Personal insolvency numbers expected to rise

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The number of people going insolvent across England and Wales is expected to increase in official figures released on Friday.

Experts have suggested the days of falling personal insolvency levels may be coming to an end as consumers grapple with underlying debt problems.

Official figures for the third quarter of this year, which will be released by the Insolvency Service, show the number of people going bankrupt as well as the number taking out individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs) and debt relief orders (DROs).

Bankruptcies tend to be seen as a last resort, while DROs are aimed at people with up to £20,000 of debt they cannot pay off. IVAs are agreements where money is shared out between creditors. 

The most recent figures from the Insolvency Service showed 22,503 people went insolvent across England and Wales in the second quarter of 2016, marking a 22.4% increase on the same period last year and a 6.9% upswing on the previous quarter.

Experts predict Friday's figures will show around 24,000 personal insolvencies in the third quarter.

Accountancy network RSM expects to see around 4,000 bankruptcies, 13,500 IVAs and 6,500 DROs.

Rock bottom interest rates have been keeping debt repayments relatively cheap, but there are signs that households are set to come under further pressure from inflation and the weakened pound in the coming months.

Mark Sands, personal insolvency partner at RSM, said personal insolvency levels had been on a general downward trend for six years, "so this increase may be a temporary blip".

But he continued: "However if, as feared, it reflects continued underlying debt problems with the millions of people struggling to make ends meet month to month, then the expected increases in the costs of living highlighted in the recent increase in inflation would all suggest that the days of falling personal insolvency levels may be at an end."

He said personal insolvency cases tend to involve people aged between 26 and 55.

"However we have seen extremes at both ends of the spectrum this quarter - with 18-year-olds in Bromley and Bradford entering into formal insolvency procedures, highlighting a worrying level of rapid spending on credit and/or finance since turning 18; and two 93-year-olds in Bradford and Harrow struggling with debt.

"If the predicted upward trend continues, these may not just be anomalies and we may see more young people and elderly debtors facing insolvency proceedings in the future."

Figures from the British Bankers' Association (BBA) this week showed a strong consumer appetite for credit cards and personal loans, as consumer credit was growing at its fastest rate in nearly a decade.

Maureen Leslie, president of the Insolvency Practitioners Association (IPA), and insolvency specialist at mlm Solutions, said that given continued low interest rates it is difficult to understand why the number of people going insolvent appears to be increasing, adding: "Unless those in debt feel more comfortable about seeking a solution, rather than struggling on. Perhaps insolvency is more socially acceptable than a few years ago."