The scheme, which is called ‘Abhaile’, offers free financial and legal advice, with a priority on those most at risk of losing their home.
It will be run on a joint basis by the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) and the Legal Aid Board.
The Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald and the Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar launched the service yesterday which will see eligible clients given vouchers to obtain expert advice on resolving their debt issues.
“Abhaile” has been set up to meet the demand for the service as up to 29,000 people sought free legal advice last year with housing, families, work and money the main issues affecting people.
A guide from the Free Legal Advice Centre was also downloaded over 10,000 times.
Lorca O’Connor, Director of the ISI said:
“It is important for people to recognise that there are solutions and supports available.
“In launching our information campaign today we hope that message will resonate clearly with those that need our help.
“This campaign, combined with the supports available under ‘Abhaile’ should ensure that many more people come forward for help over the coming months.”
Speaking at the launch, The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD, said:
“The Government is committed to ensuring that homeowners who are struggling with mortgage arrears, and are at risk of losing their homes, can access independent expert advice and help on getting solutions into place.
“Abhaile is a new nationwide service to help these homeowners.
“Today’s launch puts in place two very significant components of this service – an important new Scheme for getting free, independent, expert advice and help, and a major new information and communication campaign to reach those at risk of losing their homes due to mortgage arrears.”
Minister Varadkar added:
“The Government wants to ensure that people who cannot pay their own mortgage can stay in their homes or move to new accommodation that they can afford.
“We do not want to see anyone foreclosed into homelessness.
“Mortgage arrears of more than 90 days are falling rapidly and are down to 7.8% from a peak of 12.9%. But they are still too high.
“For this reason, we are going to double down on our efforts to support more people to restructure or resolve their mortgage debt which lifts both the burden of debt from individuals and families, as well as the enormous emotional burden that comes with the fear of losing one’s home.”
The new scheme has also been met with criticism however.
David Hall, of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation, say he is not impressed with the Government’s attempts to help people in mortgage arrears, labelling the scheme “a little bit too late”.
He said giving vouchers to people to access solicitors and financial advisers will only benefit the professionals making money from this.
Mr Hall also said there should be a one stop shop, as was promised in the Programme for Government.