Page last updated at 17:53 GMT, Wednesday, 18 February 2009

The stress of bankruptcy revealed

By Ian Pollock
Personal finance reporter, BBC News, Trafford Centre, Manchester

Jeff Walsh
Jeff Walsh was one of many who attended for financial advice

While many of the people who have come to the Money Matters Roadshow wanted to know what to do with their savings, another man has come with a different problem - how to go about declaring himself bankrupt.

For the last seven years Jeff Walsh, from Oldham, has been steadily paying off his 70,000 debts. Recently, this has been at the rate of just under 300 per month, through a debt management agreement with his various creditors.

"It's been very stressful, it's been very tough," he says.

He had borrowed the money over the years from banks and loan companies to improve the homes he had bought with his former wife, and also to buy a car and bike.

'Job loss'

His finances were knocked sideways when he got divorced, and just a month ago he suffered another blow - he lost his job as a lorry driver.

The firm moved from Manchester to Yorkshire, and Jeff could not see any way of dealing with three hours of travelling there and back each day on top of his normal driving hours.

Jeff had managed to get his debts down to 50,000 but he has now cut his repayments to just 30 a month as he tries to get by on jobseeker's allowance.

"Through the whole seven years when I have had to change my repayments slightly the creditors have sent me letters threatening me with court action. They have haggled over slight changes," he says.

Money Matters Roadshow
Participants: Almost 30 money experts plus some of the BBC's top financial journalists
Theme: Helping you with your money issues from savings and mortgages to pensions and student finance
Venue: Trafford Centre, Manchester - Wednesday 18 February 8am-6pm
Coverage: BBC One Breakfast, News Channel, Radio Five Live, Working Lunch and Radio 4's You & Yours and Moneybox Live plus Radio Manchester and North West Tonight.

At the age of 52 though, his chance of paying off all he owes, already very difficult, has seemingly disappeared, at least for the time being.

Even his previous income was too low to let him strike an Individual Voluntary Arrangement with his creditors, under which he could have repaid some of his debts but cancelled the rest.

"I wasn't earning enough to afford an IVA apparently," he explains.

'Realistic advice'

Talking to an adviser from the Consumer Credit Counselling Service at the Money Matters roadshow, he has reluctantly come to the conclusion that being declared bankrupt, a position that might last for just one year, is the only realistic way he can get shot of his debts.

"After explaining everything they suggested bankruptcy would be better for me, because of my age, the amount that is outstanding, and the time it would take to pay off," he says.


Budget to help credit woes

Going bankrupt would hinder him financially, but he says he's got nothing left anyway.

He does not have any assets, rents a council house with his new partner and children, and has no property which could be sold to raise some cash.

"I would have preferred to pay it all back but if they had stopped the interest seven years ago I would probably have had a better chance of getting on top of the debt," he says.

Now, with not much hope of getting a new job to restore his income, he is looking to formalise a bankruptcy as the only way out.

"I can't get much lower than this; before when working I was on a level. But with no money coming in at all apart from Jobseeker's Allowance it strikes home that I've got to do something," he says.

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