The pitfalls of doing the surendettement thing

Hi I am deeply concerned for friends of ours who are semi- retired, on a very low pension from RSi and debts are mounting especially from Tresor public, due to pound / euro downfall. They own a house in France which is up for sale, have 2 teenagers at home / college and cannot find work to bring in enough funds to cover regular bills plus they are now very behind with Tresorie and other utility companies. In fact last week they were cut off by Franc telecom so now now internet etc..

The bank will not release funds against equity on their home as they have no regular income (apart from Rsi pension and CAF) and they have been advised by social security to take out a 'surendettement' . They are convinced that this is the only option now, and it will lighten the load as they will have a year to sort out finances by paying off the minimum off of their debts without interest, and there is no threat of having their house snatched back... downside being no credit including being able to use bank cards for 5 years.

I am very worried for them, my husband and I are concerned that they do not know all the facts (due to language barrier etc..) what if they can't sell their house in the year, will they not be able to use a bank card even if the money is in the account, what about mobile phone contractswill they have social services telling them what they can spend as and when??? Are they on a credit black list for 5 years which will have a knock on effect with other things they haven't been advised of?

I have briefly scouted the internet for them and apart from the legal info and forums saying 'don't do it' haven't come up with much. The word 'regroupement ' has come up once or twice but isn't that another loan company taking on your debts with interest... So just wondered if there was anyone out there who has done this or knows how this system works etc...

I know that in Bordeaux there is an organisation that helps people in serious debt. A bit like the CAB. Have passed it on Cours de l’Intendance in the town centre and there was a report on them on the local news the other evening. If they are not too far from Bordeaux I could find out the details if you like, or someone could ring them on their behalf and find out if there is something local to them.