Monday 20 November 2017

Only 58 homeowners in arrears have had advice from government scheme

Louise McBride

Louise McBride

No more than 58 of the hundreds of thousands of people in mortgage arrears have received financial advice under the much trumped-up government scheme for struggling homeowners.

Under the scheme, launched by Social Protection Minister Joan Burton last September, distressed mortgage holders who have been offered new repayment deals from their lender can get free financial advice from accountants.

The scheme was expected to provide a lifeline for those in mortgage distress.

"The number of people who could have got advice under this scheme can be no higher than the number who have been offered long-term mortgage solutions from their lender – which is currently 58," said Noeline Blackwell, director general of the Free Legal Advice Centre (FLAC).

"That's a tiny number of those struggling to repay their mortgage – and is probably overstating the numbers who have actually got advice under the scheme."

About 140,000 homeowners are in mortgage arrears.

When contacted, the department was tightlipped about the number of homeowners who had received advice under the scheme.

"The number of borrowers who have availed of this service is not yet available," said a spokeswoman. "The advice service will become more relevant as the banks roll out their long-term forbearance options and the personal insolvency service becomes operational."

Ms Blackwell described the scheme as "limited" as the accountant can only offer advice after a borrower has negotiated a new deal with their bank.

"The accountant can't tell the borrower if the deal is good or bad – and the accountant has no authority to go back to the bank and get a better offer for the borrower," said Ms Blackwell.

Irish Independent

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