South: Personal insolvencies set to rise in coming months

Personal insolvencies are set to rise over the coming year with a spike in the run-up to Christmas, according to the R3 trade body for the South and Thames Valley.

Eight of 10 of respondents in a membership survey by the insolvency and restructuring trade association expected numbers to be higher than last year.

The majority (six out of 10) believed that the increase would happen in October to December 2020 with three out of 10 pinpointing January to March 2021.

R3 has called for the government’s planned two-month breathing space for personal debts to be brought forward from early 2021 to help combat the surge.

R3 Southern & Thames Valley chair Garry Lee, who is an associate director in the recovery and restructuring services team at accountancy firm Smith and Williamson in Southampton, said: “The government has introduced unprecedented levels of support for businesses and consumers.

“A number of financial services providers have also taken steps to help financially challenged consumers, for example through offering increased forbearance and payment holidays.

“This has meant that the number of people considering a personal insolvency process or asking for advice has not risen as sharply as we may have expected during circumstances like these.

“However, these support measures are temporary, and do not cover everybody. When they come to an end, a number of people are likely to find themselves in financial difficulty if their circumstances haven’t returned to what they were before the pandemic.

“With concern around future unemployment levels rising, and borrowing conditions returning to more usual patterns, it is vital for anyone in financial distress to seek out high-quality advice from a qualified and regulated provider.

“Our message to anyone in the South and Thames Valley whose budget is under pressure is not to wait until matters come to a head, as the sooner you get advice, the sooner you can start to get a grip on your financial situation.”

Business failures, credit cards, unsecured bank loans and overdrafts are among the most likely triggers for a personal insolvency, according to R3’s survey.

A third of respondents to the survey said that an early introduction of the government’s two-month breathing space for personal debts would be the most useful to help people.

Lee said: “This would provide anyone who is unable to pay their debts with time to develop and agree a sustainable approach to managing them, and, hopefully, would also encourage more people to seek reliable, professional advice about their debts.”