Struggling mortgage holders to get expert advice in courts
The Government has finalised a list of 16 courthouses which will be used as "centres of excellence" in a pilot scheme to provide advice to distressed mortgage holders who are in fear of losing of their homes.
Mortgage arrears advisers will sit inside court rooms to provide advice and assistance to those engaged in the insolvency process.
The €10m scheme is being administered over a three-year period by the Department of Social Protection, in conjunction with the Money Advice and Budgetary Service (MABS).
The service will also involve Personal Insolvency Practitioners (PIPs) negotiating with borrowers on behalf of distressed householders.
A national network of "court mentors" is also being established to attend with clients and offer support and advice on court proceedings.
These mentors will also refer clients back to MABS at times when a case is adjourned.
The programme is part of the suite of arrears measures agreed by the Government in May as a response to the mortgage crisis.
Ministers have been scathing in their criticism of lenders in terms of striking deals with distressed borrowers.
A central plank of the mortgage arrears strategy is the removal of the bank veto. Courts will now be able to override decisions by banks to reject proposed arrangements if the arrangements are deemed to be "fair and reasonable".
For the MABS programme, the Department of Social Protection intends to target 16 courthouses in the coming weeks before rolling the scheme out nationwide.
The courts will be used as part of so-called "centres of excellence", the department says.
The scheme is due to be discussed at a special Cabinet sub-committee today.
MABS spokesperson Michael Culloty said that the services being offered were independent, confidential and free of charge.
"People who haven't engaged up to now should come and talk to us. We will go through their options in an environment that is free from pressure," he told the Irish Independent.
Minister for State at the Department of Social Protection Kevin Humphreys said the early rollout of the scheme was important with Christmas approaching.
"The expanded service will cost approximately €10m over three years but as the winter closes in, it will be crucial in ensuring the homelessness crisis isn't made worse by unnecessary home repossessions," Mr Humphreys told the Irish Independent.
"This service will be at the frontline of helping people who are at risk of losing their home, and I have made it a priority to have it up and running before the courts resume after the summer recess."
The Dublin Bay South TD said the experience held by MABS would prove extremely beneficial for distressed borrowers.
"MABS is at the frontline, knows how the system works, and has the experience and expertise to make sure that families in mortgage difficulty get the help they need.
"This will make a big difference to those struggling with the stress, worry and fear of losing their home," Mr Humphreys added.
Courthouses where MABS will be on site