Tuesday 16 January 2018

Going into arrears devastates proud family men

Michael Culloty

THE largest group coming to MABS in 2013 has been people aged between 26 and 40, many of whom have children.

And while over 60pc of our clients are in receipt of some kind of social support – although many hold down jobs – almost 40pc are working and in receipt of a wage or monthly salary cheque ranging from €15,000 to €60,000 and beyond.

These clients, representing families for the most part, are finding it difficult to make ends meet given the reduction in income over the past four or five years and the increasing call on that income to meet growing everyday demands on their shrinking resources.

Most of the people coming to MABS now were well able to manage their budgets without much difficulty before the financial crisis hit in 2008.

There was then, almost always, something left at the end of the week or month having looked after all commitments.

While we as a society have spent considerable time and discussion evaluating the overall state of the national budget and how it should be put right, there has been far less evaluation and consideration of the effects the financial crisis is having on individual family budgets.

There has been little focus on the cumulative effects of income reductions and new taxes, and the possible long-term negative social and health effects the current situation is storing up for us as a society.

In our experience, people take great pride in being able to manage their financial affairs and provide for themselves and their families.

When they lose control and go into arrears it can be devastating, and the loss of control can extend to other aspects of their lives.

Men seem to find it particularly difficult, as their reason for being is deeply attached to their ability to provide.

We would regularly have people coming to MABS saying that they 'now cannot even manage their money'.

Many people coming to MABS with financial difficulties leave it very late in the day, and so situations that could have been addressed more easily and much earlier have become much more difficult to resolve.

This difficulty increases greatly where children and their needs and demands are involved.

Managing money for them is very often a juggling act, day in, day out. When occasions like birthdays, Christmas, First Communion or just the replacement of a broken window has to be funded, then even the greatest effort to stretch a limited income will not be enough.

So a strategy of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul is often employed, which only leads to further problems when this inevitably fails.

Borrowing from a family member or from a moneylender, at very expensive interest rates, may have been the short-term answer to the problem, but this has only added another bill, and another worry.

To be able to save for a rainy day is just out of the question.

Michael Culloty is national development officer at the Money Advice and Budgeting Service

Irish Independent

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