126. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 92 of 31 January 2019, the options open to a company or person (details supplied) in such circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6119/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Personal Insolvency Acts provide for three debt solutions, depending on the nature and scale of the person’s means and debts.
As you are aware, a Debt Relief Notice (DRN) is an insolvency arrangement for those with very low income and assets which allows for the write off qualifying debt up to €35,000. Under the Acts, this solution is provided by Approved Intermediaries, who are trained and regulated under the supervision of the Insolvency Service of Ireland.
The other solutions under the Acts are a Debt Settlement Arrangement (DSA) which allows for agreed resolution of unsecured debt without upper limit, and a Personal Insolvency Arrangement, (PIA), which allows for agreed resolution (or, under s.115A of the Acts, court imposition at the debtor’s request) of secured debt such as a home mortgage, as well as any unsecured debts. Under the Acts, these solutions are provided by Personal Insolvency Practitioners (‘PIPs’) , who are likewise trained and regulated under the supervision of the Insolvency Service of Ireland.
I understand from the Insolvency Service of Ireland (ISI) that the Personal Insolvency Act 2012 (Authorisation of Approved Intermediaries) Regulations 2013 (S.I. No. 216 of 2013) sets out the qualification criteria and authorisation requirements, which must be met for a person, a class of person or body corporate to be authorised by the ISI to carry on the practice of an approved intermediary. The qualification criteria includes, inter alia , the requirement that an applicant must have completed a course of study and passed an examination in relation to the law and practice in the State relating to the insolvency of individuals and in relation to the Personal Insolvency Act.
A similar provision is contained in the Personal Insolvency Act 2012 (Authorisation and Supervision of Personal Insolvency Practitioners) Regulations 2013 (S.I. No. 209 of 2013), which sets out the qualification criteria, authorisation requirements and regulatory standards, which must be met for an individual to be authorised by the ISI to carry on practice as a Personal Insolvency Practitioner.
Given its regulatory role with respect to both Approved Intermediaries and Personal Insolvency Practitioners, the ISI ensures that any individual authorised to practise in either role meets the required criteria for authorisation including the necessity to have completed such a course of study and passed the relevant examination. It is open to any individual who is considering making an application for authorisation to contact the ISI's Regulation Division by email ( email@example.com) or phone (076-1064234) to request information on the courses available which would meet the qualification requirement. The ISI has specific guidance available on its website ( www.isi.gov.ie) on “How to become an AI” and “How to become a PIP ”, setting out information on the qualification criteria in addition to further details on the respective application processes.
My officials have been advised by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection that, in preparation for the role of Approved Intermediary for the processing of Debt Relief Notices under the Personal Insolvency Act (2012), 134 Money Advisers and Money Advice Coordinators across the country undertook an accredited course with the Ulster University entitled “RoI Insolvency Module” in 2013. This module complies with the regulation requirements of the ISI under S.I. No. 2016 of 2013. In 2018, all eight of the (new) MABS Regional companies registered as Approved Intermediaries and have registered responsible persons who meet the regulation criteria. Companies other than MABS, such as the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation and IRS - Ireland, are also registered. It is important to note that an Approved Intermediary cannot charge any fee for this service.
MABS has not registered as Personal Insolvency Practitioners, other than in a pilot scheme in Waterford, and therefore does not deal with the other two resolutions under the Act: Personal Insolvency Arrangement and Debt Settlement Arrangement. MABS regularly refers these clients to the Personal Insolvency Practitioner (PIP) experts: under Abhaile, MABS can issue vouchers for an insolvent borrower at risk of losing their home due to mortgage arrears, to receive free advice, financial analysis and help to get a solution to their mortgage arrears into place via a Personal Insolvency Arrangement.
While the law in this area is being kept under review, I am satisfied that the above arrangements represent a proportionate and reasonable protection for indebted persons in this complex area of activity.