Thursday 29 September 2016

'The sense of betrayal we feel is intense' - Parents of children at St John of God special needs school 'furious' over salary top-ups

Meadhbh McGrath

Published 07/07/2016 | 16:54

Bags and coats hanging in children's cloakroom
Bags and coats hanging in children's cloakroom

Parents of children attending a St John of God-run school for students with special needs have demanded that the charity release the names and salaries of executives who benefited from top-up payments.

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The charity is now subject to a HSE probe after it emerged that that 14 senior managers in the organisation shared in a payout of €1.64m in 2013.

The payments varied between €50,000 and €250,000 at the tax-payer funded charity.

Furious families of students attending St Raphael’s special school in Celbridge, Co Kildare, demanded that the charity reveal who received the money.

“I am disgusted that some executives in St John of God are lining their own pockets while my son and many other children and adults who attend the school/services in St Raphael's suffer cuts,” said Aisling McNiffe, whose son Jack (11) attends the school.

“Should these excess funds not have been used to ensure services improve or at least continue?”

Brian and Deirdre Kiernan, parents of 12-year-old Kate, added: “It's unjust and immoral that services to the most vulnerable children and adults are being cut while the executives of the very same service are secretly topping up their already obscene salaries.”

The school has said that consultants advised that the controversial payments be made to discharge a pension liability.

It also said the money did not come from any public funds and was from the Order’s own resources from rental properties, investments and donations.

The St John of God-run school in Celbridge caters to pupils aged five to 18 years old with moderate, severe and profound intellectual disabilities.

Other parents at the school condemned the top-ups as “immoral” and “outrageous”.

Michael and Lorna Collins, the parents of Sean (10), said it was “disgraceful” that services had been “snatched away from the most vulnerable, mostly non-verbal clients”.

Philip and Chris Hannon, whose daughter Mary (10) attends the school, added: “The sense of betrayal we now feel is intense as we learn that some of the senior executives who imparted information about rationalisation and cutbacks to us were at the same time receiving secret top-ups to their salaries."

A spokesman for the St John of God Order told Independent.ie: “We fully appreciate and understand the level of hurt some parents are expressing about the payments and services, but we are satisfied, that following the HSE review, the payments will be seen as a discharge of pension and contractual liabilities.”

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