Calls to money advice helpline highest level in over a decade due to cost-of-living crisis

Rent arrears and the cost of utilities are the biggest concerns for people contacting money advice service

The number of calls to the State’s national money advice and budgeting helpline reached the highest level in over a decade in May because of the cost-of-living crisis, a regional manager of the service has said.

Inflation in Ireland is estimated to have reached 9.6 per cent in June, the highest level in 38 years, according to Eurostat.

Research firm Kantar said inflation will add €453 to the average shopper’s annual grocery bill this year, while the cost of petrol and diesel has now surpassed the €2 mark on forecourts around the country.

As a result of these price increases, a rising number of both people on social welfare and those in full-time jobs are contacting the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (Mabs).

Michael Laffey, north Leinster regional manager of Mabs, said 2,627 people contacted the helpline in May 2022, the highest monthly level since January 2012, when 2,600 people contacted the service.

However, he said the true figure seeking help is higher because the helpline is just one way to contact Mabs, and other people would have sought help through regional offices.

“Between May 2022 and May 2021, we are up about 17 per cent, and June is up around 12 per cent,” he told The Irish Times.

“Our concern is more when it comes closer to September and people are faced with back to school costs and maybe having to look at getting heating oil, and the cost of that. We’re at the time of year where central heating probably isn’t in use.”

According to Mr Laffey, the last time helpline calls were this high, mortgage arrears and repossession were the biggest concerns.

“The calls in May and June are more on rent arrears and utilities. People are literally looking for help doing their household budget, they’re struggling to balance the budget with the increased cost of fuel, ESB, gas and that type of stuff,” he added.

The service said they are not just for those already in arrears, but are also available to assist those who may need to look at their household budget and expenditure “before it becomes a problem”.

In order to assist the public to cope with rising inflation levels, the Government has brought forward the annual budget by two weeks to September 27th and increased the spending package.

The €6.7 billion package of spending and tax measures to be announced on the day, is an increase of €1.7 billion over previous plans.

A series of once-off measures, likely to be largely comprised of social protection payments, will also be announced.

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service helpline is open from 9am until 8pm, Monday to Friday. 0818 07 2000

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is a reporter for The Irish Times