I propose to take Questions Nos. 338, 342, 386 and 391 together.
The Mortgage Arrears Information and Advice Service was established to provide a comprehensive and coordinated approach to assist people in mortgage distress. The approach differentiates between mortgage information and mortgage advice. The first two elements involve the enhancement of the website www.keepingyourhome.ie and the establishment of a Mortgage Arrears Information Helpline within the Citizens Information Board both of which focus on the provision of comprehensive mortgage arrears information in particular to people in arrears or pre-arrears.
The third element of the service is the provision of independent financial advice to mortgage holders who are being presented with long term mortgage resolution proposals by their lenders. This advice is provided by a panel of accountants drawn from members of the main accountancy institutes in Ireland who have agreed to participate and support this independent service. This panel is available on a county by county basis on the website www.keepingyourhome.ie.
When a lender is proposing longer-term mortgage resolutions, the lender advises the borrower to obtain independent financial advice on the proposed arrangement and that, if the borrower wishes to avail of this option, that the lender will pay €250 to an accountant of the borrower’s choosing for the provision of this advice. The advisory framework has commenced with practising accountants because they already operate within a regulatory regime which includes qualitative oversight by their regulating bodies and in these circumstances it was possible to establish the advisory framework for people with mortgage distress within a relatively short timeframe.
There is nothing to inhibit other financial intermediaries from continuing to give advice on mortgages as required by borrowers. The advisory framework is being monitored on an on-going basis and a full review of the service will be undertaken in June 2013. The review will be undertaken to ensure that it is meeting its objectives and will encompass all aspects of the service including if participation is extended to other interested parties, the criteria that would be required in terms of relevant qualifications, experience, independence, professional indemnity insurance, etc. All relevant stakeholders will have an opportunity to input to the review.