CIB welcomes announcement of scheme to offer financial and legal advice to those in Mortgage Arrears

January 2016

The Citizens Information Board welcomes the recent announcement by Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, T.D., of the new Government-funded scheme to help people who are insolvent and in mortgage arrears to access independent expert financial and legal advice. The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) which is funded and supported by CIB is the gateway state agency for people to access this scheme.

The scheme will be coordinated by the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Social Protection. The other key Government agencies involved are the Legal Aid Board and the Insolvency Service of Ireland.

Angela Black, Chief Executive said: "This announcement brings much needed hope and support to those in genuine financial distress. I would encourage anyone worried about their debts, and mortgage arrears in particular, to contact the MABS Helpline on 0761 07 2000. Expert, independent advice is available at the other end of the phone. A specialised MABS adviser will help find the best solution for you – that could include referral to an accountant or representation from a Personal Insolvency Practitioner (PIP) or a solicitor."

A national network of MABS court mentors is now available to assist homeowners facing court proceedings. Working in close collaboration with the Insolvency Service of Ireland the court mentor service offers support and advice for borrowers on court proceedings, as well as direct referral back to MABS where a case is adjourned.

Another key element of the scheme is its provision of legal aid to insolvent borrowers seeking the new court review under the Personal Insolvency (Amendment) Act 2015, in cases where a creditor such as a mortgage lender refuses a personal insolvency proposal which includes the borrower’s home.

Assistance will be available from solicitors, drawn from panels that will be set up by the Legal Aid Board, at a fixed cost. There will also be greater assistance and representation for insolvent borrowers in repossession proceedings involving their homes, via a panel of "duty solicitors", operated by the Legal Aid Board. This will be provided without cost to an insolvent borrower, under a "voucher" system.

Minister Fitzgerald added: "Many organisations working to help people in debt have underlined the stress and isolation experienced by people who are struggling to get out of debt, and who are at risk of losing their homes due to mortgage arrears. Expert independent advice can break these problems down to manageable solutions, and help people return to solvency, often keeping them in their homes."

This scheme builds on, and complements, the important range of measures already put in place under the Government’s framework to strengthen support for people in serious difficulty in relation to mortgage arrears.