MANY people in Donegal are having to wait up to 20 weeks to access help with their budgeting and finances according to figures revealed this week.
They also reflect the extent of the financial crisis affecting families in the county, with 160 people still waiting on their first appointment with the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS). This figure is the highest of all the services 53 offices across the country.
Deputy Pearse Doherty has said the waiting times for appointments with MABS is “shocking”.
According to a list of average waiting times provided to Deputy Doherty as part of a Parliamentary Question, the longest wait, of all offices in the country, is in Donegal North.
The longest wait is in Donegal North, where a person applying to see MABS today must wait 20.2 weeks before an appointment.
Speaking on the matter Deputy Doherty said: “When people make up their mind to approach MABS they are more often than not in a desperate place. For most, they’ve gone beyond accessing self-help guidelines on the web or using a phone service. They need to sit down with someone who will thoughtfully and patiently explain the situation to them and help them process their options.
“The waiting times revealed to me in a parliamentary question yesterday are shocking. While the state-wide average wait for a first time appointment is 4.4 weeks, which in itself is a long time, this varies wildly, with some counties experiencing inordinate delays. Thirteen MABS services have a waiting time of above four weeks but no more than six weeks and eight have a waiting time greater than six weeks.
“Donegal North has the longest waiting time, with 20.2 weeks. That means if someone looks for an appointment with that office now, it will be Christmas before they get seen. Meath is next with 13.6 weeks. In Donegal South only four people are waiting for appointments, yet they’ll be waiting six weeks. It’s hard to imagine what someone, who is in such a desperate state, must feel when they hear that’s how long they’ll be waiting for an appointment.
He added: “The minister says the service has dealt with 2,000 emergency cases since the start of the year and these cases were fast-tracked. Knowing how good a job MABS do, I well believe that, but this must put the service under incredible strain.
“It’s absolutely obvious from the extreme waiting times in certain counties that MABS is either not being funded or staffed to the levels needed in certain parts of the state.
The programme for government promised to strengthen MABS but clearly this has not materialised. The minister needs to examine this situation immediately and ensure the service is operating efficiently in all parts of the state.”