Stressed borrowers urged to get professional help

Households struggling with mortgage debt are being advised to reach out and get free professional advice, as research shows two-thirds of borrowers are unaware of free support services.

Frances Fitzgerald and Leo Varadkar launch the campaign for Abhaile. Picture: Peter Houlihan

Up to 4,500 stressed borrowers have so far availed of the new Abhaile service, which includes free solicitor consultation, accountancy advice, and court mentors.

The scheme is run through the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (Mabs), and allows borrowers use a voucher to get their free consultations.

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar said new research shows two-thirds of people don’t know about the free services. Many borrowers suffer from “fear and anxiety” and are reluctant to confide in others about debts, he said.

A Mabs campaign, including adverts, a helpline, and online promotion of advice services, now hopes to encourage those with mortgage debt to come forward for the free advice.

Some borrowers are living in “fear” while others are living in “denial”, said Mr Varadkar.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald claimed the number of mortgage restructurings has increased while the level of repossessions had fallen slightly.

The average number of homes being repossessed by the courts was 90 a month last year compared to 110 in 2010, she said.

“The advice can 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,” said Ms Fitzgerald.

“I would urge anyone worried about mortgage arrears on their home to contact Mabs who are the Government gateway to the range of supports available.”

The Abhaile scheme is designed to help borrowers who are insolvent and at risk of losing their homes. Users can access three different panels of experts, including personal insolvency practitioners, solicitors, and accountants.

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