Calls to the State’s money advice helpline, established to assist people dealing with problem debt reached a six-year high in 2017, figures have revealed.
Quarterly statistics released by the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (Mabs) show that 24,659 calls were made to its helpline last year, which is a rise of almost 20% on the 20,611 calls received in 2016.
It is the highest number of calls received by the helpline since 2011, when it handled 29,636 calls from the public.
A further analysis of the figures reveal that the third quarter of 2017 — when the helpline received 6,276 calls — was the busiest three- month period experienced by the service since January to March 2013, when 6,371 such calls were made.
The service’s annual report for 2016 noted an 8.6% increase in the number of calls made to the helpline that year when compared with 2015.
It said helpline calls “increased particularly in the August to November period, which is probably reflective of enquiries relating to the roll out of the Abhaile — Free Mortgage Arrears Support scheme”.
Abhaile was launched by the Government in 2016 in an attempt to tackle the rising number of mortgage arrears cases.
Launched by the Department of Justice and the Department of Social Protection, it promises independent expert advice to those struggling with their mortgages, and those seeking to avail of the scheme first contact Mabs to make their enquiries.
The quarterly figures for 2017 show a year-on-year decline in the number of new clients availing of services last year.
Mabs saw 16,740 new clients last year, down from 19,866 in 2016. Of these, 54% were identified as female and 46% as male.
Mortgages and personal loans with financial institutions were the leading types of active debt among new clients.
Nearly 57% of these new clients said Social Welfare was their primary source of income, with the remaining 43% stating they were self-employed, on a wage, or were in receipt of maintenance or another primary source of income.
There are 51 local Mabs companies.
According to the Mabs 2016 annual report, they received an operational grant of €16.79m.
These companies are staffed by more than 44 money advice co-ordinators, 60 administrators, 103 money advisors and seven relief money advisors, as well as 26 dedicated mortgage arrears advisors, and four dedicated mortgage arrears relief advisors, according to the annual report.
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