Following on from the economic crisis and the subsequent increase in the cost of living and decrease in available work, many thousands of Irish people have been left in mortgage arrears which is a very stressful and uncertain position to be in. As the country begins to regain its financial footing there are of course increases in finance options, but up until this point many Irish householders may have found it quite difficult to avail of advice on these matters during what is of course a difficult financial time.
Recently, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald and Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar announced an awareness campaign to promote Abhaile, a free mortgage arrears support service which many of those struggling were unaware of.
This news follows a survey which found that many struggling with mortgage arrears are too embarrassed to tell their family and friends about their ongoing issues. This in itself is incredibly problematic as the weight of these issues alone can cause isolation, depression and other mental health difficulties. As such, it is essential that all homeowners who find themselves in arrears should have someone to speak to. That is the service that Abhaile hope to provide. Tánaiste Fitzgerald has stated that despite falling numbers, there are still approximately 34,500 people in this country in long-term arrears. These are the people they hope to reach with this new campaign as it also emerged that over two thirds of people did not know that there were any services available to them to discuss these issues. Minister Varadkar was quoted as saying:
“It’s our firm hope we’ll bring forward thousands more people who are now in need of similar help. 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.”
Whilst the fact that the number of repossession cases has halved in recent years is indeed positive news, it is also essential that those still struggling be aware of all of the assistance at their disposal to ensure that these rates continue to fall in the coming years so that we can see a significant reduction in people feeling alone in these issues. It was also revealed that those in long-term arrears are those least likely to seek advice or assistance as they may feel that their situation is hopeless.
Angela Black of the Citizens Information Board has said:
“What we’re doing is 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”
The Abhaile service has assisted 4,500 people since it became fully operational last October.
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.