Console is set to run out of funds next week

Suicide prevention charity may be wound down following financial scandal

Scandal-hit suicide prevention charity Console could be wound down within the next week, The Irish Times has learned.

The charity is due to run out of funds next week, and senior Government and health figures expect it to cease at that point.

It is understood the Government and the Health Service Executive (HSE) have stressed the reputation of the charity has been damaged beyond repair.

Both sides are keen to stress the services offered by Console will not be affected and the helpline amongst other services will continue.

A number of suicide prevention agencies are to be approached about taking over the services provided by the charity.

Samaritans Ireland and Aware are among the charities that figure in contingency plans being drawn up by State agencies to ensure the services provided by Console remain in operation.

The possibility of the HSE providing some of the services is also being examined as it becomes less likely Console will remain in operation in the longer term, according to sources.

Options

Government sources said there were a number of options available: to retain Console, to wind it down or to rebrand the agency.

However, there is a strong sense and expectation that the charity will not continue.

The Public Accounts Committee members received the final report of the charity's audit by the Health Service Executive last night.

The committee will today discuss the contents before deciding who to invite to appear before it.

The HSE will be asked to attend next Friday.

The Revenue Commissioners have become the latest State agency to begin a formal investigation into the charity, following closely on the criminal investigation opened by the Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement.

There is growing concern within the HSE over the financial fallout from the scandal at Console, as it is likely the cost of running the charity’s two main activities, suicide helplines and counselling services, will rise if switched to other operators.

Funding ‘hole’

Within Console, interim chief executive

David Hall

has identified a €30,000 a month “hole” in the funding of the charity’s services by the HSE.

In addition, he has pointed to “legacy issues”, including a €19,000 unpaid phone bill and a €70,000 debt to the Revenue Commissioners.

A final decision on the future viability of Console has to be made before mid-July, when the HSE is due to make its next €70,000 payment for the services provided by the charity.

Mr Hall was due to deliver a report yesterday evening on the finances of the charity to the HSE and the Charity Regulator John Farrelly.

The provision of services “in some other way” by other agencies was one option under consideration, he said.

Mr Hall called on the State agencies – six of which are investigating Console – to “stop dithering” and to stick with the current staff and services being provided.

A spokesman for the HSE said it was continuing to engage with Console and the Charities Regulator and was finalising contingency planning that would allow for the continuation of the services currently being provided.

Staff are due to be briefed on the developing situation at a meeting today.

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