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    Individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs) are "much less severe" than bankruptcy and allow debtors to retain their home and assets, an expert has said.

    A spokesperson for the Consumer Credit Counselling Service said: "The other attraction is that it’s a fixed 60-month period and then all your debts are paid off, one of the reasons why IVAs are proving popular."

    However, she warned IVAs were not always suitable for everyone and said they had become more popular thanks to advertising campaigns.

    The government created IVAs as an alternative to bankruptcy and they are a formal agreement made in court to pay off a certain amount of debt over a shorter period, usually of around three to five years.

    Debt which people cannot afford to repay can be written off as long as creditors representing 75 per cent of the money agree to the IVA. Lenders can receive tax breaks to make up for their losses.

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