The number of people in Teignbridge accessing a debt relief scheme opened to provide financial support during the coronavirus pandemic has risen by more than half last year, new figures show.

Debt relief charity StepChange said the rise is "encouraging", with the scheme successfully delivering good outcomes for people facing financial difficulty.

A standard breathing space application is available to people with problem debt and gives legal protections from creditor action for up to 60 days. They can be entered into once a year.

People can also apply for a mental health breathing space, which lasts the duration of their mental health treatment plus 30 days.

Figures from the Insolvency Service show 239 people in Teignbridge registered for a standard or mental health breathing space in 2023 – up from 156 the year before.

It meant the breathing space rate was 21.4 per 10,000 adults in the area.

Nationally, there were 88,390 registered breathing spaces in 2023, equivalent to a rate of 18.5 per 10,000 adults.

Of these, 1,462 registered for a mental health breathing space last year – up from 1,216 in 2022.

Simon Trevethick, head of communications at StepChange, said: "It's encouraging to see more people taking advantage of Breathing Space before accessing insolvency.

"Our research indicates improved wellbeing for our clients who have entered a breathing space, including sleeping better and worrying less about debts."

Breathing spaces were introduced in May 2021 to help people facing financial difficulties because of the coronavirus pandemic. More than 200,000 total breathing spaces have been registered since the inception of the scheme.

Some 103,454 personal insolvencies were recorded last year, a 13% fall compared with 2022.

Of these, 269 were in Teignbridge – down from 314 in 2022.

A Treasury spokesperson said: "The Government remains committed to supporting people in problem debt. At the Spring Budget, we made it easier for people to access vital debt relief by scrapping the £90 admin fee for a Debt Relief Order and changing the criteria so more people can get the help they need to get their finances back on track."