Tuesday 27 September 2016

Why there is no option but to close the doors at Console

Published 08/07/2016 | 02:30

Over the course of 2012 to 2014, Console had an income of more than €5m.This was made up of generous grants from the HSE and public donations
Over the course of 2012 to 2014, Console had an income of more than €5m.This was made up of generous grants from the HSE and public donations

Q: Console has to close. Why the dramatic move?

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A: The charity undoubtedly supported many people bereaved by suicide through its counselling and helpline. But the financial scandal which has engulfed it robbed it not only of its reputation, but also its financial stability.

Q: The scandal of how Paul Kelly, the founder of Console, squandered funds has left the nation shocked. Why such the huge fallout?

A: It was the way in which he took the trust, not just of the bereaved, but also the many good-hearted people who raised funds.

It had a huge income from public donations. There was enormous goodwill towards Console. People believed that it was all going to the worthy cause. This has now dried up.

Q: How much was that income?

A: Over the course of 2012 to 2014, Console had an income of more than €5m.This was made up of generous grants from the HSE and public donations.

Q: How much of it did Paul Kelly actually spend?

A: The true sums are not known but a HSE audit has found that in just three years around €500,000 went on salaries for Kelly and his wife Patricia, as well as on cars.

Then there was the extravagant spending using credit cards.

They had multiple cards and splashed out around €500,000. Huge sums went on travel, including to European capitals, New Zealand and Australia.

Q: What about the charity's services? Did they suffer?

A: The counsellors were paid below the normal rate. The number of helplines was also cut.

Q: So what is to show for all the funding?

A: Little enough at this stage. There was around €53,000 in a bank account, following the monthly deposit in funding from the HSE.

There is another £47,300 in sterling in a bank account in the UK. It was transferred from Console here to the counselling centre that it set up in London.

There is a property on the Navan Road in Dublin registered in Console's name - but it has €509,000 outstanding on the mortgage. No other properties are registered in the charity's name.

Q: And there are debts too?

A: It has large debts, the extent of which are still not known. Around €70,000 is owed to the Revenue Commissioners.

There are also the outstanding bills to suppliers.

And there are 12 full-time staff who are now left financially high and dry.

Q: What is the next step?

A: The counselling services will be transferred to another charity. This will be paid for by the HSE at a cost of around €100,000 a month.

Q: What of the people who are bereaved and currently in counselling? All of this must have been very traumatic for them.

A: The hope is that many of the counsellors who worked with Console will now continue to work with the new provider.

This would provide essential continuity for people who are vulnerable and have built up trust in their counsellor.

Q: Can the Kellys be pursued for some of the outstanding debts?

A: Several investigations are under way. Console will come before the courts and be liquidated shortly. Legal moves will be made to secure any assets but the outcome remains hugely uncertain.

Irish Independent

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