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3,000 families a-month now seeking help

A RECORD 9,500 people have sought help from the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) in the first three months of this year.

The numbers contacting MABS is up almost 3,000 on the end of last year, with personal loans and utility bills topping the debts list.

Meanwhile austerity measures, overdependence on benefits and the high cost of childcare is driving more families into poverty, according to a separate report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The OECD warns that childcare costs in particular -- which can take more than 40pc of a family budget -- are a "major barrier" to employment, especially for low-income single parents.

The childcare costs compare with 20pc of family budget in other countries. The report also says that 16.3pc of Irish children now live in poverty, which is well above the OECD average of 12.7pc

Almost one in four children (23.4pc) under 17 years of age live with a lone parent and this is second only to the US where 25pc of young people live with a single parent. The OECD average is about 15pc.

Making parents less dependent on benefits, says the report, is crucial to reducing the high levels of child poverty.

The report points out that Ireland is one of the few OECD countries that has not made income support conditional on finding work once the youngest child begins school, but this could only happen with suitably priced childcare. At MABS the latest figures show almost two-thirds of those who contacted the agency this year needed further assistance -- 40pc of them had a mortgage.

Families were giving priority to paying the mortgage with a knock-on effect that they could not pay other debts.

Of the new clients seen this year just under half got their primary income from social welfare or health board payments.

Credit

Almost 2,700 had personal loans with financial institutions and more than 1,500 owed money on utility bills. A similar number owed money on credit cards and more than 215 were in debt to money lenders.

About half of the new clients were between 26 and 40 and 2,363 were between 41 and 65.

MABS spokesman Michael Culloty said the service was "under considerable pressure" and the rise in calls to the helpline was something that would have to be addressed.

hnews@herald.ie


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