Welfare changes put addiction centre’s future in jeopardy

One of the most established addiction treatment centres in the country has warned its future is in doubt because of changes to welfare payments.

Tabor Lodge, a charity based in Ballindeasig, Cork, reported a €163,000 loss for 2012 and blamed its fortunes on a decision by the Department of Social Protection to restrict support for treatment. The company said a €1,500 exceptional needs payment had previously been available to people seeking help for alcohol, drug, and gambling addictions.

However, it said this had been curtailed since the department took control of the community welfare system in Oct 2011.

The charity’s board has sought meetings with the HSE at national level but have been told it is a local issue.

Tabor Lodge’s general manager, Ailleen O’Neill, said the situation had not changed recently and the service fears that this is preventing some people from contacting it.

Since the accounts were filed, the company separately noted that it had repaid a longstanding €600,000 debt that was due to its founders, the Sisters of Mercy.

This had built up since 2001 and related to set up costs for its Eagle Valley facility and unpaid rent in Ballindeasig. Ms O’Neill said the loan had to be repaid because it was conditional on developing the Ballindeasig site.

Despite its expansion plans, Tabor Lodge’s accounts for 2012, which have just been filed, said the exceptional needs policy may have future consequences.

It said the application of the exceptional needs payment has worsened in 2012 and less than one third of applicants to community welfare officers were receiving the €1,500 support payment for addiction treatment.

“The approval rate is one of the greatest concerns to the directors as the full cost of treatment will have to be recouped from residents,” it said.

“This will directly and significantly impact on the ability to operate as heretofore in accepting residents for admission where flexibility with regard to payment options was given.”

Ms O’Neill said Tabor Lodge worked hard to source support from other areas and worked with clients to set up payment plans following their treatment.

The department said there was no automatic entitlement to the exceptional needs payment and it was at the discretion of community welfare officers.

“The scheme is not intended to cover circumstances where responsibility rests with another [agency]. Funding [in relation to Tabor Lodge]... is a matter for the HSE,” it said.

At the end of 2012, Tabor Lodge clients owed €233,000. It was expected €196,000 would be written off as bad debts.

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