Flac welcomes new legal scheme for mortgage debt

Support system will help those at risk of losing their homes, director claims

Noeline Blackwell, director of Flac, has welcomed a new legal scheme for people in mortgage debt. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Noeline Blackwell, director of Flac, has welcomed a new legal scheme for people in mortgage debt. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

A new legal support scheme for people in mortgage debt has been welcomed as a necessary measure for those at risk of losing their homes.

The scheme, announced by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald on Friday, will be administered through the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (Mabs) with the involvement of the Legal Aid Board.

“Until now, there has been a dreadful failure of access to justice for poor people at risk of losing their homes,” said the director of the Free Legal Advice Centre (Flac) Noeline Blackwell.

“This is one of the most significant legal events in any person’s life and they should not be left to handle this on their own against powerful, well-resourced lenders.”

She said that, while some people in this situation had been able to get support from advocacy groups, what was needed is a State-organised system that is available to people all over the country.

“If the details fulfil the promise of the announcement, this scheme . . . may fill what has been a scandalous gap.”

Several Government agencies will be involved in the new scheme, including the Insolvency Service of Ireland and the Citizens Information Board.

Advice and assistance

Those who qualify for the scheme will be able to get advice and assistance 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.