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Rise in number of Irish families facing crippling debt problems this Christmas

'In financial terms, things are certainly tougher for people than they were a year ago'
Stock photo

Stock photo

Nick Bramhill

Thousands more Irish families will start the New Year with crippling debt problems because of overspending at Christmas, financial watchdogs have warned.

Experts have warned that householders are facing even more severe post-Christmas financial problems than they were following last year's festive season.

MABS [Money Advice and Budgeting Service], the State's debt advisory service, has already noted a surge in the numbers of struggling householders turning to them for help compared to this time last year.

And advisers with the service have expressed concern that levels of post-Christmas debt could be particularly severe across cash-strapped households from late January, if people spend more than they can afford to over the coming weeks.

Michael Laffey, spokesman for MABS, said: "In financial terms, things are certainly tougher for people than they were a year ago. Last year at this time many people's financial circumstances were better, for example not having any childcare, school runs or commuting costs.

"Since then, all these things have returned, and while the cost of diesel and fuel has risen, along with utility bills, people's wages haven't gone up. Also, there aren't the level of government supports that were around before. For instance, PUP payment is now at a reduced, tiered level and much more difficult to get for new applicants.

"Also, the moratoriums that had been in place for utility disconnections came to an end in mid-year, which left a lot of householders struggling with arrears. They're back in place this month up to January next year, as they are every Christmas, but once they go many people will find themselves in more financial difficulties once again.

"We also saw courts resuming possession orders in the second half of this year. So all these factors have been at play, and although 2021 has generally been quieter at MABS than we might have expected, the second half of the year has been a lot busier than the first half, while this period has been busier than it was last year because of the increased costs people are faced with, and because many of the supports that were around a year ago are no longer there."

Laffey noted that since the start of the pandemic more and more middle-income householders have turned to MABS for support, alongside the traditional client base of low-income clients and those on social welfare.

He also predicted that demand for services will surge in the post-Christmas period, as householders struggle to pay their utility bills, mortgage or rent due to overspending during the festive season.

"Our advice to people who are struggling with finances is to keep a limit on costs this Christmas, and only spend what they can afford. It's important to make out a budget, and to stick to it."


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