Dáil Éireann - Volume 499 - 02 February, 1999

Written Answers - Anti-Poverty Strategy.

101. Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs his views on the concerns of Members in relation to debt problems in very deprived urban areas; and if he will comment on the work of the money advice and budgeting service. [2606/99]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): With 48 money advice and budgeting service, MABS, projects nationwide, and an additional project coming on-stream this year, my Department is directly involved in activities to combat over-indebtedness in urban and rural areas. The local projects, funded by my Department and managed by a committee drawn from local voluntary and statutory services and community groups, operate in partnership with other relevant agencies. The projects are independent information and advice providers rooted in the local community.

People availing of the service are, in general, social welfare recipients, low income groups, persons whose circumstances have altered due to marital breakdown, loss of employment, redundancies, death or other stressful events. These events occur in urban and rural areas.

The MABS programme budget has grown from £260,000, six projects, in 1992 to £4,210,000, 49 projects, in 1999. I am happy that, since its inception in 1992, MABS has provided a nationwide budget advice service as well as positively influencing major creditors, that is, ESB, credit unions, local authorities and moneylenders. The 1999 budget represents an increase of £1,067,000 on the 1998 figure, some of which will go towards an enhanced service throughout the State. MABS has also played a significant role in influencing legislative change, most importantly in terms of the Consumer Credit Bill, 1996.

An independent review of the MABS service is currently in progress. This review will consider how the programme is meeting its objectives and whether it is doing so in the most effective and efficient way possible. It is also intended that this review will be used to agree a strategic plan for the further development of the service so that it fully targets those who need it most. It is anticipated that an interim social impact report on the MABS programme will be available in July this year.