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MABS at 30

graphic header for 30th anniversary of MABS

The evolution of MABS in Ireland 

Moneylenders and low-income families. 

During the mid-1980s, concerns were raised regarding the prevalence of Moneylenders in Ireland. In particular, it was reported that low-income families, including people living on social welfare income, were more likely to use such high-cost credit.  

The Combat Poverty Agency research staff carried out a study focused on Moneylending and Low-Income Families. The study was undertaken in response to a request from the Minister for Social Welfare, Dr Michael Woods, following considerable publicity about moneylending. 

 Several recommendations were set out in the report, such as: 

  • income adequacy, 
  • operation of moneylending, 
  • indebtedness and money management, 
  • availability of credit for low-income groups. 

To address some of these recommendations, the report stated that a limited Money Advice Service should be set up on a pilot basis, targeting specific low-income groups.  

The service would have 3 functions initially. The 3 functions would be to: 

  • develop and offer a direct service to low-income consumers on a limited pilot basis. The service would include devising a manageable debt repayment plan, negotiating with creditors, and provide support during the initial weeks of the repayment plan, 
  • develop materials to support local information and social work services, and 
  • develop training programmes for relevant voluntary and statutory personnel.  

An additional recommendation in the report was to address access to credit and bill payment schemes on a national basis. Such schemes had been in operation in the Lough Credit Union, Cork and 3 credit unions in Waterford. These schemes proved incredibly positive in supporting low-income families to reduce their dependency on moneylenders by offering guaranteed loans in Credit Unions with the support of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.  

Loan Guarantee Fund 

In April 1990, the Loan Guarantee Fund (LGF) was established nationally. This was a revolving fund of £200,000 (€253,947) administered by the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. Funding for the LGF was provided equally by the Department of Social Welfare and the Banks’ Standing Committee.  

Supporting low-income families to take control

In addition to the access to credit, additional provisions were made to social welfare legislation in 1991 that allowed for deductions from social welfare payments. With the claimant’s consent, payments could be made to utility providers such as gas and electricity and to rent payments.

The scheme was to help address arrears management and collection costs and was officially launched in 1993

This service continues today, called Household Budget, and is operated in partnership with An Post.

And so, the Money Advice and Budget Service is born

The second initiative to address problems of moneylending and indebtedness was announced. In February 1992, the Government of the day allocated £260,000 (€330,132) to set up 5 pilot projects to ‘combat moneylending’. These pilots were the first 5 offices of the national service now known as MABS, the Money Advice and Budget Service. Minister Charlie Mc Creevey officially launched MABS on September 22nd, 1992.

Read the full press release (pdf) from Charlie McCreevy TD, Minister for the Department of Welfare.

The 5 pilots were in Cork City, West Clare, Limerick, Waterford, and West Dublin. These locations are still in operation today.

map of Ireland with 5 pilot office locations marked

The Cork city Project officially opened on the day of the announcement, and Brendan Roche, who was seconded from his post in the Lough Credit Union, was the first service coordinator.

Brendan had been active in combating problems of moneylending for many years and pioneered the ‘Lough’ method of bill payment and budgeting facilities for members on low incomes. This method was known as the Special Accounts Scheme.

black and white image of man cutting ribbon

Official opening of Cork City MABS  

Gerry Fitzpatrick, Kathleen O’Driscoll, Minister Michael Woods, Sheila Doyle, Liam Edwards, Brendan Roche (RIP) 

wall plaque

Wall plaque incorporating the new project locations


Growing MABS to serve the community

In 1993, an evaluation of the pilot projects was completed by NEXUS Research Cooperatives. The report recommendations included extending access to the services nationally.

The evaluation found that the 5 services were running with different approaches and recommended a uniform approach to services offered and project management. In 1994, Liam Edwards was announced as the national coordinator of MABS (pdf).

The service continued to grow across the country, and there is now at least 1 MABS office in every county in Ireland.

newspaper clipping from the Irish Times February 19 1994

Special account facility

The special account facility became operational through MABS offices across the country.

The facility was a creditor payment system organised and supervised by MABS in conjunction with the credit unions. It enabled clients to save weekly in a Special Budget Account for payment of bills. In cooperation with the money adviser, clients prioritise creditors. For many clients, particularly those without access to banking facilities, the Special Account Scheme played a vital role in helping them regain control of their financial situation.

It should be noted this facility is no longer available due to regulatory changes over recent years. The facility ceased to take on new clients at the end of 2021.

MABS today

For 30 years, MABS has remained agile in the face of change. The service has expanded to offer a limited personal insolvency service in recent years. Working with stakeholders and partners in the industry, MABS is recognised by the State as the gateway to the Abhaile free mortgage arrears scheme. In more recent times, MABS has worked with utility providers to develop and provide access to hardship funds. These funds are necessary due partly to COVID-19 and the increases in the cost of living because of increased inflation.  

Today, MABS provide a wide range of money, debt, insolvency, budgeting, and advocacy services in over 50 locations nationwide, through the national helpline, WhatsApp service, and online at mabs.ie. 

Trained staff provide advice on managing money and help people deal with a wide range of debts. Common types of client queries include, but are not limited to: 

  • Credit card debt 
  • Personal loan debt
  • Utility arrears
  • Legal money lenders
  • Income maximisation
  • Saving tips
  • Court fines
  • Rent and mortgage arrears

Support is available to everyone, regardless of their financial circumstances. MABS prides itself on providing a free, confidential, and independent service, all without judgement. 

Reeling in the years

A selection of photos of office openings and milestone celebrations.

Sligo MABS 20th Celebrations
Ribbon cutting at the opening of the Swords MABS
Meath MABS
Opening of MABS Newbridge
Opening of MABS Kilcock
MABS Logo Launch Plaque – Mary Coughlan TD – Minister of Social & Family Affairs – 21th November 2002
Opening of MABS Killarney office
Official Opening- Board Members and Minister for Social Welfare Proinsias De Rossa
Photo of staff from Donegal MABS opening
MABS Waterford Office Launch 1994



We’re not finished

We’re in the process of building this page and will add more newspaper snippets, photos, and general information about MABS over the coming weeks and months.

Don’t miss out! Follow @MABSinfo on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (all links open in a new window) to stay up to date with the latest news and announcements as MABS celebrates this important milestone of 30 years of serving the community of Ireland.

Appendix

Approximate office opening dates

Office Date 
Ballyfermot Sep-92 
Limerick  Sep-92 
ClareSep-92 
Waterford  Sep-92 
Cork  Sep-92 
Lombard St  Feb-93 
Clondalkin  Apr-93
Carlow Jul-93 
Ballymun  Mar-94 
Offaly Jul-94 
Dundalk Aug-94 
Drogheda Sep-94 
Mullingar Sep-94 
KilkennyFeb-95 
Tallaght  Mar-95 
Finglas Apr-95 
South Galway Apr-95 
Monaghan May-95 
TipperaryMay-95 
Bray  Jun-95 
North GalwayJun-95 
LaoisAug-95 
Kilcock Aug-95 (Sub-office)
BlanchardstownSep-95 
Thurles Sep-95 
Mallow Oct-95 
Cavan Dec-95 
Charleville Jan-96 
Francis St. (Dublin)Feb-96 
KerryMar-96 
Swords May-96 
Sligo May-96 
WexfordMay-96 
North Mayo  Jun-96 
Navan Aug-96 
Athlone Sep-96 
CrumlinSep-96 
Dun Laoghaire Jan-97 
Newbridge  Jan-97 
Longford Feb-97 
Clonmel   Apr-97 
North City Sep-97 
RoscommonNov-97 
NenaghNov-97 
North Donegal May-98 
Dundrum Sep-98 
Coolock  Jan-99 
South Mayo Feb-00
Arklow Feb-00 
Leitrim Jul-00
Donegal Town Nov-02 
West Donegal Nov-02 
Buncrana Jul-05 
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