I often get asked in the course of my work within prisons if there are any alternatives to going down the formal bankruptcy route where an individual has accumulated debts that they are unable to pay.

The Covid-19 pandemic in the UK has forced Government to rethink their insolvency procedures and have introduced for instance ‘debt respite’ or a ‘breathing space’ period where you can be protected from your creditors for up to sixty days.

Your debts do not simply disappear whilst you are in the ‘prison bubble’ and will still be there when you are released if positive action is not taken. I have come across one case where HMRC tried to serve papers on an individual in prison with the intention of bankrupting them. Whilst unsuccessful on that occasion they did serve the papers at the individual’s registered address on release!

Over the next few articles, I will try and demystify personal insolvency and the alternative processes available to bankruptcy including the bankruptcy process itself.

Debt Relief Order (DRO)

This is an administrative scheme that allows debtors (those that owe money) with very little money to effectively crystallise and write off their debts.

The Official Receiver’s fee is £90 and this can often be paid in instalments or by one of the charity advisers that sometimes provide a grant to cover it.

The GOV.UK website summarises the criteria as follows:

  • you owe less than £30000
  • you’ve less than £75 a month spare income
  • you’ve less than £2000 worth of assets
  • you do not own a vehicle worth £2000 or more
  • you’ve lived or worked in England and Wales within the last 3 years
  • you have not applied for a DRO within the last six years

The DRO application will contain a list of the debts to be liquidated – a schedule of debts, and the DRO will remove all debts in that schedule.

The DRO does not though impact on the right of a secured creditor to recover their debt such as a leased vehicle.

The organisations that are approved to process the paper application to the Official Receiver include:

The restrictions of a DRO usually last twelve months and are as follows:

  • you cannot borrow more that £500 without disclosing your DRO
  • you cannot act as a director of a company during this period
  • you cannot run a company without the court’s permission
  • you cannot manage a business without telling those you do business with about a DRO
  • you cannot open a bank account without disclosing the DRO

Being in prison effectively prevents you from undertaking any of the above and therefore a DRO is something that should be discussed with a debt adviser where you have debts whilst in prison that meet the underlying criteria. By the time you are released from prison you could be in a position where your debts have been cleared and you can embark on a ‘debt free’ fresh start.

After the period of ‘twelve months’ you are discharged from your debts included within the DRO.

You cannot avoid paying Student Loans, Court Fines or indeed Proceeds of Crime payments.

It is interesting to note that there are far more DROs despite their lack of publicity than there are bankruptcies in the UK mainly due to their simplicity and cost-effectiveness.

The GOV.UK link is:

Options for paying off your debts: Debt Relief Orders – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Personal Bank Account

Coming Soon…