Now is the time to talk about consumer debt warns Legal Rights NGO, FLAC.
30 June 2021
Launch of series of papers – From Pillar to Post
Today, FLAC - Free Legal Advice Centres, launches the first in a series of four papers to raise concerns and create debate in relation to the impact of Covid on levels of household debt in Ireland. These papers will look at how cases of debt should be addressed and resolved, particularly in light of the reopening of our society and the economy and the imminent winding down of income supports such as the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).
FLAC CE Eilis Barry commented,
“The areas of debt law and credit law reform have long been key pillars of FLAC’s policy and advocacy work. We are producing this series of papers now to highlight that the very serious issue of consumer debt post-covid is one that will have to be tackled by government.
The pandemic has exacerbated the level of debt for some and the stress that goes with financial difficulties has been an added worry. We believe that there is now an urgent requirement for discussion and preparation for the potential fallout from Covid on vulnerable households.”
Coming out of the pandemic, it has been predicted by the Central Bank of Ireland that there may be significant failure of small and medium enterprises and the knock-on effect on household welfare is obvious. It is likely that debt collection by lenders on both secured and unsecured borrowings will soon resume in earnest and borrowers will come under additional pressure to arrange repayments. Now is the time to discuss how this will be managed and, yet, there is currently little public debate on this issue and a troubling lack of up-to-date data on the extent of the problem.
FLAC Senior Policy Analyst Paul Joyce stated,
“During Covid a series of initiatives such as the PUP payment, loan payment breaks, a ban on evictions and utility disconnections have served to alleviate the financial impact on households. However, continuing restrictions and a planned removal of the supports available, means the incubation of debt is coming to an end for many individuals. The reality is that we currently have no way of knowing what the true cost of covid will be.”
“Unresolved debt from the Global Financial Crash (GFC) of over a decade ago also remains a significant problem for many. FLAC believe that the services available to distressed borrowers and the mechanisms in place to resolve consumer debt require urgent review.”
FLAC will publish this series of four papers over summer 2021 with a view to generating consciousness and debate about this issue. There has been a lack of data on debt available since the end of 2020, and with many households experiencing financial difficulties for over a year now, we believe that there is a level of urgency required for a plan to deal with the issues which may arise. The ‘Pillar to Post’ series of papers will culminate with a roundtable event with key stakeholders in the Autumn 2021.
Pillar to Post Paper 1 is available to read or download at https://www.flac.ie/publications/flac-pillar-to-post-paper-one/
Overview of Pillar to Post series of papers :
- Paper One - Setting the Context: A critical examination of data relating to consumer debt, welfare, labour market and the economy
- The first paper will set the context for the discussion that is required by providing an overview of data on consumer debt at the point that Covid hit and by monitoring subsequent developments over the past 15 months, up to the announcement of the phasing out of the PUP payment.
- Paper Two - Ten years and Counting: Conclusions from a decade of attempting to resolve family home mortgage arrears in Ireland
- The second paper will examine in considerable detail how attempts to resolve the mortgage arrears problem over the past decade have been, at best, partially successful and how an array of initiatives introduced at various stages have lacking coherency, from which many lessons can be learned.
- Paper Three - Assessing current research data on the payment breaks on credit agreements oﬀered by credit institutions as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic
- The third paper will examine the extent of payment breaks on loan agreements offered by a range of credit providers to consumers during the course of 2020 and what this indicates in terms of future indebtedness.
- Paper Four - A review of the Debt Resolution Mechanisms and the Support Services: With final recommendations for reform.
- The fourth paper will examine in detail the current infrastructure to assist borrowers to resolve over-indebtedness and will close by making final recommendations for reform.
FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an Irish human rights organisation, which exists to promote equal access to justice. As an NGO, FLAC relies on a combination of statutory funding, contributions from the legal professions and donations from individuals and grant-making foundations to support its work.
FLAC offers basic legal information through its telephone information line (1890 350 250). Free legal advice is available from volunteer lawyers through a countrywide network of advice clinics (these clinics are currently conducted over the phone) – more at www.flac.ie/help/. FLAC provides legal representation in a small number of cases in the public interest. FLAC provides legal advice directly to members of both the Roma Community and The Irish Traveller Community via specialist legal clinics. FLAC engages in policy work in areas of law that most impact on disadvantaged groups and including consumer credit, personal debt, and fairness in social welfare law, public interest law and civil legal aid. It operates the public interest law project PILA.