Monday 5 December 2016

HSE transferred €321,000 to suicide agency this year - but just €53,000 left in its account

Published 06/07/2016 | 02:30

An audit of the finances of the London office – set up in 2013 as a service to Irish emigrants – is due to get under way, but has been delayed
An audit of the finances of the London office – set up in 2013 as a service to Irish emigrants – is due to get under way, but has been delayed

The HSE has given €321,498 to Console in funding so far this year - but there is just €53,000 left in the charity's bank account.

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The HSE confirmed yesterday that it provides monthly payments to the charity and contributed €622,204 in funding last year.

Another £100,000 (€117,600) in Sterling is in a bank account in the UK, having been transferred to the Console counselling office in London from Ireland. Moves are now to get under way to freeze the money in the UK account.

It will be a matter for the UK charity regulator to bring proceedings to freeze this money.

An audit of the finances of the London office - set up in 2013 as a service to Irish emigrants - is due to get under way, but has been delayed.

Interim chief executive David Hall told the Irish Independent he hopes to meet Health Minister Simon Harris and Minister of State Helen McEntee shortly with a view to drawing up a plan to secure the future of the charity.

Full-time staff at the charity were given their wages last Friday and counsellors are due to be paid today.

Three staff tendered their resignations when the revelations of Paul Kelly's financial misconduct first emerged but they have since decided to stay with the organisation, which provides an essential counselling service for the bereaved.

Mr Hall said the "elephant" in the room was the legacy payments that were due and had yet to be calculated.

The charity has a large list of suppliers who need to be paid.

Efforts are also going to be stepped up to ensure that fund raising for the charity continues although this is expected to be hit in the wake of a lack of public trust.

A meeting is due to take place early next week with a number of fundraisers.

The hope is that the public will make the distinction between the activities of former CEO Paul Kelly and the work the charity does.

"When people have lost someone to suicide, the fundraising is deeply personal and traumatic," said Mr Hall.

One family felt so close to Console they left the memorial cards of a loved one who died by suicide at the charity.

The charity has a number of major fundraising events later this year, including a Walk the Camino for Console in Spain, which begins in late September.

It lasts for eight days and is one of the big generators of funds for the charity.

There is just one property which is registered in the name of Console. However, it has around €509,000 in an outstanding mortgage. Mr Hall is investigating links between the charity and other properties.

Nationally, the HSE is currently spending more than €5m on funding for suicide organisations.

The organisations apply for the funding, which the HSE said must meet various criteria.

Currently, the HSE has a network of around 22 suicide resource officers who are involved in suicide prevention and in developing local action plans.

As part of the national suicide strategy launched last year, the aim is to improve the response to suicide prevention and care and make it more co-ordinated.

It will mean that some suicide groups may lose funding once a local plan is drawn up.

This is aimed at bringing more structure to the ad hoc system of funding groups which has arisen in recent years and avoid situations where there are overlaps, or even gaps in services.

Irish Independent

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