Leading depression charities to take up Console’s workload

David Hall

Leading depression charities are expected to take over Console’s services this weekend, despite legal technicalities meaning the plan could not be signed off on last night.

It is understood Console’s interim chief executive, David Hall, and HSE officials will meet again with a number of organisations, including the Samaritans and Aware, over the next 48 hours in a bid to agree a way for the services to continue to function.

On Thursday, it emerged Console is to be wound up because the financial scandal surrounding former chief executive Paul Kelly means the service is damaged beyond repair and is set to run out of money within days.

After Mr Hall highlighted the situation in an interview with the Irish Examiner on Wednesday night, in which he also claimed there had been a lack of Government leadership on the issue, Health Minister Simon Harris convened a meeting with him, the HSE, and charities regulator John Farrelly to outline what actions were needed.

After Console’s 12 full-time staff and 60 part-time workers were informed of the situation in a separate lengthy meeting on Thursday afternoon, a number of charities were contacted with a view to taking on the group’s services.

Leading depression charities to take up Console’s workload

While such an agreement was expected to be rubber-stamped by last night, due to Console running out of funds and the need to ensure there is no gap in the vital support services, legal technicalities in transferring services mean the move has been delayed until this weekend.

Although no confirmation has yet emerged, it is widely expected that the Samaritans and Aware will take on Console’s 24/7 national helpline and bereavement counselling services.

Such a development can only take place if the HSE — with the permission of the Department of Health — provides additional finances to the groups to ensure they are adequately resourced to meet the increased demands.

The situation came as new details on the HSE internal audit into Console emerged, a week before HSE officials are due to attend a high-profile meeting with the Dáil public accounts committee (PAC) next Friday.

The document, which stretches to more than 200 pages, says Mr Kelly claimed thousands of euro spent on designer clothes were for service users and not himself, and alleged he and others were entitled to additional perks due to the level of work they performed.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin TD and PAC member David Cullinane last night called on the Office of the Revenue Commissioners to attend the committee’s meeting with the HSE next Friday to discuss the Console crisis.

In a letter to PAC chairman and Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming, Mr Cullinane said he believes Revenue — which is to begin am investigation into seven years of the charity’s books next week — “have questions to answer”.

“Obviously, I cannot go into the details now but I have a couple of concerns that I think are best cleared up sooner rather than later,” said Mr Cullinane.

“The PAC will meet next Friday and I have written to the cathaoirleach and secretary to request that time be given to question the revenue commissioners on their interactions with Console and the various tax and oversight issues relating to its status as a charity.”

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