Debt gloom deepens with 19,000 seeking MABS help
AN increasing number of people are finding themselves in financial woes as a result of deals with multiple creditors.
The State agency responsible for assisting people with money difficulties says it is dealing with "increasingly complex debt situations".
In many cases clients are desperately seeking help because they are defaulting on debts to several creditors.
The situation means that negotiations can prove extremely tricky for the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS).
In 2009, MABS arranged to set up 2,618 special accounts with local Credit Unions to help people bring their finances under control.
At the same time, the service is trying to deal with a sharp rise in the number of clients coming forward with problems.
In 2006, the service was dealing with just 11,000 new clients, but that number rose to 12,000 and 16,000 in 2007 and 2008 respectively. The number increased again to an unprecedented 19,000 in 2009.
And the demand shows little sign of abating as in the first few months of this year, as already 5,500 new clients have approached MABS.
In most cases the money advisers work out a budget and negotiate on behalf of the client with all creditors, including financial institutions and sub-prime lenders to secure better terms for the client in managing the repayment of their debts.
When required, advisers assist with setting up a special account with a local Credit Union into which an agreed amount of money is lodged regularly and from which each month the money adviser makes the repayments to the creditors on behalf of the client.
Social Protection Minister Eamon O Cuiv said: "It is important that people coping with debt difficulties take early action and approach MABS for help and guidance.
"This can be the first positive step for people in addressing debt difficulties."
Such is the demand that MABS had to recruit 19 extra money advisers last year, despite restrictions on Government departments hiring new staff.
The additional workers brings the number of people employed in MABS companies to over 270.
Mr O Cuiv explained: "From first point of contact to first appointment with a money adviser the average waiting time is currently approximately four weeks.
"This is the average nationally and there are fluctuations between offices. During the waiting period, clients are assessed and those in need of immediate assistance are given a priority appointment, others are provided with assisted self-help to ensure that they have taken steps to assess their situation and if appropriate they are supported to take holding action with their creditors."