The Government has launched MABS' Dedicated Mortgage Arrears Services for distressed mortgage holders.

MABS (Money Advice and Budgeting Service) has been guiding people through dealing with problem debt for more than 20 years.

The new service will increase the supports available to people in arrears and form part of the Government's wider range of measures to assist people with unsustainable debt.

Tánaiste Joan Burton and Minister of State Kevin Humphreys formally launched the service.

Speaking at the launch, the Tánaiste said: "We are providing some €10m of additional funding over the next three years across the MABS network to provide more targeted services to distressed homeowners.

“This will see MABS play a greater role in offering appropriate information, advice and assistance to mortgage holders through all stages of the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process and beyond," she said.

There will be three key strands to the Dedicated Mortgage Arrears Services:

 - Firstly, the MABS Helpline (which operates from 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday) will provide assessment, in order to channel debtors to the most relevant source of help, based on the nature and urgency of their situation.

- Secondly, specialist advisors will assist mortgage holders in assessing the extent to which the option on offer from their lender is the best and most sustainable option for them, and where required, will negotiate with their lender.

Nineteen such advisors are already in place and arrangements are being finalised to ensure nationwide coverage in the coming weeks.

- Thirdly, court mentors will be available to assist home-owners facing court proceedings. Working in close collaboration with the Insolvency Service of Ireland, a national network of court mentors is now in place. 

This follows the successful completion of a pilot project in six court locations - Dublin, Cavan, Wexford, Trim, Castlebar and Roscommon.

The court mentor service offers support and advice for borrowers on court proceedings, as well as direct referral back to MABS where a case is adjourned.

Commenting on the need for court mentors, Minister Humphreys said: "Increasingly, debtors with significant mortgage arrears are arriving at MABS on receipt of letters regarding legal proceedings, needing advice and support on going to court and the range of resolution options that may be available to them.

"There is now a MABS Court Mentor service at all court repossession hearings right across the country," he said.

The Tánaiste said: "While the most recent data available from the Central Bank shows that the number of homeowners in mortgage arrears has fallen significantly as the economic recovery picks up, there is still a large number of borrowers in long-term arrears and the MABS services will provide vital support and assistance to them."