A new Government scheme offering free financial advice to struggling mortgage-holders has come under attack.
Legal experts have claimed the initiative is not in the borrower's best interests as appointed accountants can only give advice on bankers' proposals on arrears.
New Beginning, a group of lawyers who offer free counsel to help people avoid losing their homes, said the scheme was flawed because advisers would not be able to recommend whether a desperate householder should accept the bank's terms.
Barrister Ross Maguire said: "The independent accountant is prevented from taking part in the negotiation leading up to the proposal and the distressed customer cannot avail of the advice until after the financial institution has issued their resolution proposal.
"This is not in the borrower's interest," he added.
Legal rights group Flac agreed there were "many holes" in the plan, saying the borrower was still left alone to negotiate a resolution for their arrears.
Director general Noeline Blackwell said individuals would have to rely on the likes of Money Advice and Budgeting Services or other personal resources. "People are being left effectively to take on the might of a commercial institution, that is, the lender by themselves, without reference to the rest of their debt," Ms Blackwell said.
New Beginning added that the scheme, announced by social protection minister Joan Burton, had been introduced purely to minimise negotiation with struggling borrowers.
Ms Burton defended the fact that accountants would not be allowed to advise borrowers directly on whether to accept their bank's proposals. She said while the ultimate decision would remain with the homeowner, the accountant's expertise would still be beneficial.
"Obviously, at the end of the day, the decision maker is the individual family, who will have to make the decision on how to deal with the relationship with the bank and the mortgage," said the minister, who is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland.