Console staff to be made redundant on Friday

Pieta House to take over services provided by scandal-hit suicide prevention charity

Former Console chief executive Paul Kelly. Staff at suicide prevention organsiation  are to be made redundant on Friday after the charity was placed in provisional liquidation. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times.

Former Console chief executive Paul Kelly. Staff at suicide prevention organsiation are to be made redundant on Friday after the charity was placed in provisional liquidation. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times.

 

Staff at suicide prevention organisation Console are to be made redundant on Friday after the charity was placed in provisional liquidation.

Pieta House, another suicide prevention charity, is to take over the services offered by Console, salvaging relationships between councillors and clients and maintaining a helpline that deals with thousands of calls annually.

The move followed talks with Console’s interim chief executive David Hall. The High Court heard that Console had debts of €294,000 and was close to no longer being able to provide its services.

Console has come under intense scrutiny since an RTÉ investigation raised issues about governance, the charity’s accounts and spending by its founder Paul Kelly.

There are currently seven live investigations into Console.

Redundant

Its staff are expected to be made redundant on Friday with Pieta House management due to meet contracted counsellors to assess the possible continuation of their services.

“It will be in everyone’s interests to try and maintain those relationships if at all possible,” Anne O’Connor, HSE national director for mental health, said at a press conference on Thursday.

Console had employed 12 full time staff and 60 counsellors, while its operations included one-to-one therapy to 314 people and responding to about 6,000 requests for assistance every year, including an average of 29 helpline calls every day.

“This was not a charity shop that could just be closed. This had live people being counselled and being prevented from suicidal tendencies,” Mr Hall said.

“This was not about the biggest and best. This was about a safe pair of hands in a timely manner.”

Mr Hall said the appointment of liquidators and transfer of services to Pieta House were necessary and unavoidable and will “protect the wonderful services being provided by Console”.

He said the entire country had been “understandably exercised” by the recent revelations at Console and that those who supported and fundraised for the charity have been devastated.

‘Feather nests’

Mr Hall said “no one in the charitable sector should be allowed feather their own nests, especially using the grief of others” and that the kindof events seen at Console “must never happen again”.

The HSE was careful to point out the move is not a “transfer” of services and the deal brokered with Pieta and approved by the High Court also dealt with potential data protection issues.

“The Office of Corporate Enforcement has a criminal prosecution ongoing currently and obviously want to seize the files belonging to Console,” Mr Hall said.

“And therefore we had to ensure, and all parties had to be engaged in a proactive discussion over the last four or five days, to ensure that patient confidentiality is paramount. That has now been secured. An order has been given by the High Court to ensure that happens.”

Sensitive case file information would now be vetted by the HSE before any information is released to investigators, he said.

Staff at Console have received 89 per cent of money owed to them over the last three weeks although a total of €74,500 remains outstanding from before the documentary was aired. A Revenue payment of €5,000 was also made recently.

Creditors bills amount to just under €300,000. Mr Hall said suppliers had been “very reasonable”, particularly Eir in respect of the charity’s phone line.