Donegal’s only non-profit counselling service for children and adolescents to close

Raphoe Diocesan Pastoral Services will cease operating from mid-March, blaming lack of public funding

Donegal’s only not-for-profit counselling service for children and adolescents will close due to a lack of public funding, the provider has announced.

Run by the Raphoe Dioscesan Centre, based in Letterkenny, the service said it had been seeking funding for a full-time director of counselling.

However, in a statement from the board on Monday, they said it was “with profound sadness and regret” that it would see “the complete cessation of its counselling services across Co Donegal due to lack of public funding” for that position.

“Despite consistent, exhaustive and explorative efforts in recent months to secure much-needed rolling investment from the HSE and Tusla to finance these positions, it’s now been confirmed that no funding will be made available,” the board said.


“Consequently, the Raphoe Diocesan Pastoral Services CLG has been forced to take the extremely difficult decision to wind down its counselling provision across Donegal. Services at the Pastoral Centre in Letterkenny and at all outreach centres across the county will cease to operate from mid-March.”

The not-for-profit, community-based organisation had delivered almost 15,000 counselling sessions in the last six years.

A total of 26 part-time counsellors, including 11 student placements, currently deliver the service in seven outreach centres across the county – including Letterkenny, Dunfanaghy, Stranorlar, Creeslough and Buncrana.

Counselling is also provided by the Pastoral Centre at Hughie’s Corner in Carndonagh and Gemma’s Legacy of Hope in Dungloe, which are both community-funded projects.

The service has grown in recent times, with about 120 clients receiving counselling at any one time. More than 350 people seeking counselling support are on the waiting list, which continues to grow daily, the board said.

“The Board is fully aware of the devastation this will cause to clients, people on the waiting list, counsellors, support staff, students dependent on placements, and so many communities across Donegal,” the statement said.

“It’s envisaged that the situation will become even more bleak for Donegal communities, as demand for counselling services steadily grows.”

It added: “The reality is that the loss of this vital service will leave the many thousands of people who need counselling with nowhere to turn. It will also undo many years of hard work invested in building the infrastructure and governance to deliver this service in local communities.”

The Diocese of Raphoe has supported the service since 1992, with additional funding provided via charitable contributions and client donations. In more recent times, Tusla has part-funded service delivery for children and adolescents, the board said.

“It is deeply regrettable that adequate financing is not available to allow the continuation of this essential service, which has been delivered with the utmost dedication, commitment and professionalism by all involved.”

A spokesman for the Health Service Executive (HSE) said a standard application and negotiation process exists within the HSE for funding non-statutory agencies.

“This process is used by the HSE to approve funding to a voluntary/non-statutory agency in relation to health and personal social services through Service Level Agreements. There is currently no such agreement with this agency.”

Tusla was contacted for comment in relation to the funding of the service.

Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times