Thursday, 17 April 2014

Questions (113)

Michael McGrath

Question:

113. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the date the independent mortgage advice function became operational; if she will provide details of the number of mortgage customers who have to date contacted the mortgage arrears information helpline; if she will provide details of the number of mortgage customers who have to date received advice from an accountant from the Mortgage Arrears Information and Advice Service panel of accountants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18485/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Mortgage Arrears Information and Advice Service was established to provide a comprehensive and coordinated approach to assist people in mortgage arrears or pre-arrears in assessing their options.

The service, which differentiates between mortgage information and mortgage advice, has three elements:

- The website www.keepingyourhome.ie which was developed as the key online access portal for general mortgage information and advice and launched in June 2012.

- The Mortgage Arrears Information Helpline (phone 0761 074050) established in August 2012, provides general mortgage arrears information and signposting in relation to the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears and other supports available for those in mortgage arrears or pre-arrears.

- The service to provide independent financial advice to mortgage holders who are being presented with long term mortgage resolution proposals by their lenders was launched in September 2012. The advice is provided by a panel of accountants drawn from members of the main accountancy institutes in Ireland. A county by county panel with over 2000 participating accountants is in place and their details are available on www.keepingyourhome.ie. Borrowers are free to choose their own advisor from this panel and the lender will pay €250 to the accountant of the borrower’s choice for the provision of this independent financial advice.

The Central Bank collates the information relating to the number of borrowers who have availed of the independent financial advice service on a quarterly basis commencing in Quarter 1 2013. The data supplied does not relate exactly to the reporting period as there will be delays between the time the lender makes the long-term resolution offer to the borrower, the meeting with the accountant and the receipt by the lender of the invoice.

A review of the independent financial advice element of the Mortgage Arrears Information and Advice Service was undertaken in 2013 to ensure that the service is meeting its objectives. A group comprising representatives from the Department of Finance and the Department of Social Protection was established to oversee the review. The review report has been considered by the Mortgage Arrears Implementation Steering Group and the Cabinet Committee on Mortgage Arrears and Credit Availability.

The key recommendations in the review report relate to increasing awareness among borrowers through the provision of clear and unambiguous information about the service and to increase the scope of the advice to include advice on the other mortgage debt resolution options that are now available for borrowers, so that they can fully assess their options. In that context the report recommends that consideration be given to increasing the funding for the financial advice from €250 to €500.

A stakeholder seminar was held in January 2014 to which all stakeholders were invited to discuss the recommendations of the review. An implementation plan has been prepared and discussions have commenced with the relevant stakeholders to progress the recommendations.

It is envisaged that the service will continue to be funded by the lenders and that the recommended changes to the service will be in place by the end of Quarter 2 2014.

Usage details of the services are set out in the table.

Mortgage Arrears Information and Advice Service

-

Helpline Calls

Visits to Keepingyourhome.ie

website

Financial Advice Service ( invoices received by lenders from accountants)

August 2012

295

September 2012

397

October 2012

459

*34,157

November 2012

410

6,434

December 2012

259

8,150

January 2013

577

9,955

February 2013

529

10,073

March 2013

737

12,243

54

April 2013

973

17,813

May 2013

610

9,463

June 2013

504

10,194

52

July 2013

473

9,632

August 2013

590

12,621

September 2013

521

8,438

72

October 2013

641

12,815

November 2013

440

10,029

December 2013

385

10,063

119

January 2014

665

10,387

February 2014

749

12,239

March 2014

608

11,817

**

April 2014 (to end April 4th)

123

3,074

Total

10,945

222,267

297

*Covers the period June 2012 to October 2012

** Not yet available from the Central Bank