Console takeover delayed as counsellors fear they will not be paid

Plans to allow crisis-hit suicide-prevention charity Console to be taken over by a rival group are being delayed due to concerns the group’s counsellors will not be paid money still owed to them by former chief executive Paul Kelly, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Political Reporter.

Console takeover delayed as counsellors fear they will not be paid

Plans to allow crisis-hit suicide-prevention charity Console to be taken over by a rival group are being delayed due to concerns the group’s counsellors will not be paid money still owed to them by former chief executive Paul Kelly, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Political Reporter.

It is understood the issue is one of a number of points which have failed to be clarified by either the charity, the Department of Health, or the HSE despite intense negotiations on transferring the services to Pieta House in recent days.

After a fortnight of scandal involving the organisation and Mr Kelly, Console was last week wound up with a deal struck to move its services to another group.

It had been expected this measure would be resolved by the weekend due to the fact Console has no funds available and the need to ensure there is no gap in services offered to vulnerable people depending on the organisation’s national help-line and bereavement counselling sections.

However, while talks with Pieta House — which is now the sole group likely to take over services — are continuing to take place, the Irish Examiner understands that a key dispute remains over whether 12 staff and up to 60 counsellors who have not been paid for months will be compensated for their lost earnings.

Sources close to the process last night said the issue is the main stumbling block in signing off on any transfer of services, as it remains unclear whether the HSE will provide additional funding to pay these people for their work, including while the scandal has erupted in recent weeks.

The issue is likely to be raised during a private member’s bill debate in the Dáil this evening on the need to regulate the charities sector in light of the crisis uncovered by the HSE’s internal audit team.

The debate, which has been sought by the Social Democrats and the Green Party, will specifically state that the charity sector is being damaged by repeated “poor governance” and has suffered a loss of trust from the public.

It will call for a “critical review” of the HSE’s overview of the sector, a “system-wide review of the governance and reporting procedures for public funds to charitable organisations”, and a “mandatory” training programme for charity directors to be imposed.

In addition, the motion will also seek to strengthen the legal powers of auditors and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, the latter of which last week opened a criminal investigation into Console.

Meanwhile, the scandal at the charity — which is being investigated by six other organisations, including the Revenue Commissioners which have delayed their investigation for a number of days in light of the ongoing takeover talks — is due to be discussed at a High Court sitting today.

The court is due to hear a review of the assets held by Mr Kelly, his wife Patricia, and their son Tim, after an affidavit seeking the information was sought last week.

Two cars taken from the Kellys — including a high-powered Audi — are due to be auctioned this evening at Wilson’s Auctioneers on the Naas Rd in Dublin in a bid to retrieve funds for the crisis-hit charity.

This story first appeared in the Read More: Irish Examiner .

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