Hundreds made insolvent in Northumberland, figures reveal
Worsening financial problems forced hundreds of people in Northumberland into insolvency last year, figures reveal.
Rising numbers of insolvency cases across England and Wales is a cause for concern for debt advice experts, who have warned that the option "should not be undertaken lightly".
Insolvency Service figures show that 684 people in Northumberland were unable to pay their debts in 2018, and were forced to enter into repayment plans with creditors.
The insolvency rate in the area is 26.2 cases per 10,000 people, slightly higher than the England and Wales average of 25 per 10,000.
Rates vary significantly across England and Wales. Stoke-on-Trent residents were most affected by debt, with a rate of 51.9 cases per 10,000 adults.
People in Kensington and Chelsea and Mole Valley, in Surrey, had the lowest rate - just 9.9 cases per 10,000 adults.
Bankruptcies are included in the insolvency figures, but the count also covers less serious repayment agreements.
These are individual voluntary arrangements - agreements to pay off debts within a set period of time, and debt relief orders - which can write off debt for some low-income individuals who owe less than £20,000 and have no realistic way of paying it off.
Debt relief orders are becoming increasingly common across England and Wales since they were introduced a decade ago.
And while there is a gender imbalance across all types of insolvency, these orders disproportionately affect women, according to the insolvency trade association R3.
Mark Sands, chair of the association's personal insolvency committee, said: "This links to the generally more precarious state of women's finances, as relief orders are used for smaller debt and asset levels.
"The gender split is also a sober reminder that women are more likely to be economically disadvantaged than men.
"Women are also more prone to becoming insolvent following the breakdown of a relationship with men, as the Insolvency Service found several years ago."
In Northumberland, the rate of debt relief orders was 6.8 per 10,000 adults for women last year, almost twice the rate for men, which was 3.7 per 10,000.
Of the 139 debt relief orders reported in 2018, two in three were issued to women.
Across England and Wales, almost 28,000 people were declared insolvent last year, and the insolvency rate has increased for the third year running.
The Money Advice Trust, which runs the helpline National Debtline said the rise reflected "the challenging times that many people face".
Jane Tully, a director at the Trust, said: "We know that there are a range of issues putting pressure on many already stretched budgets.
"But insolvency options should not be undertaken lightly, and it is crucial that people receive free, impartial debt advice before deciding the best course of action to take."