Campaign to inform distressed mortgage holders of legal advice

Two-thirds those most in need of Abhaile advice scheme unaware of it, survey shows

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar at the launch of the campaign for Abhaile, the free mortgage arrears support service. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar at the launch of the campaign for Abhaile, the free mortgage arrears support service. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

A publicity drive aimed at making more people aware of free legal and financial advice available to those in mortgage distress has commenced. It comes after research revealed that two-thirds of those who could benefit most from such a scheme did not know it existed.

The Abhaile scheme was launched last July as a one-stop shop for people at risk of losing their homes. It received some €15 million in funding to be spent over a three-year period from the Departments of Justice and Social Protection and is being run under the auspices of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (Mabs).

The scheme allows people struggling with mortgages to access the expertise of accountants, personal insolvency practitioners and solicitors free of charge, with eligible homeowners given vouchers issued by Mabs to cover the cost of the advice. Qualifying homeowners can also be offered court assistance if they are facing repossession.

While 4,800 vouchers have been issued under the scheme to date, two-thirds of those who could potentially benefit from it are unaware Abhaile exists, which prompted the radio, poster and online information campaign.

The initiative was announced by Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar.

Stress and isolation

“The Government is committed to ensuring that homeowners who are struggling with mortgage arrears, and are at risk of losing their homes, can access expert help and advice,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

She said good advice could “relieve the stress and isolation experienced by people who are in financial distress, break financial problems down to manageable solutions and, most importantly, help people return to solvency”.

Mr Varadkar said Abhaile so far had proved to be “one of the most effective ways to help people who are in mortgage arrears and at risk of losing their home”. He said there were “few things in life more distressing” than the possibility of seeing your family home repossessed.

“This is clearly borne out in the survey which reveals the impact it can have on the lives of individuals and their families. But too many of these same families are not aware of the expert financial and legal advice available through Abhaile,” he said.

In addition to revealing the lack of awareness of the scheme among those who need it the most, the survey carried out on behalf of Abhaile also found that one-third of those who had experienced mortgage difficulties said they would not consult family or friends about their situation while two-thirds admitted to experiencing feelings of fear and depression .

Free services which are available through Mabs include financial analysis, advice and negotiation help from specialist Mabs advisers or from personal insolvency practitioners. Consultation and legal advice from solicitors on putting solutions in place and assistance in court from “duty solicitors” are also available.