Charity now accused of financial irregularities told student (20) it couldn't afford to fund her counselling sessions
A Charities Regulator report found that the charity had weak internal financial controls
A young woman with ataxia has revealed she asked a charity now accused of financial irregularities to fund vital counselling sessions but was told there wasn’t enough cash.
Niamh Herbert (20) asked for the counselling sessions to help her deal with anxiety and depression associated with the neurological condition.
However, Ataxia Ireland told her they could only afford to pay for five sessions.
Last week it was revealed the charity paid €84,009 to two former trustees Clare and Tim Creedon who founded the charity in 1980 and are the parents of current CEO Barbara Flynn.
The charity had weak internal financial controls and Ms Flynn’s pension contribution of €38,500 was paid from funds rather than deducted from her salary.
The Charities Regulator's report also revealed that annual credit card spending of €10,030 at the charity included purchases of alcohol supermarket food, vouchers and payment of mobile phone bills.
Ms Herbert, a student of European Studies at Trinity College, claimed that many of these financial transactions were happening at the same time she was denied a "full round" of counselling sessions.
“They only offered me five counselling sessions which was just ridiculous really because any good counsellor will tell you that they need a minimum of 10 sessions with the client to get to know you and what you need.
“Offering five sessions didn’t really do anything.”
She added: “It was very upsetting to learn that at the same time I was looking for help this money was being paid to Claire and Tim Creedon. That €84,000 paid out could have helped a lot of people.”
Ataxia is a neurological condition which affects co-ordination, balance and speech. In severe cases, ataxia can be fatal in childhood or early adulthood.
Those diagnosed with the condition suffer obvious physical effects but Ms Herbert said a large number of people also encounter mental health problems.
Ms Herbert, from Sallins, Co Kildare, explained that she was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia when she was 13.
She explained that this is why the counselling is so crucial.
“I suffered a long time with anxiety and to this day I still suffer with anxiety. I know it is not all Ataxia Ireland’s fault but if they had helped me when I was a teenager I believe that things would have been different.”
Ms Herbert explained that both she and her family have contributed significant amounts to the charity through fundraising drives.
Her mother and friends ran the Dublin Women’s mini marathon while Ms Herbert even completed a skydive - raising €2,500 alone for the charity.
Separately, her family also ran an 80s night in their local town with all money raised going to the charity.
Ms Herbert said she now wants to know where all this money has gone.
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“It’s very saddening to hear about it. It will be hard to trust other charities in the future," she said.
Independent.ie contacted Barbara Flynn and Ataxia Ireland for a comment.
On their website the charity confirmed: “Ataxia Ireland CLG received the Inspectors' report from the Charity Regulator this morning.
“We are reviewing the report and will be responding to the CRA within 21 days.
“We confirm we will take appropriate action in line with the recommendations to ensure we are fully compliant.
“We have no further comment to make at this time.”