Mortgage Interest Supplement Scheme

To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her plans to amend the mortgage interest supplement scheme; if she will make the revised guidelines publically available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. – Dan Neville.

For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 19th January, 2010.

R E P LY

I propose to take Questions 104 & 113 together.

The mortgage interest supplement scheme provides support for people who have difficulty meeting their mortgage repayments and whose means are insufficient to meet their needs. The scheme provides a short-term income “safety net” within the overall social welfare system to ensure that people do not suffer hardship due to loss of employment or other changes in circumstances.

A supplement in respect of mortgage interest only may be paid to eligible people who are unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which is their sole place of residence. There are currently over 15,100 people in receipt of mortgage interest supplement, an increase of almost 87 % (7,000) over the numbers in payment at the end of December 2008.

There are currently over 15,100 people in receipt of mortgage interest supplement, an increase of almost 87 % (7,000) over the numbers in payment at the end of December 2008.

The assessment for the mortgage interest supplement scheme provides for a gradual withdrawal of payment as earnings increase. Those availing of part-time employment and/or training opportunities can continue to receive mortgage interest supplement subject to their satisfying the standard means assessment rules.

A review of the administration of the mortgage interest scheme is progressing. The main purpose of the review is to examine how the scheme can best meet its objective of catering for those who require assistance on a short-term basis where they are unable to meet mortgage interest repayments on their sole place of residence.

The review group includes representatives from this Department, the Community Welfare Service, the Departments of Finance, and Environment, Heritage and Local Government together with a representative from the Office of the Financial Regulator. The group is examining trends in programme and administrative costs, the impact of the Financial Regulator’s statutory Code of Practice on Mortgage Arrears on the mortgage interest supplement scheme and legislative and operational issues arising, including the cap on hours of employment. The review is also considering whether alternative approaches to achieving the scheme’s objectives are warranted in the light of recent changes in the economic climate and the mortgage market. The full review should be complete and available for publication by the end of Q1 2010.

Guidelines on certain operational issues for community welfare officers administering the scheme, were updated in June 2009. The guidelines are available on the Department’s website www.welfare.ie