Fewer people in Bedford fell into debt during pandemic
But it's predicted many face a difficult winter ahead
Fewer Bedford residents fell into debt last year amid "enhanced" financial support from the Government during the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.
The Money Advice Trust said these measures offered a "lifeline" to many people across England and Wales, but warned insolvency levels might rise again this winter.
People who take out formal insolvency solutions, such as bankruptcy or a voluntary arrangement to pay off their debt, are added to the Individual Insolvency Register – meaning they are formally in debt.
Insolvency Service data shows 318 people fell into debt in Bedford in 2020.
This was 13 per cent fewer than the year before, when 367 people were insolvent.
Of the cases of insolvency in Bedford last year, most (239) saw the person enter into an individual voluntary agreement with their creditors, while 29 went bankrupt.
A further 50 applied for a debt relief order, which allows those who cannot afford to pay their debt to stop paying them for a period, after which the debt is written off.
Across England and Wales, 111,400 people went insolvent in 2020 – down from 121,900 in 2019, and the first annual fall in five years.
The Insolvency Service said this was likely to have been partly driven by "enhanced government financial support" put in place during the pandemic.
The Money Advice Trust said measure, such as the furlough scheme have provided a "welcome lifeline" to many.
But Jane Tully, director of external affairs and partnerships at the charity, added: “With many facing a difficult winter ahead, and with the full impact of the pandemic still to materialise on household finances, it is likely insolvency levels will rise again.
"It is therefore vital that people are able to access safe routes out of problem debt."
Insolvency rates decreased from 2019 for all age groups across England and Wales, except for those aged 18 to 24.
In Bedford, 27 18 to 24-year-olds became insolvent last year.
At a rate of 22 in every 10,000 people in that age group in the area, this was up from 20 per 10,000 the year before.
StepChange said young people are some of the worst affected because they tend to have higher living costs, be in less secure work and are more likely to rent their home.
As support is withdrawn, Peter Tutton, head of policy at the debt charity, said he expects to see rising numbers of people – particularly the young – pushed into "unmanageable financial situations".
Insolvency solutions will be the only option for some of them, but targeted support will be necessary for others, he added.
He said: "The Government needs to refrain from cutting support in a way that impacts those most at risk of financial distress, such as the upcoming £20 a week cut to universal credit, in order start to deal with certain groups’ vulnerability to debt."
A spokesman for the Government said it paused evictions and extended notice periods during the pandemic, and introduced the Breathing Space scheme to help people in problem debt.
He added: "We’re continuing to support people with the cost of living, by increasing the National Living Wage, and this year maintaining the increase to Local Housing Allowance for private renters on Universal Credit and Housing Benefit.
“As we return to normal it is right that we focus our support elsewhere, including ensuring that every young person in the UK gets the backing they need to fulfil their true potential."