People struggling with bills and debt and in search of help to right their personal finances are waiting more than three months for an appointment at the Mayo South office of MABS - the Money Advice and Budgeting Service.
There are two MABS services in Mayo - Mayo south and Mayo north - providing a free service to people with debt problems.
A spokesperson from the Department of Social Welfare advised this week that the Citizens Information Board (CIB ), which oversees the MABS service, is working closely with MABS in Mayo to try to reduce waiting times.
The most recent figures available from the CIB, for the last three months of 2013, show the waiting time for a face-to-face appointment at the MABS office for Mayo south is 14.4 weeks - more than three times the national average waiting time, which is 4.5 weeks.
That puts Mayo south as the second-longest waiting time in the country, next only to the MABS office in Donegal north, where the waiting time is more than six months.
Wait times at the Mayo north office are also longer than the national average but are considerably better than in Mayo south at six weeks.
Sinn Féin’s EU Midlands North West candidate Matt Carthy described the waiting times as “shocking” and “unacceptable.”
“If someone looks for an appointment with that office [MABS Mayo South] now, it will be almost June before they get seen. These waiting times may force families under pressure from banks to agree to unsustainable and unfair debt repayment agreements.”
MABS Mayo South saw 280 clients face-to-face in 2013, while the figure was 325 for MABS Mayo North.
The Department of Social Welfare spokesperson said information and immediate support on all aspects of money management and personal debt is available from the MABS helpline, which received 23,036 calls in 2013.
“CIB is working closely with the Mayo MABS companies to reduce the waiting times for clients,” the spokesperson added. “The South Mayo MABS has also benefited from a part time resource money advisor post, allocated to help address the client waiting times. The service is being closely monitored by CIB which will deploy available resources to meet client demand in South Mayo MABS.”
Funding of some €18.6 million has been provided to MABS nationwide for 2014.