Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

Mortgage Interest Supplement Scheme

Pauline Tully (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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1238. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the reintroduction of the mortgage interest supplement scheme will be considered particularly in view of the large number of persons unemployed and in need of mortgage support; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6138/20]

Pauline Tully (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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1240. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will consider the reintroduction of the mortgage interest supplement scheme particularly in view of the large number of persons unemployed and in need of mortgage support; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6140/20]

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 1238 and 1240 together.

The original purpose of the mortgage interest supplement scheme (MIS) was to provide short-term support to eligible people who were unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which was their sole place of residence, due to temporary unemployment or loss of earnings. 

The mortgage interest supplement scheme was discontinued for new entrants from 1 January 2014, on the basis that:

1. The on-going payment of Mortgage Interest Supplement did not address the long term housing challenges for people in serious mortgage arrears; and,

2. The Central Bank's Code of Conduct for Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) provides for an appropriate framework for customers, with the responsibility of forbearance for a customer’s Mortgage difficulties resting with the mortgage service provider.

Any change to this decision would need to be considered in the overall budgetary and policy context. The most appropriate way in which customers experiencing mortgage difficulties can be supported remains through on-going engagement with their lender to explore a sustainable and appropriate response from their lending institution.

Under the CCMA (2013), measures and policies are in place to support customers in financial difficulty with their mortgage commitments.  The CCMA is issued by the Central Bank under Section 117 of the Central Bank Act 1989 and ensures that the responsibility of forbearance remains with the mortgage service provider.

The CCMA provides support for those that are in arrears, pre-arrears or those who fall under scope of the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP).  Under the CCMA, lending institutions are encouraging customers to contact them at the earliest opportunity regarding their concerns and any particular circumstances which may impact on the customer’s financial well-being.

A cross-industry co-ordination Group, chaired by Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI), is looking at all coronavirus related issues that may impact customers.  This includes both the overall economic impact of the coronavirus situation and its direct effect on customers.  A number of emergency measures have also been announced by individual lending bodies including increased overdraft facilities and increased credit card and cash withdrawal limits.

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS), under the aegis of the Citizens Information Board, also continues to provides assistance to people, in particular those on low incomes or living on social welfare payments, who are over-indebted and need help and advice with debt problems.  As part of its free services, MABS provides help and advice to those in mortgage arrears.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

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