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Console staff to be made redundant as Pieta House takes over services

All charity services will be transferred with immediate effect.

File Photo SUICIDE CHARITY CONSOLE is to be wound down following revelations that its founders spent donated money on personal expenses. The HSE is looking to transfer its services to other organisations within the State. The decision was taken after a m Source: Sam Boal

Updated 6.05pm

SUICIDE CHARITY PIETA House is to take over the services of scandal-hit charity Console on behalf of the HSE.

All of Console’s charity services will be commenced by Pieta House with immediate effect.

Staff members will continue to provide their services under Pieta House, which will have discussions with all staff and contracted workers about their future work status.

The news was delivered at a delayed sitting of the High Court in front of Justice Paul Gilligan today and a HSE press briefing this evening.

Counsel for the HSE Rossa Fanning told Justice Gilligan this afternoon that an agreement had been executed between Pieta House and the HSE.

“The HSE believes that Pieta House is ideally placed to take over the services of Console,” Fanning said.

At the press briefing this evening, former interim CEO David Hall described the new provider as a ‘safe pair of hands’.

The services that Pieta House is to provide will be the 24/7 Suicide Helpline, the Suicide Bereavement Liaison Service and the Suicide Bereavement Counselling Service.

Pieta House says it is working on transferring the phone numbers of the services and will also be engaging with landlords of the current Console premises to see if the service locations can also remain the same.

“That would facilitate the ease of clients receiving the services as they are,” according to Pieta House CEO Brian Higgins.

Higgins also said that he hoped that people receiving bereavement counselling would be able to continue with the same counsellor.

“There has always been a warm handover of clients, so really we did feel there was an onus on us to ensure that clients will receive the best quality services moving forward,” he added.

14/07/2016 Lawyers for the HSE have told the High Pieta House CEO Brian Higgins. Source: RollingNews.ie

A temporary framework has been arrived at to take over those services which will last 10 days. Another more complete and detailed agreement will be agreed at that time. The nature of this bridging agreement is to provide necessary continuity to Console’s services.

It is expected that Console’s staff will be made redundant tomorrow. In total, they are owed €74,500 but their redundancy will be the State redundancy scheme.

“We hope to speak to [Console] staff imminently to see if they would be interested in taking a contract with Pieta House,” Higgins said.

‘Traumatising events’

In a statement, Hall said that staff had been traumatised by recent events.

“Amidst very difficult public focus on an organisation they had worked so hard to grow, clients whose lives they helped save and change, the staff stood by their clients despite not being paid,” he said.

Their courage and commitment to their clients was inspiring.

Court hearing

Fanning explained to the court that some of the terms of the agreement are “commercially sensitive”, and that the HSE will effectively be transferring all its current Console funding to Pieta House in order for it to take over those services.

“This is a heavily negotiated agreement,” he said.

14/07/2016 Lawyers for the HSE have told the High Former interim CEO of Console David Hall at this evening's press conference. Source: RollingNews.ie

He also warned that with those services transferring with immediate effect, it is envisaged that there could be a hiatus of “about an hour” where the charity’s helpline will be unavailable.

Fanning said that the HSE will be in a better position to outline the transfer of services and how it functions in two weeks time, 28 July, at 2pm.

He also mentioned that all of Console’s clients will have the option to decline to transfer their cases to Pieta House if they should wish to.

Console’s accounts

The court also heard from Sean Guerin, counsel for the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, that, when his client gains access to Console’s financial files and accounts with a view to a criminal prosecution, that the clients of Console’s personal files “will not be in any way compromised”.

Fanning agreed that this would be the case.

Earlier today in the same court, Justice Gilligan granted a request to appoint a provisional liquidator to Console.

In the application requesting the provisional liquidator, interim Console CEO David Hall stated that he initially contacted Pieta House regarding the “future sustainability” of Console on Tuesday, 5 July 2016.

Hopelessly insolvent

At the hearing earlier this afternoon Justice Gilligan was requested to appoint the liquidator by Hall.

The suggested provisional liquidator is Tom Murray, the forensic accountant who has been investigating the charity’s finances with Hall.

In Hall’s application to appoint a provisional liquidator, it was revealed that Console had been a loss-making entity for several years, “despite the accounts saying otherwise” according to Justice Gilligan.

The application showed that the company is currently indebted to the tune of €295,000.

It owes the Revenue Commissioners €77,500, suppliers €90,860.54, and its own staff €74,421.

It needs €105,000 monthly to function, and is currently in receipt of €53,000 each month from the HSE.

It was noted also that none of the company’s directors realised they were directors.

“The only reason the company has survived for the last few years is due to the support of the health authorities,” Justice Gilligan said.

I am satisfied that Console is hopelessly insolvent and is not in a position to meet its liabilities.
I therefore must accede to the application to appoint a provisional liquidator to the company.

Criminal investigation

Justice Gilligan also earlier heard submissions from the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) and the HSE.

Counsel for the ODCE Seán Guerin told the court that, in the event of the liquidation application being approved, the ODCE would be seeking access to the charity’s corporate accounts and files for the purpose of a criminal investigation.

The 24/7 Suicide Helpline is open on 1800 247 247.

Originally published 15.05; With reporting by Rónán Duffy

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