Burton report to highlight impact of mortgage difficulty on mental health

Specific guidelines recommended for dealing with vulnerable customers

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton: recently received mortgage arrears report. Photograph: Frank Miller

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton: recently received mortgage arrears report. Photograph: Frank Miller

Mon, Mar 18, 2013, 06:00

A report commissioned by Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton will highlight the impact of mortgage difficulty on mental health and recommend that Government should follow the UK’s example in tackling debt-related stress issues.

Ms Burton received the report on mortgage arrears recently and plans to publish it shortly. It recommends that specific guidelines for financial sector workers dealing with “vulnerable” customers be drawn up as a matter of urgency.

Evidence from GPs, who have “expressed concern at the increase in debt-related mental health issues arising in their patients”, is also cited in the report from the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS).

The organisation said the introduction of “robust” mental health guidelines, such as those introduced in the UK, would be of significant benefit to its client group and others.

MABS says the number of mortgaged clients on its books is continuing to grow as a percentage of its total caseload. It currently stands at 47 per cent of its client base in cases where accommodation status is known.

Demographic analysis of the organisation’s clients shows that most are women, aged 26-40 and more than 60 per cent have children. More than 30 per cent of clients are not in receipt of social welfare.

The recession has affected people with no previous history of mental health difficulties as well as those with pre-existing problems, according to a 2011 report by the Mental Health Commission on the “human cost” of economic adversity.

In the UK guidelines provide information for creditors on good practice when dealing with customers with mental health problems.

Doctors who attended a MABS workshop presentation at the Irish College of General Practitioners summer school last year said they would “welcome a national response to dealing with this growing problem”.