A BRITISH charity is to offer a free debt advice service for people in Ireland.
Leeds-based StepChange hopes to help more than 10,000 Irish people over the next three years, who are struggling with multiple secured and unsecured debt problems, via a telephone-based service that launches on November 16.
The service was given the go-ahead after securing €6million in funding from Irish retail banks AIB, Bank of Ireland, KBC, Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank, with the lenders agreeing to pledge €2million a year between them over the next three years.
StepChange ran a pilot scheme in 2013 at the request of the Central Bank of Ireland and has since been working with the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland (BPFI) on the new service.
Irish mortgage arrears levels have fallen for eight successive quarters up to the second quarter of 2015, while household debt in Ireland saw its biggest fall in five years during the first quarter of this year, however the latter still remains high compared to other countries.
StepChange chief executive Mike O'Connor said: "We know the impact that struggling with debt can have on family life and on a person's physical and mental health, and we know the difference that free and independent debt advice can make.
"We exist to provide free and independent advice to people struggling with debt and we are proud to have been chosen to provide a service to people in the Republic of Ireland."
The Irish service will be available via free phone on 1 800 937 435, Monday to Friday, 9am–5pm and more information is available online at stepchangedebtcharity.ie