SERVICE cuts in Pieta due to funding issues are leaving some of the most vulnerable people in Donegal at risk.
Staff in Letterkenny have spoken of their fears for the future of the service and have expressed concern at the knock-on effects the cuts will have on vulnerable service users of Pieta House.
Speaking to the Donegal News yesterday, workers at the Letterkenny service who did not wish to be named, said it looks to them that the Pieta House centre in Letterkenny has effectively closed. This is something the organisation denies.
Last week, local Councillor Ciaran Brogan said that almost all staff at Pieta House North West had been put on notice as part of a restructuring plan.
Although more than €2m was raised over the weekend, between a broadcast appeal on The Late Late Show and people taking part in a Sunrise Appeal on Saturday, the suicide prevention service has been forced to implement several cost-cutting measures, including redundancies and salary reductions of up to 30% for all staff.
Pieta said that these measures are needed to ensure that the delivery of services to clients can be protected now, and over the long term.
“We would have over 500 clients on our books but these services are now effectively gone from Pieta House North West, leaving the most vulnerable people in our society at risk of suicide and self harm, those who are already isolated due to the current crisis with this pandemic,” staff said.
“The current situation for clients and staff of Pieta house looks very bleak for the future. They’re talking about replacing clinical support staff with a telephone service which will just not work here with regard to people in crisis.
“All centre managers and clinical support staff nationally have been told that they have been let go from their positions,” they said.
“All five sessional therapists have also be let go while they’re talking about reducing the hours of the one remaining therapist too. We’re deeply concerned that will be left will be an outreach centre when all is said and done,” they added.
Mr Danny Devlin spearheaded the drive to get Pieta House into the North West. He expressed concern at the ‘total disrespect’ the board of directors at Pieta House headquarters in Dublin have treated their centre manager, staff, and clients in Donegal.
“They’re decreasing the amount of therapists and yet the demand for services is increasing, That doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s the same story at centres right across the country and we’re not getting any answers. It would appear now that they’re veering towards a phone service rather than a one to one meeting,” he said.
“They said at the weekend that they’re not going to actually close down any centre but they haven’t given any indication whatsoever of what their plans are whenever the Covid restrictions are lifted. It’s only when those restrictions are lifted that you’ll get the full picture and the fall-out of what has actually happened.
“Some people are still going out of their way to raise funds for Pieta House in the North West. The public are supporting them to the tune of eighty per cent and they deserve answers to the questions that are being asked at the moment,” he said.
“I feel gutted for the centre manager and his staff in Letterkenny because they’re totally uncertain about the future. There’s been no communication at all.
“It’s like two boats side by side. You’ve got the executive in one boat and the staff, fund-raisers and service users in the other one and there’s people standing in between and the boats are moving apart. It’s just going to collapse in the middle,” he added.
In a statement to the Donegal News, a spokesperson for Pieta House said: “Pieta can assure all its supporters and clients that it will continue to offer counselling services in Letterkenny”.
“Furthermore we will continue to provide our service through our 15 locations, plus our four outreach locations, nationwide. This support is currently being implemented via phone based therapy due to the Covid 19 lockdown. We know how critical our free counselling is to communities which are affected by the devastating impact of suicide and self-harm. Pieta will continue to support these communities, and communities across Ireland, into the future,” the statement read.