When you make the first contact with Ireland's free Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS), you will usually talk to the office administrator. He or she will take some of your details and make the appointment. It is at this stage that you should say if it is an emergency. If you feel very frightened by your situation, you should say this too. Some offices have a waiting list for appointments and may take people on a priority basis.
When you go for your first appointment, you should bring with you:
- Any letters you have received from your creditors or their solicitors (if you have been too frightened to open them, bring them closed and your Money Adviser will open them)
- If you have a credit union account, bring your book and any recent statements
- If you have an account with door-to-door salesmen or money lenders, bring your books (even if they are not up-to-date)
- Any papers or statements of your rent, ESB, telephone or cable accounts.
- Bank statements and details of any other debts.
- Details of your income - your payslip if you are working or your Social Welfare payment book or receipt from the Post Office if you are unemployed.
- Any car finance or mortgage agreements signed by you.
If you don't have any of these papers available or if you forget any of them when you go for your appointment, don't worry - keep your appointment anyway. Your Money Adviser will ask you to send them afterwards or bring them with you to the next appointment. If you find it difficult to get this information, the Money Adviser will help you.
Don't be afraid to talk about all your debts. The Money Advisor will not be shocked by the number of debts you have, how much you owe or how you got into debt. He/she is only interested in how to help you.
How the service works with you
Your first appointment could take an hour or more, depending on your needs.
The Money Advisor will:
- Examine your income and make sure you are getting everything you are entitled to and that you are liable for the debts.
- Help you work out how much you will need for your everyday needs and give you advice on budgeting.
- Prepare a financial statement that will be used when negotiating with your creditors.
- Help you prioritise your debts (housing, heat, light and food are your main priorities) and help you decide on a payment plan.
- Negotiate with your creditors if you wish.
- Provide support while you deal with your debts.
- Make contact with and refer you to other services if you wish.
How long the process takes
The number of appointments you have with MABS and the length of time you remain with the service depend on your needs. The Money Adviser will encourage and support you while you make progress and begin to deal with your difficulties yourself, but there is no set time in which you are expected to do this.
This is a confidential service. The Money Advisor will not discuss your situation with anyone without your signed agreement.
The service will provide you with the information and support you need to make decisions, but no one will tell you what to do. Any decisions and choices about your debts and payments must be made by you.
Making payments to your creditors
MABS and credit unions are working together to provide a payment system for people who have budgeting problems. This is called a Special Account. This system is available in most but not all areas.
The Money Adviser will help you examine your budget and work out how much you must pay every week to keep up to date with your bills (even the ones that are not usually paid weekly).
The credit union will then open an account for you (separate from your loan account). You will pay the agreed amount, which will cover all your bills, into the account on payday.
At the end of every month, MABS will send an invoice to the credit union and your creditors will be paid by credit union cheque.
It is very important to remember that this system only works if the money is paid in regularly. There are other methods of payment, which the Money Adviser will discuss with you.
MABS is a free service and you will not be charged for any information, advice or assistance.
Where To Apply
You can contact your local MABS office for advice and assistance.
You can also ring the MABS Helpline: 1890 283 438 (9am - 8pm, Monday - Friday) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Westend Commercial Village
Tel:(01) 812 9500