Future of addiction charity under threat amid HSE review

Future of addiction charity under threat amid HSE review

The future of a charity providing addiction services for young people is under threat following a series of allegations of misgovernance and poor management practices.

The Matt Talbot Adolescent Service (MTAS), based in Cork City, is being investigated by the HSE after the receipt of four separate protected disclosures from employees about poor practices, bullying, and the safety of clients using the service.

The investigation is formally being classified as a “review”, but includes the examination of a number of allegations apart from those contained in the protected disclosures.

Further issues being investigated include the position of a senior staff member who has been suspended on full pay for three years, and the circumstances in which another senior staff member left the organisation in 2017.

The HSE, which funds the service to the tune of €1.2m annually, is expected to furnish the board of MTAS with its findings within the next week.

Apart from the review, Tusla, the child and family agency, is understood to have conducted a two-day inspection without any notice of the MTAS facilities in the last month.

MTAS, set up 20 years ago, has two premises in Cork City where day care, counselling, and education services are provided, and a residential facility in West Cork.

More than 200 teenagers and youths avail of one of the services annually.

Among the strands to the HSE review are:

  • The contents of four separate protected disclosures from staff that include allegations around financial controls, bullying, clinical management, and client safety;
  • The circumstances around a clinical audit of the organisation that was conducted at considerable cost in 2016, and which was not furnished to the HSE for two years;
  • The circumstances around the suspension of a senior staff member on full pay. This person has now initiated High Court proceedings over the case;
  • Recruitment policy for MTAS;
  • The undercapacity at which MTAS has been operating in recent months. This is despite a growing demand for addiction services for young people in the Munster area
  • The chairman of MTAS, former GAA president Christy Cooney, told the Irish Examiner that he would be making no comment until what he termed a “review” by the HSE was complete.

“It is not an investigation, it’s a review,” he said.

“It’s a normal review, we wouldn’t be aware of any issues until the review is complete.”

When specific complaints and allegations were put to Mr Cooney, he said he would not comment on anything to do with MTAS.

In a statement, the HSE confirmed a review, commissioned by the head of Cork Kerry primary healthcare.

“Once a review is completed, the next step is generally to work on implementing an agreed action plan to act on any recommendations. This action plan would be agreed between all the stakeholders,” according to the statement.

MTAS is what is known as a Section 39 organisation which means it is a voluntary body primarily funded by the HSE and providing health or social services.

The HSE funds the Mat Talbot Adolescent Services to the tune of around €1.25m annually with another half a million euro coming from drugs task and education bodies and the probation service.

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