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Not Everything that Glitters is Gold



Not Everything that Glitters is Gold

With the economic challenges that Ireland has been facing for some time, many families found themselves in financially difficult positions and though things appear to be turning a corner there is still a level of ambiguity as to how better off people are now.

We are told that things are improving and to some agree this is most certainly true. In March of 2015, the unemployment rate went to down .10% to 10.00% from the previous month. In 2010, when the country entered the three year bailout programme there were 450,000 claimants for unemployment benefits, however, last month a survey proved the numbers had gone down to 350,600.

But things are not as positive as they seem.  According to a recent report by the Department of Social Protection nearly 1.5 million people receive a social welfare payment and, when qualified adults and children are included, almost 2.3 million people benefit from these payments. Some 600,000 families receive child benefit payments in respect of almost 1.2 million children each month. (T.D, 2014)

These numbers speak of low income families depending on social welfare payments, who accounts for more than a ¼ of the population of the Republic of Ireland.  The question therefore, of how high the unemployment rate is in this state should be explained correctly and put in context.

In the Republic of Ireland, jobseekers are not included in the number estimated for the unemployed.  As strange as this seems, jobseekers are actually included in the labour force Therefore, even if you are on social welfare, but you are actively seeking employment, you are not thought of as unemployed by the state’s statisticians.

Even if people are actively seeking employment they still have to live off welfare payments. The cost of living is still on the increase and while seeking for a job you could end up spending more money looking for work, working on CV’s, making phone calls and getting to interviews. This is an extra expenditure and with a small payment of €188 when bills have to paid, food has to be bought and the children have to be minded, there is often very little left of it, or perhaps, maybe even debt.  There is an argument for more subsidized childcare services and more free access to jobs clubs but at the moment, people are struggling.

Budgeting becomes very stressful and when you have debt staring at you and you are trying to find a job or there are reasons you can’t go back to work, life becomes unbearable.

MABS is a state body that was established more than twenty years ago to help families and individuals who are struggling to cope financially and also provide a service to the employed who find themselves in personal debt. Indeed, many people who are gainfully employed might not be able to manage their own mortgages or loans. MABS is short for Money Advice and Budgeting Service and can be accessed at more than 65 locations state wide where they provide a face-to-face service.

What MABS does is mediate your circumstances to the creditors and arrange for you to re-pay your debt to them in a different way. You are obliged to interact with MABS and stick to the payment plans they arrange for you. You are also asked not to contact the creditors, as it will be a part of the service MABS provide and they prefer that you let them deal with the creditors.

MABS is a service that will only work for you if you dedicate yourself to their plan.  It is like your parent telling you that you can’t buy that expensive designer jacket for the moment, instead you will have to choose something at Penny’s.

MABS have many success stories and they can get people back on an even-keel. One woman gave this testimony, saying: “We were at the stage of hopelessness when we were given your name by the St. Vincent de Paul. There was a lot of hard work done by [MABS] organisation and I am delighted to say that we are no longer afraid to open the door of our house anymore.  We are following the budget [they] made for us and it is working out great and soon we might be able to start saving a small amount. We have never had our accounts so well organised and are planning to stay this way for the future.”

The Republic of Ireland, we hope, is now on the road to recovery.  It might be another few years still before people in general, will feel the effects, unless another economic bubble bursts (rising housing prices are a concern). But in the interim period, which we are now living in, where more than a ¼ of the population are depended on financial support from the Social Welfare departments nationwide, debts will accumulate in many houses.  This is why MABS is important, if you are facing financial problems, don’t hesitate.  We may be told things are better but not everything that glitters is gold.  People are suffering, sadly this is why they need to plan.

You can contact this service on their helpline or go to one of their offices to arrange for someone to speak to.  The MABS Helpline – 0761 07 2000, Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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