic rules for dealing with debt problems are:
Do not:
  • ignore debt problems
  • ignore court papers or creditors’ letters
  • borrow to pay off debts without first getting advice
  • pay a fee to get debt problems sorted, without first seeing whether you could do it yourself or get free help.
  • deal with all your debts
  • fill in and return any court forms
  • go to any court hearing
  • sort out any priority debts before other debts.

Advice organisations

If you cannot deal with the problems yourself, there are a number of services that offer free, confidential and independent advice. You can also search for a legal adviser or solicitor with the legal adviser finder.

Debt advice surgery

112-118 The Grove
London E15 1NS
Tel: 020 8430 2041
We offer a drop in service on the last Thursday in every month, for residents who want face–to-face advice on dealing with debt problems. The service runs from 10am to 4pm, but it is best to arrive early if you can. 
Please bring with you:
  • proof of income (which could be a bank statement)
  • the latest letters and statements you have on all your debts.
The advice is free, confidential and impartial, independent of other council services. 

Community Links: Barking Road

105 Barking Road
Canning Town
E16 4HQ
Community Links can offer appointments for people struggling with debt and can advise on bankruptcy, rent arrears, utilities debt, credit arrears and debt relief orders (DRO’s). Community Links can help to restructure or write off debt and negotiate affordable payment arrangements.

They can help you with advice on water debt as well as providing money management support to help you reach a more secure financial position. We can help clients write off water debt and receive new kitchen white goods through our Thames Water programme.

Call 0207 473 2270 from Monday to Friday (9.30-5.30) to set up an initial appointment with a debt adviser.

There are no drop-in appointments.

Community Links also work with a corporate lawyers to offer a free drop-in evening law surgery twice per week. The team offer legal advice on some areas of consumer, private housing and employment law. No appointments are necessary but as we rely on volunteers, sometimes you may not be seen and have to return on another day. 

The sessions run on Wednesdays at 4pm. Registration starts at 5pm. Please note that we work on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.

Stratford Advice Arcade

107-109 The Grove
E15 1HP

Outreach advice sessions provided by Toynbee Hall on Mondays. To make an appointment visit the Arcade or phone 020 8221 1995. Visit the Stratford Advice Arcade website.

Step Change Debt Charity

0800 138 1111
Telephone advice and an online debt tool at Debt Remedy to help you work out what may be the best course of action for you. Telephone lines are open Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, Saturday 9am to 4pm.

National Debtline

0808 808 4000
Telephone advice, web-based information and online personal advice. Telephone lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 9pm, Saturday 9.30am to 1pm. To get web-based information or online personal advice, visit the National Debtline website.

Civil Legal Advice

0845 345 4345

For people on a low income such as benefits and whose debt problems put them at immediate risk of homelessness. Telephone advice, lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm, Saturday 9am to 12.30pm. For more information, visit the Community Legal Advice page on Directgov.

Business Debtline

0800 197 6026

Telephone advice and web-based information for people who are self-employed. Telephone lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5.30pm. To get web-based information, visit the Business Debtline website.
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