Thursday, 6 March 2003
Dáil Eireann Debate
148. Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the way in which her Department measures changes in the level of indebtedness or problems with debt here; if MABS, community welfare officers or any other group or organisation produces regular statistics or reports on this problem; and the way in which her Department's policy is informed on this issue. [6875/03]
Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mary Coughlan): Policies relating to debt and how it can be avoided or overcome are informed by a number of sources and information on indebtedness is derived in a number of ways. For example, the Living in Ireland surveys undertaken by the ESRI contain data relating to debt problems which arise from ordinary living expenses. Analysis of the results of the 2000 survey, published by the ESRI in 2002, shows that the number of households affected by consistent poverty, of which debt is a component indicator, has fallen from some 15% in 1994 to 6.2% in 2000. The analysis also indicates that the incidence of debt problems arising from ordinary living expenses among households has declined from some 18% to under 6% in the same period. Qualitative information on debt problems experienced by some low income families is also contained in a number of research reports on poverty, such as ‘Against all Odds', published in 2002 by the Combat Poverty Agency. Further information in this area is provided in reports of the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs and in reports from local authorities in relation to rental arrears.
My Department has overall responsibility for the Money Advice and Budgeting Service, MABS, which provides assistance to people experiencing indebtedness. There are 52 independent companies nationwide operating the service. While the MABS does not generate statistics on indebtedness, the work undertaken by the service provides valuable insights into the experience of those confronted by problems associated with indebtedness. A National Advisory Committee, NAC, on which other parties such as credit unions, the Combat Poverty Agency and the St. Vincent de Paul Society are represented, advises me on policy in relation to the MABS. In addition to giving the service a direct link to national policy, the meetings of the committee enable an exchange of advice and information on the work of the service. They also enable discussion on policy issues arising from this work or discussion relevant to money advice and over-indebtedness. Policies and guidelines are elaborated following a process of consultation and discussion at the committee.
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