More young women becoming insolvent

Young women are more likely to find themselves falling into personal insolvency than men of the same age, official statistics show.

The gap between the numbers of men and women going insolvent has "narrowed substantially" in recent years
The gap between the numbers of men and women going insolvent has "narrowed substantially" in recent years

Women aged between 18 and 24 were almost twice as likely than men in the same age group in 2013 to have seen their situation deteriorate to such an extent that they were tipped over the edge financially, according to Insolvency Service figures.

The rate of women in this age group becoming insolvent last year in England and Wales was 7.8 for every 10,000 people in this age band, compared with a rate of 4.0 for men.

In the 25-34 age group, the personal insolvency rate for women was 32.8 per 10,000 adults last year, while for men the ratio was 25.6.

Once both sexes reach the age of 35, the pattern is reversed, and men are more likely to become insolvent than women.

The Insolvency Service said the gap between the numbers of men and women going insolvent has "narrowed substantially" in recent years.

Personal insolvencies, which are made up of bankruptcies, debt relief orders (DROs) and individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs), where money is shared out between creditors, have been on a general downward path since 2009, although rates have decreased faster for men than for women during this time.

Men are still generally more likely than women to be tipped into insolvency, but only just. In 2009, the insolvency rate for women was 26.0 per 10,000 adults, whereas for men the rate was 35.5.

But now, the overall insolvency rate for women is 22.2 per 10,000 adults, while the male insolvency rate is only marginally higher, at 22.6.

In two regions - the South West and the North East - female personal insolvency rates are now higher than those for men.

The Insolvency Service said the narrowing gender gap can partly be explained by the introduction of DROs in 2009. Often dubbed "bankruptcy light", DROs are aimed at people in smaller amounts of debt but with no realistic prospect of paying it off.

The Service said a higher proportion of debtors with DROs are female compared with IVAs and bankrupcies. Someone taking out a DRO must have less than £15,000 worth of debt.

Louise Brittain, a council member for insolvency professionals' trade body R3 and a partner at Wilkins Kennedy chartered accountants, said the larger numbers of young women going insolvent compared with men is in part likely to be a hangover from the pre-credit crunch era when people were making their incomes stretch further by taking out credit.

She said: "I think it's the differences in spending patterns nowadays for that age group. Lifestyles have changed a great deal in the last 20 years."

Ms Brittain also suggested that celebrity culture may have had some influence on spending habits, with people trying to emulate the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

She suggested that there should be more education around sticking to a budget, as in previous decades women had been able to turn to "old-fashioned housewives' budgeting" to stay within their means.

High-profile women who have endured recent financial struggles include former EastEnders star Martine McCutcheon, who was was declared bankrupt last year.

Also last year, it emerged that Sherlock actress Amanda Abbington, the long-term partner of Hollywood star Martin Freeman, had been declared bankrupt over a £ 120,000 tax bill.

Ms Abbington told the Radio Times in 2013: "It was a big mistake and I'm sorting it out."

Last year also saw singer and reality star Kerry Katona dropped as the face of payday lender Cash Lady after filing for bankruptcy for a second time in five years.

Figures looking at the differences in insolvency rates for men and women were contained in the Insolvency Service's annual report mapping out personal insolvency rates across England and Wales. The report showed that many areas with the highest rates are seaside resorts.

Continuing a trend seen since 2008, the North East region has the highest insolvency rate, with 30.6 cases seen last year per 10,000 adults.

At a local authority level, Torbay has the highest rate of personal insolvencies, with 47.2 cases last year per 10,000 adults. The Isles of Scilly have the lowest, with just one new personal insolvency recorded there in total last year.

Blackpool was named as the local authority with the highest number of bankruptcies, with 11.2 for every 10,000 people.

Stuart Frith, chairman of R3's personal insolvency committee, said: "The North East has the highest unemployment rate in England and Wales, with the region's economy still adapting to the decline of the traditional heavy industries.

"The South West and seaside towns, on the other hand, are still reliant on the tourism sector, an unreliable generator of jobs and growth.

"This sector is often dependent on good weather and plenty of spare cash in people's pockets, while jobs are usually low-paid and seasonal."

Here are the 10 local authorities with the highest personal insolvency rates across England and Wales in 2013, with the rate per 10,000 adults:

1. Torbay, 47.2

2. Denbighshire, 43.0

3. Blackpool, 40.8

4. Scarborough, 40.6

5. Mansfield, 40.4

6. Halton, 40.2

7. South Kesteven, 39.8

8. Hull, 39.6

9. Stoke-on-Trent, 39.5

10. Cannock Chase, 39.3