Friday 23 February 2018

Phone bill for Console’s suicide helpline hadn’t been paid for 12 months

Interim Console CEO David Hall Photo: Tony Gavin
Interim Console CEO David Hall Photo: Tony Gavin
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

The former interim CEO of Console David Hall said despite the charity offering an emergency suicide helpline, the company hadn’t paid their phone bill for 12 months, with an outstanding bill of €3,000.

Hall told RTÉ’s Marian Finucane show that “behind the drama” there were hundreds of people still looking to the charity for help.

“Behind the drama, behind the story there were 350 people in counselling and 29 people ringing a suicide phone help-line everyday, a third of which were new clients and I said who is running the show?

“The phone bill for the suicide helpline hadn’t been paid in 12 months. There was a €3,000 outstanding bill."

Hall said he rang Eir and told them they weren’t getting paid because the charity “were goosed” and asked to transfer the phone line so they could continue to use the helpline. 

He said that amidst the drama surrounding Console, the staff were overlooked.

“The concerning part for me was that everyone had missed the services amidst the drama. Who is running the show for the 350 vulnerable people who needed counsellors?  These were staff that hadn’t been paid. They were after getting bashed around by the charity they loved, slapped around as a brand and they still showed up for work,” said Hall.

“They weren’t paid, they were in the middle of a storm that was very difficult for them yet they all stayed by their clients for three solid weeks to allow me and others to go in and try to take control of the situation.”

Hall said that everything would have fallen apart immediately without the staff, who are now working with Pieta House under a contract with the HSE.

“Everybody had an obsession with the sexy part of the story, the newsworthy part but forgot the basic. The staff saw Prime Time with no advanced warning on Thursday night and turned up to work on Friday morning unpaid, some having being not paid for months.”

He said the legislation to regulate charities in Ireland isn’t strong enough and was brought in “half-assed”.

“(The legislation) was a knee-jerk reaction. People involved in the industry weren’t involved in the construction of legislation and they weren’t listened to.”

Hall said that that there needs to be stronger legislation because of the volume of charities in Ireland.

“We have an entire social structure where services of a very high quality are provided by charities.  

“Many of the large hospitals in Dublin are charities. Schools are charities. Some of these organisations are far more nimble than a state organisation would be. They need to be managed and supervised effectively."

He said that there were too many charities in Ireland and “we can’t become too obsessed setting up a charity in an immediate knee-jerk reaction to a cause but you’re never going to get people to devote themselves out of work”.

He said the biggest lesson he learned from the recession was that the majority of people are good but there always a few bad eggs.

“The lesson is that as a society the majority is good, we’re good people we want to help each other and support the underdog. Yes there are a couple of people there who will always have a bizarre view but as a country we can adapt and react very quickly we want to support each other, we don’t want to tolerate messers and people who are taken the proverbial.

“We’ve got people there who need help and support and need emotional and physical support and some of us are fortunate enough to be in the position to help that.”

He said that while Ireland has seen improvement from the recession there are still people out there struggling with debt, which has a massive impact of mental health.

“It hasn’t gone away, it’s getting worse. For the small amount of people they are more impacted now.”


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