independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Drug addiction charity accused of making users work 18 hours a day unpaid

A member of Victory Outreach selling raffle tickets outside a shop
RTE Investigation Unit report - Beggars Belief
A member of Victory Outreach selling raffle tickets outside a shop Photo: RTE

A CHARITY which claims it can help drug addicts recover from their addiction through prayer alone has been accused of requiring vulnerable service users to work up to 18 hours a day for no pay.

The church Victory Outreach was the subject of an RTE investigation in which drug users attempting to recover from their addiction were offered places in the charity’s five recovery home in exchange for their social welfare payments.

Hidden camera footage showed people who used the centres were then ordered to work for up to 18 hours a day going door- to-door fundraising for the charity, as well as distributing leaflets and selling raffle tickets.

The report also revealed that publicly donated money was used to pay for holidays for senior staff and residents of the centres to Hollywood and Las Vegas, among other destinations.

Often recovering addicts were required to work in pubs and other unsuitable locations which could cause them to suffer a relapse, while the recovery programme saw addicts go “cold turkey” despite the medical dangers.

The secretly-filmed footage showed a researcher from the programme who went undercover was offered no therapy or treatment of any kind, despite presenting with a severe alcohol problem.

The report also featured interviews with several people who had resided in the recovery centres.

One man said he had been ordered to “put a great deal of effort” into raising money for Victory Outreach including cutting lawns and said “there was no recovery in it at all”.

Another member of the service told how he was arrested and charged by gardai for illegal fundraising. He said when he approached the charity requesting a letter indicating he had been fundraising on its behalf, he was refused and served two days in prison before being released.

In response to RTE, the charity said in the past “there was a breakdown in communication and some people fundraised without permission” but it said this was no longer the case.

In relation to allegations that the charity only accepted people who could pay for the service through their social welfare, it said it took people “irrespective of their financial status and whether or not they are in receipt of social welfare payments”.

It also said it was a “recovery home, not a rehabilitation home which had a proven track record of success in assisting people with addictions”.

In response to the allegation that recovering addicts were ordered to distribute leaflets, the charity said residents deliver leaflets to develop their life skills and give them a sense of responsibility and said it was not done on a commercial basis.

 

Sam Griffin

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