The Personal Insolvency Act 2012 which was passed into law in Ireland at the end of 2012 provides for the establishment and functions of a new independent body to be known as the Insolvency Service of Ireland.The Minister has already appointed a director to the Insolvency Service of Ireland for an initial five years term under the Act, which lays out the functions of the body. It is believed that at this stage, steps are being taken to staff the new body and to prepare for the full implementation of the provisions of the Act including launching of the Insolvency Service of Ireland website, issuing regulations, providing guidelines and explanatory booklets on insolvency matters and publishing literature relating to applications by members of the public who wish to avail of the any of the three new insolvency measures introduced in the bill.
The principal functions of the Insolvency Service are detailed in and are subject to the Act. The Insolvency Service will monitor the operation of the arrangements relating to personal insolvency provided for in the Act. It will consider applications for Debt Relief Notices, process applications for Protective Certificates, maintain registers to be known as Register of Debt Relief Notices, Register of Protective Certificates, Register of Debt Settlement Arrangements and Register of Personal Insolvency Arrangements, provide information to the public on the working of the Act and advise the Minister on any matter relating to its functions.
The Insolvency Service will authorise persons to perform the functions of an Approved Intermediary (AI) and authorise individuals to carry on practice as Personal Insolvency Practitioners (PIPs), supervising and regulating PIPs. It is to arrange for the provision of such education and training of AIs and PIPs as it thinks fit in relation to the performance of their functions under the Act.
A key role of the Insolvency Service will be to prepare and issue guidelines as to what constitutes a reasonable standard of living and reasonable living expenses of debtors and their dependants who may wish to avail of any of the insolvency measures provided for in the act. Such guidelines are to be revised and updated at least annually. The Act is quite explicit in setting out the matters which the Insolvency Service must take into account in preparing and publishing these guidelines.
The Act provides for the Insolvency Service to contribute to the development of policy in the area of personal insolvency and to disseminate information relating to the services it provides. The Insolvency Service may also have a role in prescribing by regulation the fees payable to it for the performance of its functions, the provision of its services and the carrying on of its activities, subject to the consent and direction of the minister.
The Insolvency Service is not bound by the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003 except in so far as they relate to the general administration of the Insolvency Service. Thus it is expected that debtors who avail of any of the insolvency measures in the Act will enjoy a degree of privacy and confidentiality, except in so far as the contents of the registers which are to be maintained by the Insolvency Service, are disclosed publicly or published on the Insolvency Service website.
As the end of the first quarter of 2013 approaches, the insolvency industry in Ireland awaits the rollout of the new measures. It seems that a lot has still to be done before insolvent citizens can get relief from their debt burdens but at least there is now real hope and the prospect of a better future for all stakeholders in the process – debtors, creditors and indeed government.
Written by Paddy Byrne
08 / 03 / 2013