The charity revealed elderly parents are now one of the new groups at risk. Many are being forced to take their grown-up children — many of whom are married — back into the family home while silently struggling to pay their own mortgages.
Focus Ireland was one of eight voluntary organisations which came together yesterday to launch an agreed document on how the Government should respond to the personal and mortgage debt crisis.
“In Focus Ireland the level of stress in the community we are seeing continues to increase at an enormous rate,” said Joyce Loughnan, chief executive of the nationwide charity.
She said the number of people contacting the organisation had jumped by 18% in the last two years, from 5,500 in 2009 to 6,500 in 2010.
“By the end of July this year, that’s seven months, we’ve had 5,500 contacts,” she said.
Ms Loughnan said these were people at risk of being homeless, many with “no idea” of their entitlements because they had never had reason to contact a homeless organisation.
Ms Loughnan said they were dealing with elderly people who might have used the equity in their own home as collateral for their young son or daughter in buying a property.
“They are facing the prospect of these young adults and their families returning to the family home and the family home is even at risk. They don’t tell their children.”
She said some of those elderly people invested in shares, now worthless, to enjoy in old age or to pass on to their children.
The eight groups outlined their “nine principles to overcome personal debt”, including legislation to deal with personal insolvency and a new debt resolution agency. The proposed body, it was suggested, would bring banks and borrowers together to agree a settlement and, where that was not possible, impose a settlement.
Paul Joyce of the Free Legal Advice Centre said that the Government must take into account not only mortgage arrears but personal debt as a whole, including personal loans, credit card debt and utility arrears.
John Martin McCaffrey of Saint Vincent de Paul said struggling households that are paying off debts must be left with a minimum budget to survive.
Speaking at the conference, Fine Gael’s Denis Naughten criticised the banks, which he stressed were state-owned, for sending out “thugs” to harass people to pay mortgage arrears.
* See flac.ie; focusireland.ie or threshold.ie.