The country’s main autism charity Irish Autism Action, once fronted by Boyzone star Keith Duffy, did not write a budget for 2016.
“There was no budget actually written for 2016, as a matter of fact,” said CEO of Irish Autism Action (IAA), Brian Murnane, yesterday. “And, you know, budgeting is kind of a hazardous occupation in a charity, simply because you’re at the mercy of fundraised income, which had fallen by 30% in each of the prior two years.”
He was speaking after a meeting with parents of autistic children in Dublin. The meeting was held by Irish Autism Mammys after news broke that the charity was cutting back vital outreach services due to funding constraints.
The outreach service is the IAA’s main direct provision for children with autism. There are now only two families in the country in receipt of the service. This is despite new figures showing that one in 65 school pupils has an autism diagnosis in Ireland.
Other concerns included a poor helpline service, with several mothers alleging the IAA failed to return calls.
“I never got a response [for three years]. I rang and I rang and I rang. I did keep on ringing because that’s how desperate we were,” said one mother, Yvonne O’Toole.
Mr Murnane admitted that the helpline is not manned in the way it is advertised.
“We do imply that it’s Monday to Friday, nine-to-five, but it is not manned nine-to-five because the person who handles it is doing other things in support of fundraising initiatives or assisting in advocacy or meeting the Taoiseach or things like that,” he said. “You get the answering machine and we try to call you back. The evidence appears to suggest that we don’t get back to everybody and there’s probably a number of reasons for that, some of which is we simply get many more calls than we can possibly return.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved