Wednesday, December 10, 2008

At Debts Door

The Minister for Social and Family Affairs answered a number of questions in the Dail on Tuesday in relation to number of people seeking assistance from the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS). Its shows that the number of new clients going to MABS in the 11 months to the end of November has from 12,400 for the whole of last year to 15,600 up to the end of November. These figures show a 25% increase and that doesn't include the Decemeber figures. On top of that the numbers calling the advice line which was established in October 2007 is almost 11,500. MABS is an excellent service and I would encourage people who are under financial pressure to seek their assistance. I have heard stories that there are waiting times at some offices, not sure if this is true. If it is then the Government need to provide more resources to the MABS service, because the reality with increased demand, the pressure will grow on the hard working MABS staff who can only see so many people in a day.

Likewise we hear of the pressures on organisations such as St Vincent De Paul where demand for assistance and financial help have grown massively too. And in recent days the Irish Times have been running stories about areas (such as my own next of the woods in South Meath) where the recession is biting. I am old enough to remember the late 1970's and early 1980's when money was scarce and inflation from memory was in the 15-20% bracket. My father died suddenly in 1978 when I was 7 and since he was a farmer our whole livlihood was wiped away. There were no EU farm subsidies back then, you lived from what you produced from the farm. Apart from the emotional loss for my mother and my 3 siblings and I, financially times were very tough too. The memory of those difficult times have stayed with me and that is why I really believe the Government needs to do more to assist people whose are facing tough times. If we give people a hand up now they will be able to rebuild their lives and start contributing again when they are back on their feet.

In their pre-budget report the UK the Government have reduced VAT from 17.5% to 15%, have announced a package of measures to assist those in financial difficulty with mortgage debt such as a £200m mortgage rescue scheme, 3 month stay on repossession and increased resources for money and debt advice. Here apart from a slew of direct and indirect taxation the only positive step has been to increase mortgage interest relief marginally for first time buyers.

We have had the bail out for the banks, its time for the Government to come up with a strategy to support ordinary consumers who have lost their jobs, livlihood and income because of the recession along the lines of what the UK Government have done.