Anyone considering Bankruptcy may have experienced fear after reading an article written in The Mail on Sunday with the headline "Bankruptcy cheats face crackdown". But, how much of what was written was in context of the reality of Bankruptcy as it is today?
The article implied that since The Enterprise Act 2002 the rise in the number of people going bankrupt was due to them using the Bankruptcy route as a "Get out of jail free card". The assumption being that The Enterprise Act 2002 made bankruptcy an easy option. However, the writer didn't take into consideration the actions the DTI have taken to raise financial awareness and to ensure better advice is given regarding people's options when faced with personal debt issues.
The article gave the impression that one of the restrictions of bankruptcy was that you could not open a bank account until you are discharged from bankruptcy. However, there are infact 40 basic bank accounts, half of which will allow an undischarged bankrupt to open an account. This in itself indicates the writer of the article is not fully aware of the effect of bankruptcy, therefore giving the impression that the article could possibly be the result of poor research.
The Enterprise Act 2002 (bought into force in April 2004) was made to give honest people a fresh start in life, which would be free from the stress of debt. Not for the purpose of encouraging people to "use insolvency as a way of shaking off creditors". The writer implied that the provision, which allows the IP to request a restriction order on a bankrupt, is hardly used. Perhaps this is because, people who lodge petitions for bankruptcy have not gone out to get themselves into huge amounts of debt and are genuinely unable to repay their debt due to unforeseen circumstances, rather than fraud, recklessness or dishonesty.
If an Insolvency Practitioner suspects fraudulent or criminal behaviour, they will apply for a Bankruptcy Restriction Order (BRO) for the court to assess and decide what action to take.
The writer also states that "New" Government proposals due out in the next few days will make it easier for creditors to set up plans for repayments, an "Individual Voluntary Arrangement". Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVA's) have infact been around since the 1986 Insolvency Act and used by employees and self employed people.
This only further questions the credibility of the writer and The Mail on Sunday for publishing such an article.
What the writer also doesn't realise is, people who have failed IVA's or not able to get an IVA add to the percentage of people petitioning for bankruptcy.
The worry that this article will have placed on people is not only unnecessary, but also misleading. The reduction in the terms of discharge from bankruptcy is supposed to be a positive change in The Enterprise Act 2002, not a negative one as implied in this article.
If you have sought advice, and you know you have no other option than to take the bankruptcy route then you should not be put off. "Nothing has changed", as Simon Wiggins of Ask the Expert informed one of his posters who read the article and was concerned by it.
If you would like further advice regarding your financial situation FCL Debt Clinic offer free debt advice which will enable you to see what your options are regarding resolving your debt problems.
Nicola Bullimore has been working with people regarding debt issues for a number of years. For more information regarding debt, please visit Debt Questions