People in the North East facing financial problems linked to the pandemic should be seeking early expert help to address and overcome them, rather than burying their heads in the sand.

That’s the view of Alexandra Withers, North East chair of insolvency and restructuring trade body R3, as the government’s Money and Pensions Advice Service (MaPS) launches its annual Talk Money Week campaign, which aims to encourage people to discuss their personal finances.

New MaPS research has found that, despite the wide-ranging financial impact of the Covid-19 crisis, nine in ten UK adults still don’t find it any easier to talk about money or don’t even discuss it at all.

Now, Alexandra Withers, who is an associate solicitor in the insolvency department of Short Richardson & Forth Solicitors in Newcastle, is encouraging individuals and families to use the wider financial impact of the coronavirus crisis as a conversation starter about their own or their loved ones’ individual situations.

She says: “The key to dealing with personal finance issues is to address them at an early stage when more options are available, rather than let them spiral out of control, but all too often, our members see the serious consequences of people burying their head in the sand when it comes to their finances.

“Talking about money is understandably quite difficult for many people, but the Covid-19 pandemic makes it more important than ever to do so.

“The financial impact of the pandemic can be a conversation starter, whether for parents talking to children about money, or for someone struggling to open up about their money problems.

“With so many people and businesses relying on Government support, a three-year high in unemployment and rising redundancies, there should be absolutely no stigma in talking about money and getting help.”

Before the pandemic struck, official figures showed that North East England had the highest rate of personal insolvency of any part of the UK every year for eleven successive years.

R3’s own research highlights business failure, redundancy, relationship breakdowns, credit card debt, and unsecured bank loans or overdrafts as being among the most common triggers for personal insolvency.

Alexandra Withers continues: “Research suggests that people who proactively talk about their financial situations and money worries are likely to make better and less risky financial decisions, feel less stressed or anxious and more in control, and even help their children form good money management habits that could last them a lifetime

“Whilst speaking to friends and family can be an important first step, it is important to gain impartial advice from a regulated and qualified professional.

“They will have the experience and knowledge necessary to help, especially if discussions take place at an early stage to give the best chance of regaining financial stability.”