AIB has joined up with a group that assists people in mortgage difficulties as part of a new initiative to help deal with the arrears crisis.

The bank and the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation are offering homeowners who are in arrears the option to avail of an independent third-party facilitator to advise and engage with the bank on their behalf.

The initiative will be available free of charge to all AIB Group residential mortgage customers - including those with EBS and Haven - who want it.

The Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation said that mortgage holders in difficulty will be provided with a designated point of contact where they will be assisted with and advised on the completion of a Standard Financial Statement (SFS).

It said assistance will be provided over the phone, online or in person.

The IMHO will then submit the information to a designated team in the AIB Group arrears support unit.

"This service is being offered as an alternative way for AIB Group homeowners in difficulty to engage with the bank and will operate alongside AIB's existing mortgage arrears solutions channels. The IMHO's ongoing advice and services to customers of other institutions will remain unchanged," the organisation said.

It said the cost of the new service is grant aided by AIB but independently provided, staffed and managed by the IMHO.

"The IMHO believes that this initiative represents a wonderful opportunity to help a larger number of borrowers who are in arrears," commented David Hall, a director of the IMHO.

Commenting on the initiative, AIB's Head of the Financial Solutions Group, Brendan O'Connor, said that engagement is a crucial part of the arrears resolution process.

"We view this initiative as an important additional avenue available to customers in difficulty. We recognise that some of our customers are reluctant to deal with the bank directly and view this initiative as a means for people to seek free help and advice from an independent party as part of the resolution process," he added.

But the bank stressed that its policy when it comes to debt write-offs has not changed. 

David Hall of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation said the new initiative is to ensure that a reasonable deal can be done for borrowers.

He told RTÉ’s Six One that there was one objective behind the initiative and that was to help people to prevent repossessions.

Mr Hall said the plan provides a conduit for people who are fearful about dealing with a bank and want a third party in a professional, independent and confidential manner to do so on their behalf.

He said the first step in this process would be to complete a standard financial statement and make this available to the bank.

Mr Hall said his organisation would then make a recommendation to the bank based on the totality of debt and a number of options could then be deployed to come to a satisfactory agreement with the bank.

He said AIB is providing funding to set up the service, however it would be staffed, controlled and directed completely by the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation with no influence in any "shape or form" from AIB.