Debt and money concerns are always stressful, but when you’re unable to pay back what you owe, there can be serious consequences. Kit Vickery looks into why the town’s insolvency statistics have hit a ten-year high.

The number of people succumbing to debt problems and entering insolvency has hit a ten-year-high.

In 2018, 643 people across Bolton legally declared themselves as unable to pay any monies owed, the highest figure since 2009.

Over the last decade, more than 5,500 people in the borough claimed insolvency.

The statistics, broken down by parliamentary constituency, show that the number of people unable to pay their debts has been creeping up once again since 2015, where just 417 people claimed insolvency.

The latest figures are up 30 per cent on the previous year, with more than 28 cases reported per 10,000 people.

Rates per population are higher than neighbouring Manchester and Oldham statistics, and ever so slightly lower than Bury’s figures, but Bolton is still faring better than other parts of the country.

Bootle, in Merseyside, had 412 people entering insolvency, a rate of 53 cases per 10,000 people.

Three types of insolvency have been recorded in these statistics – bankruptcy, debt relief orders (DRO), and individual voluntary arrangements (IVA).

Whilst all state that you are unable to pay any debts you owe, each one works in a slightly different way, so the most appropriate agreement will vary from person to person.

IVAs were the most commonly seen form, with nearly 75 per cent of all insolvency cases resulting in this outcome, whilst fewer than one in ten insolvency cases result in someone being declared bankrupt.

Any amount of debt can be included in an IVA, but creditors are unlikely to agree to an arrangement unless the total debt is more than £10,000.

The high rise in insolvency cases isn’t the only concern, as there are also a record-breaking number of people reaching out for general advice on how to manage their debts that don’t seek insolvency as a solution.

StepChange, a national debt charity, have seen more and more people contacting them for advice each year.

In 2018, more than 650,000 people contacted the charity for advice, the equivalent of one new call every 48 seconds.

Sue Anderson, head of media at the charity said: “Typically, clients who come to us for help have a range of different debts.

“While credit card debt is the most common, it’s now also the case that a significant proportion of our clients are behind on basic bills like council tax, rent or utilities, reflecting the difficulties that many households face simply in juggling their finances to meet the essentials.

“There are many different types of debt solutions that are available, depending on people’s circumstances – more often than not, these do not involve insolvency.

“Help is out there for people in debt through advice from a reputable debt advice charity to work out a plan of action that will address their situation.”

Research from the charity that examines their clients and their situations from 2018 shows a bleak picture – debt issues are shown to disproportionately affect women, those who are single, and people who rent their home.

Over half of those who asked for help were in work, with reduced income, unemployment or redundancy, and injury or illness the top three causes for debt.

The average amount of unsecured debt, such as credit cards and payday loans, is a whopping £13,544, with people behind on their household bills by almost another £2,000.

The helpline has also seen more vulnerable people asking for help, as a third of all clients offered advice had an additional vulnerability such as mental or physical health problems, learning difficulties, and vision or hearing impairments.

The research is keen to stress that this rise may be down to several reasons, including the organisation using a better way to identify those who are more vulnerable, and a cultural shift that encourages people to speak about their added issues.