The mortgage interest supplement scheme provides support for people who have difficulty meeting their mortgage repayments and whose means are insufficient to meet their needs. The scheme provides a short-term income safety net within the overall social welfare system to ensure that people do not suffer hardship due to loss of employment. A supplement in respect of mortgage interest only may be paid to eligible people who are unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which is their sole place of residence.
The number of persons in receipt of and the cost of the mortgage interest supplement scheme for the last four years is as follows: at the end of 2006 there were 3,420 recipients of mortgage interest supplement and the cost of the scheme was €7.87 million; at the end of 2007 there were 4,110 recipients of mortgage interest supplement and the cost of the scheme was €12.19 million; at the end of 2008 there were 8,090 recipients of mortgage interest supplement and the cost of the scheme was €27.67 million; and at the end of 2009 there were 15,120 recipients of mortgage interest supplement and the cost of the scheme was €60.69 million.
There are currently just over 15,400 people in receipt of mortgage interest supplement, compared to 8,091 recipients in 2008, an increase of 91% in just over 12 months. Expenditure for the years ending December 2009 and December 2008 was €60.7million and €27.7 million, respectively, a 119% increase year on year in terms of outturn.
A review of the administration of the mortgage interest scheme is in progress. The main purpose of the review is to examine how the scheme can best meet its objective of catering for those who require assistance on a short-term basis, where they are unable to meet mortgage interest repayments on their sole place of residence.
The review group includes representatives from my Department, the community welfare service, the Departments of Finance, Environment, Heritage and Local Government, together with a representative from the office of the Financial Regulator. The group is examining trends in programme and administrative costs, the impact of the Financial Regulator's statutory code of practice on mortgage arrears on the mortgage interest supplement scheme and legislative and operational issues arising, including the cap on hours of employment.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House.
The review is also considering whether alternative approaches to achieving the scheme's objectives are warranted in light of recent changes in the economic climate and the mortgage market. The full review should be completed in the coming weeks and the ensuing report will be available for publication in April 2010.
As part of this review, following consultation with the community welfare service, guidelines on specific and immediate operational issues for the community welfare officers operating the scheme have been finalised and were issued in June 2009. The guidelines are available on the Department's website www.welfare.ie