Business advisors to help tackle high level of Northern Ireland insolvencies
Northern Ireland's high numbers of bankruptcies and company insolvencies are to be tackled by a team of business advisors.
Begbies Traynor -led by regional managing partner Ken Pattullo - has been appointed by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI).
There have been high levels of insolvencies - for both companies and individuals - in the past six years since the credit crunch.
And there remain historic problems even as Northern Ireland picks itself up after the economic crash.
Many have suffered due to the fall in property prices in particular, with high levels of mortgage debt combining with consumer debt such as credit cards to create serious financial problems.
Over the 12 months to the end of March 2015, just over 1,592 new cases were received by the Insolvency Service, which is part of DETI.
That was the highest number ever recorded over a year, and an increase of 30 cases on the previous year.
Insolvencies have fallen in the last year - but Begbies Traynor has now been engaged to help DETI clear up its existing caseload.
Mr Pattullo of Begbies Traynor said: "The Northern Ireland economy is still reeling from the after-effects of the darkest days of recession and this is taking its toll both on businesses and individuals in the province.
"We hope to be able to play a part in alleviating the misery that so many are facing by helping to process these cases more rapidly and reach a positive conclusion for everyone involved."
Mr Pattullo will be working on the DETI project with colleagues Kenny Craig and Lawrence O'Hara.
DETI's intervention comes as a report for charity, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), said the Northern Ireland economy was falling behind the rest of the UK.
The New Policy Institute, which wrote the report, said significantly lower employment in Northern Ireland, and lower levels of pay, were hindering attempts to address poverty.
The report said the province's employment performance was lagging behind Great Britain.
Since 2011, working-age employment rate had increased only slightly to reach 68%, compared to a 3% increase to a record high of 73% in Great Britain.
At 26.8%, the province has the highest rate of economic inactivity of the 12 UK regions.