Saturday 20 January 2018

Thousands in mortgage arrears urged to avail of free advice

(L to R) Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald TD & Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar TD during the launch of the Abhaile Information Campaign at the Citizens Information Board Headquarters on Townsend Street, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
(L to R) Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald TD & Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar TD during the launch of the Abhaile Information Campaign at the Citizens Information Board Headquarters on Townsend Street, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald TD speaking to media during the launch of the Abhaile Information Campaign at the Citizens Information Board Headquarters on Townsend Street, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

THOUSANDS of householders in mortgage arrears have been urged to avail of free financial and legal advice.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald and Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar today launched an awareness campaign for Abhaile, the free mortgage arrears support service.

It came as a survey found that a third of those in arrears are too embarrassed to tell family and friends about their debt.

Ms Fitzgerald said that while the number of people struggling with mortgage repayments is falling, there are around 34,500 people in long-term arrears.

"That’s the significant group that we’re trying to reach," she said.

Mr Varadkar said a survey prepared ahead of the launch found that two- thirds of people were not aware that there are free advisory services available to them.

Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald TD speaking to media during the launch of the Abhaile Information Campaign at the Citizens Information Board Headquarters on Townsend Street, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald TD speaking to media during the launch of the Abhaile Information Campaign at the Citizens Information Board Headquarters on Townsend Street, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

The Abhaile service has assisted 4,500 people since it became fully operational last October.

"It’s our firm hope we’ll bring forward thousands more people who are now in need of similar help," Mr Varadkar said.

"The key message is to come forward and seek the help that you need. Don’t be afraid, help is available at no cost and we’re on your side," he added.

Ms Fitzgerald said that the number of repossession cases taken in the circuit court has halved from 600 in 2013 to 300 last year but said: "There’s still a lot of work to be done."

The chief executive of the Citizens Information Board (CIB), Angela Black said the awareness campaign will be targeted at counties "where mortgage arrears are at their highest and where people are in most trouble".

While Dublin has the highest number of mortgage arrears cases, Ms Black said some Western countries have a "disproportionate number of cases".

She said that people in long term mortgage arrears are "likely to be the people who are most afraid to look for help.

"They might have letters from the bank piling up at home and it represents a huge weight on their shoulders.

"What we’re doing today is we’re asking members of the public to go out there and take a look around at their family and friends and people who might look ok on the surface but who are struggling behind closed doors with mortgage arrears.

"They might not realise they have access to this free expert financial and legal advice. Family and friends can play a vital role in encouraging people to look for help," Ms Black said.

The Abhaile scheme is administered by the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS).

Its helpline, which is open Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm is 0761072000.

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