Now 31,000 seeking help from State's debt advice service
THE number of cash-strapped people turning to the State's money advice service continues to increase, as more people face the prospect of financial ruin.
The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) is now dealing with 31,000 people who are in debt, at a time when the Government is bailing out the banks to the tune of billions.
This year already, 6,000 new clients have contacted MABS with average debts of €15,500, an Oireachtas committee heard yesterday.
The five most prevalent debts are for personal loans; arrears on gas, electricity and other household bills; credit card debt; mortgage repayments; and hire-purchase loans.
Mortgage debt is now causing the advice service most concern, Michael Culloty of MABS told cross-party TDs and senators. The number of new clients contacting MABS has grown from 15,000 in 2007 to 23,000 last year, with 25,000 callers to the helpline.
Heavily indebted consumers are often depressed and under stress when pressure comes from lenders, such as credit card companies, to meet repayments. Such pressure, Mr Culloty said, could have "drastic consequences" for their clients.
However, he said there was a greater willingness by the banks to reach an "affordable agreement" with clients struggling to survive financially. The moratorium on house repossessions had helped greatly, he said.
Recently, MABS has seen an increase in the number of clients on social welfare -- from about 65pc to 70pc. There has also been an increase in the numbers with mortgages -- from 22pc in 2007 to over 35pc.