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The number of personal insolvencies in the North West has risen for the first time in six years, according to the latest government figures published today – and an analysis by the insolvency and restructuring trade body R3 shows that women are increasingly more likely than men to become insolvent.

The figures show that 12,834 people in the North West became insolvent in 2016. Over half of all cases (54%) were women. The region’s insolvency rate of 22.8 per 10,000 population was up from 20.4 the previous year and was the highest of any region in the country except the North East. The figures include bankruptcies, Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs) and Debt Relief Orders (DROs).

Paul Barber, the North West chair of R3 and a partner at Begbies Traynor, says:

“Within the North West and nationally, women are now consistently more likely than men to become insolvent but it would be wrong to say that this is simply because they are more profligate. A breakdown of the figures shows that women are much more likely to use a DRO, which is designed to help people with assets under £1,000 and who are unable to pay even very small debts.

“It’s very easy to overspend if you don’t have much money in the first place and penalties like unauthorized overdraft charges or missed payment fees can keep people in a debt spiral. Lower incomes and employment levels mean women are more likely to be vulnerable to financial shocks.

“By contrast men are more likely to become bankrupt. Bankruptcies tend to be associated with larger value assets or debts, and the failure of a business. Given men are more likely to own their own business or be in full-time employment, this is not a surprise.”

Within the North West, Blackpool had the highest level of personal insolvencies with a rate of 34.6, followed by St Helens (28.2), Preston (27.7), Wigan (27.5), Wirral (27), Halton (26.8), Tameside (26.7), Halton (26.8), Rossendale (25.9) and Blackburn with Darwen (25.5).

Paul Barber adds: “Personal insolvency levels are generally higher in coastal towns, which tend to have a lot of low-paid seasonal work, and locations where industries have been in decline. However personal insolvencies are rising at a regional and national level.

“The figures reflect the fact that people’s living standards are being squeezed and consumer debt is rising. Financial problems can be deeply distressing for the individual concerned and have a major impact on the whole family. We urge people who are struggling with debt to seek professional help at the earliest stage.”