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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 July 2006, 10:00 GMT 11:00 UK
In the red and ripped off?
BBC Radio 4 listener 'Susan'
'Susan' is disabled and lives on benefit

This edition of Inside Money investigates a controversial debt solution called an Individual Voluntary Arrangement or IVA.

An IVA requires you to pay back as much of your debt as you can afford over a period of about five years after which the balance is written off.

It is set up by an insolvency practitioner, who takes a share of the debt repayments by way of payment. This can be as much as a third of the total money the debtor pays back.

The number of people taking out an IVA has increased fourfold since 2003, but there is evidence that in some cases they are being sold inappropriately to people who may not be able to afford them.

"Susan" was sold an IVA by a debt management firm after seeing an advert, although she was disabled and living entirely on benefits.

She struggled to meet a monthly bill that was equivalent to almost half of her cash income, but could not keep up payments and is now trying to go bankrupt.

She later discovered that almost all of what she paid out went to the firm that sold her the IVA to cover its fees instead of to her creditors.

Now debt advice charities, lenders and an industry watchdog are voicing concern about the way that IVAs have been sold and about the number that fail to last the full five years.

Lesley Curwen investigates why these policies have been sold to people living on the lowest of incomes and speaks to the government minister responsible for the insolvency service.

BBC Radio 4's Inside Money was broadcast on Saturday, 29 July, at 1204 BST and repeated on Monday, 31 July, at 1502 BST.

Presenter: Lesley Curwen
Listener: "Susan"
Producer: Louise Greenwood



SEE ALSO
Lenders veto contentious debt plan
26 Jul 06 |  Moneybox
Britons face 'lifetime of debts'
24 May 06 |  Business
Concern over growth of IVAs
13 Apr 06 |  Moneybox
Have Your Say: IVAs
26 Jul 06 |  Moneybox
External links and helplines
26 Jul 06 |  Moneybox

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