Ask The Expert: Week 1 Show Notes - Best Bits

An Introduction to Abhaile, the Free Mortgage Arrears Support Scheme

Show Notes from Galway Bay FM (26th April 2019) and Dublin’s Q102 (24th April 2019)

Brian MacGabhann from MABS speaking on Galway Bay FM and Claire Kelly, Personal Insolvency Practitioner (PIP) speaking on Q102 talking about the Abhaile service and what it does for borrowers in mortgage arrears. If you would like to listen back to the recordings in full, scroll to the bottom of the webpage where they are listed as ‘information sources’.

MABS stands for the Money Advice and Budgeting Service. Abhaile does what then?

Brian MacGabhann:

Abhaile was established about three years ago, and that was specifically targeted at people who are in late stage mortgage arrears or, people who are mortgage arrears, mortgage difficulties in general, it offers a suite of options.

The entry level to it or the point of contact usually, would be the MABS Dedicated Mortgage Arrears Adviser (DMA) service. That is a series of specialist mortgage advisers that operate throughout the country. There's a range of DMAs in most MABS offices around the country. They're there to offer specialised support.

We deal exclusively with mortgage cases and with mortgage cases that have got towards the more serious ends of the scale. You can then access a range of options through the Abhaile scheme. For example, you can get a voucher for a free consultation with a Personal Insolvency Practitioner (PIP).

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What does a PIP do?

Claire Kelly:

PIP’s are independent professionals, we're licensed by Insolvency Service of Ireland (ISI) and we work hand in hand with the MABS offices, under the Abhaile scheme. We process the voucher on your behalf and then you make an appointment with a PIP, you bring together your financial information, and we have a look at it. We understand you, your income, your family, and then about your home and your mortgage. We see what's reasonable in terms of a restructure.

What's important to understand for everybody listening out there today is that overall, the success rate under the Abhaile voucher scheme is very, very high. It's 95% of all the approved Personal Insolvency Arrangements (PIA), keep people and families in their homes. I don't think people quite understand that and they're worried that it may not apply to them but, it has a very high success rate.

We act in the middle, our job is to be between the debtor/customer and the banks and anybody else they owe money to, it’s not just mortgages that we can deal with. With an insolvency arrangement, the key focus is keeping your home and making your mortgage affordable. But if you have a credit card or a loan, or other debts that are also causing problems, we can bring those in on a bundle basis and look to restructure your full debts to a level that's affordable to you. You don't have to directly engage with the banks at all. As part of this, we sit there in your place.

Then what happens once you've got everything; you contact the banks for them?

Claire Kelly:

The process is a couple of steps. The first part is the assessment process and the Abhaile voucher covers all that. You come in, we're not asking you to pay, and we make a recommendation on what path you can take through insolvency. Then the next step, presuming you go for a personal insolvency arrangement, is to apply for court protection for you that is a protective certificate. What that means is, we get basically a line in the sand, the pressure points move away, and while we're putting a proposal together that’s affordable to you as a debtor and acceptable to banks.

Then it goes for approval with the banks. Most of the time they get approved, the success rate is 8/10 of the arrangements put to the creditors (banks) get approved there and then. Some of them do go to an appeal and it takes a little bit longer. The timeline is usually about six months from initially engaging to knowing you have a solution that can keep you in your home.

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What other services are available through Abhaile?

Brian MacGabhann:

You can get a voucher for a free consultation with a solicitor to explore possible legal options and possible legal defences. You can get a voucher for a free consultation with an accountant. This might be particularly useful for people who are self-employed. Also, important to note that we offer supports in the court itself. Every time the repossession cases are going ahead, in every court house in the country, there will be a MABS person present, what we call a court mentor. The court mentor is usually the DMA themselves.

Also present in the court will be a Duty Solicitor. The Duty Solicitor is there to assist people who maybe don't have legal representation themselves. That's a very important message to get across as well, because the whole court process can be absolutely terrifying. I remember back years ago, my first contact with court, I'm sure a lot of people are probably the same was when I got into trouble with a car accident. Even though the case ended up being found in my favour, I was terrified. It's really, really frightening, and we do appreciate that.

It's important for people to realize that, if you go into the court, you're not going to be on your own. You can approach the MABS court mentor and say I haven't got a clue what’s going on? I just got this letter, I was told to be here today, what do I do? We can link you in with the services, make an appointment with you and then also link you in with the Duty Solicitor.

If you are due in court, watch our Court Day Tips video with MABS advisers on our YouTube channel.

The whole MABS and Abhaile situation, this is a free service?

Brian MacGabhann:

Yes, absolutely it's free. The vouchers are free to consult the PIPs. Solicitors, the MABS service itself is free and always has been. The DMA can help you explore voluntary arrangements, we can get you a voucher for free consultations with PIPs and solicitors to explore statutory arrangements. So yes, the entire system is free.

The first step is just making contact with you, just don't be afraid to come in to you?

Claire Kelly:

Don't be afraid, that would be the single message I'd give to your listeners. There are PIPs all around the country, there are MABS offices all around the country.

Information Sources:

Galway Bay FM – Galway Talks with Keith Finnegan Episode 1 (26th April 2019)

Dublin’s Q102 – Mornings with Liam and Venetia Episode 1 (24th April 2019)

If you or someone you know is affected by some of the topics raised in the above discussion, call the MABS dedicated Helpline on 0761 07 2000, or visit to find your local office and to learn more about how Abhaile may help.