Sunday 22 September 2019

Suspension of funding could cost us staff, warns Scouting Ireland

The organisation saw some €1m state funding suspended in April by Children’s Minister
Katherine Zappone. Photo: Frank McGrath
The organisation saw some €1m state funding suspended in April by Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Frank McGrath
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

The withholding of funds from Scouting Ireland is "inhibiting" their ability to hire staff to fill safeguarding roles and may have to let go current staff, the group has said.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone suspended about €1m in State funding for the organisation in April when concerns about the group's handling of a rape allegation emerged.

Representatives of Scouting Ireland appeared before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs yesterday.

Martin Burbridge, the vice-president of Scouting Ireland, told the committee the suspension of funding had had an "immediate and serious" impact on the group's finances.

The funding, which makes up about a third of the group's funding, pays for their national office and 34 professional staff.

If the funding issue was not resolved in time, staff would be placed on protective notice in June, Mr Burbridge said. Some "key" staff members had already left the organisation due to uncertainty. It was also proving to be an "inhibiting factor" in attracting suitable staff.

The group said 10 more staff were already required on top of the extra safeguarding staff and it "does not have the financial resources to close this HR gap".

Safeguarding consultant Ian Elliot, who compiled a number of reports into a specific case and overall procedures of the organisation, has recommended an overhaul of the way in which child safeguarding is addressed. The previous set-up allowed for lobbying of members by those party to a complaint, it was found.

Ms Zappone said it was not her intention that Scouting Ireland became insolvent. A report compiled by former senator Jillian van Turnhout into the matter is due to be completed in the coming weeks.

Scouting Ireland also apologised for any "anxiety and hurt" caused. The group pledged to improve in areas including governance and safeguarding.

Meanwhile, a barrister-led report into the handling of the rape allegation is due to be concluded by the end of May.

An allegation of rape was made by a female leader against a male leader. The complaint, disclosed in 2016, alleged the rape took place on a 2009 camping trip. When the DPP decided not to prosecute, the man was reinstated without being officially vetted again. The board later approved the man's promotion, and some directors knew of the allegation against the man.

Irish Independent

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