Crisis at Rape Crisis centre

I heard on the news this evening that the Rape Crisis centre in Belfast was going to have it’s funding cut, and I determined to find out a little more about the story. I haven’t been able to find any press releases or other links for this particular crisis, but I can see that this is something of an annual event for the centre. It certainly arose as an issue in 2002, and interestingly the Assembly reports that additional funding was made available for audit work and strategic planning to take place. I find records in 2005, when funding became critical once more for them. Update Thanks Pete for this link for the story, not much but at least its on someone’s radar.

There is no doubt about the excellent work done at client and promotion level by the centre and the volunteers, but as anyone in the voluntary sector will attest to, provision of service must be coupled with excellence in accounting and accountability. Hopefully there will be a Press Release tomorrow, and this will be followed with interest.

  • I guess politicians everywhere prioritize and some things are less on their radar than other things.

  • Pete Baker

    The issue isn’t that the politicans have prioritised something else.

    As the various links, and the comment by Miss Fitz, make clear, this has been an ongoing issue since at least 2002:

    The Permanent Secretary at the Department, Andrew McCormick, said the centre had continually failed to meet government accounting requirements including keeping proper records and proper corporate governance arrangements.

  • Pete Baker

    Miss Fitz

    Another link here

    “Every year, the Department of Health gives about £60,000 to the organisation.”

  • Rory

    I do not know of the circumstances or performance of this rape crisis centre but the ominous words of the Permanent Secretary ring the gloomy tones of a familiar bell-

    … the centre had continually failed to meet government accounting requirements including keeping proper records and proper corporate governance arrangements.

    I have been involved in so many such well meaning and socially necessary ventures where the failure of financial accountability led not only to the destruction of the necessary work of the venture and corruption of workers therein but also served to destroy the very ethos of the need for care within the very community they were first established to serve.

    I sometimes feel that it suits the purpose best of monetarist hardliners in authority to throw funding at such ventures, then fail to strictly monitor the accounting and let them self destruct so they can hold their hands up after and say with a good degree of self-righteous authority “What can you do with such people?”.

    The experience of Erin Pizzey (whom I knew) who founded the very first “battered wives shelter” in London is worth reading.

    The awful anarchic funding by neo-Trot councils in England in the seventies and early eighties for every crook who claimed special consideration for their ethnicity, sexual preference, or plastic-art form ( for which naturally they were the self proclaimed leader in the community) did so much to allow the madness of Thatcher and the Poll tax that followed.

    Old trade union, labour and communist leaders were always most stringent in their insistence upon financial accountability and understood well that their people, scrimping as they must, demanded no less.

    It was the neo-liberals and dilettante Trots that, in their decadent bourgeois irresponsibility, paved the way for the Good Housekeeper, the Blessed Margaret.

  • In the South, Olive Braiden wasa good PRO for the Rape Crisis Centre but these things don’t really get votes so they are not prioritized. If they were, the government would constructively address the very important accountability issue.

    Rory: I have to agree with you about Trots, neo libs and similar types. The type of stuff you criticize is still widespread with NGOs, charity groups and the like.

    Government agents want to always peel back budgets and if addressing rape is only a budgetary matter, they will cut.

  • Miss Fitz

    I think I should clarify that the funding is available to the RCC,but is being held until they provide adequately audited accounts.

    What surprises me is the length of time this has been rumbling on, and how much help they have been offered, according to the reports.

    Voluntary agencies, no matter how excellent their mission and service, cannot allow themselves to be above the boring bits of running a charity.

  • Animus

    Having known some people who have used the services of the RCC, the service is theoretically brilliant, but delivered in a rather haphazard way. In the specific case I am aware of, the Centre ended up managing the case so poorly the person felt she would have been better not to have used the service. I suspected that this was either due to the ongoing funding crisis, or that the haphazard service was symptomatic of haphazard management, but really couldn’t tell.

    I agree with Miss Fitz – it’s not enough just to provide a worthwhile service, it has to be competently managed. Voluntary sector organisations are slowly realising that good governance is a necessary aspect of their service, not an aspiration or an optional extra.

  • Yokel

    So the problem is they don’t organise their books. Harsh as it sounds, they need to sort themselves out.

    These people deserve support but if Eileen Calder is anything to go by there is a zealot like approach which perhaps does them more damage than good and may underlie the problems they have with funding (speculation). I cringe when I hear the woman on the radio. I they want help with their PR and strategy, fine I’ll do it for nothing but jesus, get organised please.

  • sevenmagpies

    Given that the RC provides the only free rape counselling for the whole of northern ireland, my first question would have to be: why hasn’t the department been giving Rape Crisis core funding of £600,000 a year to provide a properly staffed and supported 24/7 centre, rather than repeatedly trying to hammer them into the ground over amounts like £60,000.

  • Animus

    If they can’t manage smaller sums of money, why should they be trusted with greater amounts? I agree wholeheartedly that more funding is necessary, but it should be entrusted to a management committee which will provide value for money and a quality service to users. RC haven’t proven themselves so it’s quite right to withhold funding until they can.

  • TAFKABO

    Something doesn’t add up here.

    The truth is that the government relies on volunteers to fulfill many roles in society that really ought to be filled by professionals.Tony Blair gave a speech a coule of years agon in which he admitted the voluntary sector as a whole was worth billions to the government.
    So, on the one hand we have a government which abdicates its responsibilties to its citizens and expects people do vital jobs for little to no money.
    Then they withdraw funding because bookeeping isn’t of a professional enough standard?
    We should keep in mind that the women who got involved with this organisation did so because they probably had been through diffcult experiences which they wanted to use in order to help other women, not because they wanted to be accountants.

    At the very least, shouldn’t the government have put the RCC on probabtion and provided a trainer who could have monitored the book keeping for a set period of time?

    The RCC provides a vital service to the community, and if the government shuts it down, they are responsible for filling the gap.

  • sevenmagpies

    Tafkabo is entirely correct. What the RC have ‘proven’ over the years is that catering for the support needs of about 3000 people a year is virtually impossible when you are relying on the goodwill of volunteers and absolutely minimalist support from local government. Rather than blustering and threats, the Department should be saying (just for a start) ‘not only will we give you the 60 grand, but we’ll give you the extra funding for that full time office adminstrator that you have been requesting year after year for as long as any one can remember’. What are the chances?

  • missfitz

    Tak and magpies

    I dont have any inside knowledge on this, and am just reviewing the material to hand. On the original blog, I linked to an Assembly speech that addresses the points you make, and it would appear that funding was granted to the RCC at that time for someone to audit the accounts and to assist in some strategic planning.

    What I DO know about is the voluntary sector and managing volunteers. My job involves managing a large volunteer team, and my life is greatly enhanced by them. Most of the volunteers do the task for satisfaction or to give something back.

    All of the volunteers involved in my organisation have been properly recruited, screened, inducted, trained and monitored, and receive training twice a year in relevant aspects of their work. In addition, they have a supervision session with me annually.

    What is missing for me, from the RCC annual report is the financial breakdown and summary that I would expect to see. Once again, I have no issue with the work and expertise and value of the RCC, but on the other hand, there are standards of book keeping that need to be seen to. It takes up an annoying part of my week, and I would prefer to be doing the ‘active’ parts of my job, but I know that it needs to be done.

  • Cynic

    I hope they do sort this out but it sounds like simple disorganisation. The Centre does great work and it must continue but a £60K budget doesnt need a full time administrator…just somone to sort out the systems so they keep proper records. I can image that staff can be so distracted with the horrendous problems they must have to deal with that this seems a low priority but that way lies disaster when you depend on Government funding

  • volunteer

    As a volunteer for a community group I can say that it is near impossible to get funding for a full-time manager to run the charity, a role which then falls onto unsuspecting volunteers who stepped forward for the purpose of the group, not for managing a small business. Few volunteers have the financial background needed to handle the work and as such the volunteer work becomes a series of putting out fires and little of the work one thought one would be getting involved in. It is an absolutely insane way to run things but without adequate funding, impossible to do so any other way.

  • volunteer

    To Cynic

    £60K funds how many employees over how many years, and what other over-head costs, building costs, insurance costs, who knows what else, believe me if you are running a small business, which in effect a charity is or the RCC is, you need a full-time administrator. It is not just a matter of keeping records, would that it were that simple, and even if it were down to record keeping, the time and knowledge involved in keeping and managing all the records is no small amount. It can and does eat volunteers alive. It is a full time job.

    In addition staff is hired for a purpose other than management, when they have to take on management roles that means that they are spending less time doing what they have been hired to do and you are left again stretching resources too far, which leads to mistakes, sloppiness, burn out and problems which could be simply solved if funding for management positions could be secured as well as funding for staffing positions.

    I am not part of the RCC but I do volunteer for a charity and it is overwhelming on the management side. Without the ability to pay for a full time administrator we are struggling.

  • Rory

    I have not yet read on this site any topic that elicited such unanimity of common concern as this.

    All contributors have been clear, supportive and positive as to the needs provided by the threatened organisation and all have been quietly tentative in providing a solution.

    Volunteer, Seven Magpies and my dear old enemies, Tafkabo and Cynic all raise the question of the “war weariness” factor(if I may call it that) of dedicated volunteers in the public sector and ask, quite properly, why they should be also required to be accountants simply in order to freely serve to help. ( Do I have this right, guys?).

    Animus rightly points to the cruel necessity of financial accountability, regardless ( good Leninist in that regard, if I may say so, Animus). I also stressed a similar point in my earlier contribution.

    Miss Fitz gets closest to identifying where the problem lies – in terms of funding and performance vs. financial accountability.

    Accountability is demanded by the grant giving authority but the cost of providing that demand is not. And that is a failure that needs be learned and corrected by the granting authorities.

    Such authorities, for all their well meant good will, respond best (if indeed at all) to pressure. So let us pressurise them.

    “Let’s kick some ass here ” in the parlance of the modern military. I am sure Miss Fitz might be our best general in how, where, when and, most especially, who to kick.

    Fancy doing naughty things together against the establishment in order to help the abused and downtrodden, guys and gals?

    Now there’s an offer that I just know you cannot refuse.

  • Cynic

    Volunteer

    I too have experience of running a small charity. Its hard and I agree with some of what you say. But my point was almost the converse of the one you made.

    If the grant is £60K most of that will immediately be gobbled up by the fixed costs – rent, utilities, staff etc. There’s then relatively little day to day expenditure to manage other than perhaps petty cash. On £60k it would be mad to spend say £15k on a competent fulltime administrator just to meet the Government’s acounting requirements. The bottom line is that unless you reach a critical mass in terms of size and funding you cant afford that luxury.

    The big question is therefore the overall funding that Government puts into this when it makes such a big play on supporting victims in the criminal justice system.

  • Miss Fitz

    I think we are all going off on the idea that the only funding available to RCC is this one grant of £60k. From my background in the Vol Sector, I would say that is highly unlikely.

    Just sepculating, but I am quite sure that funding could be sought through PSNI for the work that is done escorting victims, as well as some core funding from each of the local HSS Trusts. In addition, I would have imagined some lottery funding was available, as well as cross border in view of the work being done in that area.

    If the RCC isnt operating with a budget composed of all of these elements, there are even more serious questions to be asked. DHSS core funding is never intended to be the sole source of funding for any charity, it is meant to be part of a larger resource. The £60k is average, from my own experience, and many charities would get that kind of resource, but enhance it through fund raising.

    I have tried to find accounts records for RCC, but they dont seem to be available through the trusty internet.

  • volunteer

    But, Miss Fitz, that sort of sourcing and accounting and record keeping for all the various funders is exactly what you need a full time paid administrator/manager to be doing. Most funded charities are dependent on a number of grants/funders (the one I volunteer for is), that all have different accounting systems and requirements and different deadlines for different things. You need someone with relevant experience and background to be able to focus on all the strands and keep them going, in addition to needing staff/volunteers to do what the charity is supposed to be doing. It is not just a matter of volunteering for a project and magically having the knowledge of how the grant/funding world operates. It’s something you either learn on the hoof as a volunteer putting out fires (and subsequently burn out from the awesome responsibility and fear of making a mistake big enough to torpedo the group), or you can hire someone who has the experience and ability to do the work required.

    But the grant funders don’t think that position is what they should be funding, they only provide for staff to do the work of the service that the charity is providing (or other overhead costs as noted). So you end up with volunteers carrying a load that really someone in a volunteer position should not be burdened with, and it’s the charity that suffers. Volunteers should be supplementing the staff or doing external fundraising – it is a rare gem you will find of a volunteer who can devote the time needed to become a full time manager.*

    Cynic, the charity I volunteer for has 10+ employees that the volunteer committee is in charge of. None of the volunteers have employer experience enough to be thrust into that sort of position – that is just one aspect of the duties of the full time administrator, in addition to managing the grants and funding that comes in. In our case I am not just talking about record keeping but overall management of the charity, which is a full time job, and because of the funding situation, is left to volunteers to (barely) manage. We do alright, but we could be doing a lot better if we were able to pay someone to be there full time to handle the administration role, instead of the ad-hoc way we have to now.

    *Obviously volunteers can volunteer to do whatever they are capable of, but to expect them to step in and run a small business, as the current funding set-up expects, is just insane.

  • Miss Fitz

    Volunteer
    The RCC has a full time, paid Director. It was set up 24 years ago, and I would argue that it should have sorted out it’s funding streams in that time. If you compare it to organistions like Women’s Aid or the PAC, it does not seem to have been able to reach those levels of funding management.

    I did not set out to criticise the RCC, as there is not sufficient information in the public domain to undertake any kind of critical analysis. As I’ve said, I’ve done SWOTs and strategic planning exercises with various charities over the years, and it is very much up to the Director of any of these agencies to either provide or have provided some expertise.

    One other thing Volunteer, I would remind you that in 2002, the RCC was offered ring fenced funding for someone to undertake the very tasks you refer to.

    There is a potential for strident feminism to see itself above male ordered bureaucracy. Again, that is not an accusation here, but in the absence of information available in their annual report or on their web site, one is forced to analyse what is available

  • TAFKABO

    I’m curious as to why you think being a rape crisis centre marks one as strident feminists?

    I’d have thought it was an indication of a basic level of humanity more than anything else.I don’t have the figures to hand, but I’m pretty sure it’s not just feminists who get raped.

  • Miss Fitz

    Taf
    Thats quite unfair, to pick out one comment from a flowing thread.

    I guess you think that was a humourous remark, and frankly, I dont.

    If you’d like to go back and follow the thread, and see where the remark derives from, then I will engage. Otherwise, be silly somewhere else

  • TAFKABO

    There is a potential for strident feminism to see itself above male ordered bureaucracy. Again, that is not an accusation here, but in the absence of information available in their annual report or on their web site, one is forced to analyse what is available

    Sorry Miss Fitz, but I only responded to this paragraph,and the seeming assumtion that in te absence of any over evidence,we ought to assume it was down to strident femeinists striking a blow for the sisterhood.

  • Miss Fitz

    OK Taf
    Well, this is where I was coming from.

    The study of the abuse of women technically startd in the late 1800’s in France, specifically at the Salpetiere Institute under the likes of Freud, Breur, Janet and Charcot.

    These men were studying the causes of hysteria in women, and in some cases found that there was an underlying cause that could be related to sexual abuse.

    As happened frequently during the study of trauma, this research stopped and was not taken up again on behalf of women until the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960’s. Study of trauma has been largely episodic until the 1970’s in fact, and only became a powerful force with the study of PTSD within the Vietnam Vets.

    Once again, it was found that the level of sexual abuse and violence against women both witin and outside a marital setting was extreme, and that many of these women suffered from post traumatic stress symptoms as a result of the brutal treatment they were subjected to.

    The furtherance of study into the effects of sexual abuse has continued, and is associated in some areas with a more strident feminist voice. Some women see this violence against women as a manifestation of male dominance, and it is a political issue for many. It is very much a case of the personal becoming the political.

    The point I have been trying to make, is that regardless of where you are coming from, and despite the tragedies of the population you deal with, there are still administrative tasks that cannot be ignored or forgotten.

    The stories of the women and children coming to the RCC are no doubt powerful and humbling, but that power does not and cannot absolve cooperation with the funding authorities.

  • volunteer

    There is a potential for strident feminism to see itself above male ordered bureaucracy.

    I think that’s a bit of a leap – no strident feminists in the charity I volunteer for and no one sees themselves above bureaucracy. As for the RCC, I don’t know the ins and outs of their particular problem, I am only speaking from my own (admittedly limited) experience. If my experience is an anomaly to the system (which from working with other similar groups it does not appear to be, it appears to be the standard), the we need to figure out what we’re doing wrong! 🙂

    The point I have been trying to make, is that regardless of where you are coming from, and despite the tragedies of the population you deal with, there are still administrative tasks that cannot be ignored or forgotten.

    If that is the excuse that the RCC are using, then fair enough, but otherwise that’s fairly insulting – we volunteers know we have to tend to the administrativia to survive, but it is an all-consuming task, one which as volunteers we are not ideally equipped for. That is the simple point I am attempting to make. It has nothing to do with thinking we are above doing managerial work because our cause it just; quite the opposite, we want to make sure our management is 100% because our cause is just and deserving.

  • Miss Fitz

    Volunteer
    I have no issue with what you are saying, although I think your management might benefit from a long talk with the Northern Ireland Volunteer Development Agency.

    I tried to find your charity, but didnt see any reference to it, but I have no doubt you are all doing a great job, despite the administrative burdens you are fighting against.

  • Dear Yokel

    I had sent you this as a private email but since i’ve had no response here it is.

    Not being a fan of Slugger O’Toole i’m not sure whether your arrogant attitude is something you regularly flaunt.

    As Eileen Calder’s daughter and also a part-owner of a publishing company and owner of a media syndication agency I take great offence at your comments. With a 21 year history of working with the Rape Crisis Centre as both a volunteer and now a staff member I have witnessed how she has dedicated her life to the cause, there is noone more capable of speaking in public about these issues than Eileen.

    I find it hard to believe that you really are actually concerned about the PR and strategy of the Rape Crisis & Sexual Abuse Centre, otherwise, you would have offered the services you seem to be able to spare when you first decided you did not like the way in which she conducted herself on radio etc…

    I sincerely hope that you will do your research, read the background to this issue and develop a more balanced opinion of the situation.

    And I must thank you for your offer of help and request that if you are genuinely serious about offering your services then we would be very happy to meet with you to discuss how you would have tackled these issues differently.

    Lastly, if the dept had not have retracted their agreement to fund the post of an administrator approximately 4 or 5 years ago the RCC would not be in the position it is today – a full time professional would have been able to learn the administerial circus tricks and hoop jumping that they required to a meagre sum and the counsellors would have been able to spend more of their time in counselling.

    I look forward to hearing from you and would be happy to meet at any time at the Rape Crisis Centre.

  • Dear Miss Fitz

    Firstly, I must thank you for starting this thread but I am concerned that the “research” you have been doing is not complete and therefore you are simply only giving little bits of the story which is and has been misunderstood. So I will attempt to clarify some of the points you and others make.

    1. The govt funding that was “allegedly” made available to help the RCC develop strategy and work on their accounts etc….was given to a multi-national business consultation company called PA Consulting who worked a hatchet job on the Centre.
    The woman who carried out the evaluation for PA on behalf of the dept didn’t even complete the report herself as she went on maternity leave. The report was written by a colleague from notes she made during her time at the Centre.
    The subsequent report was not only full of inaccuracies but proved clearly that the company did not understand much of the work and workings of the RCC.
    The RCC then responded to the dept in a lengthly document addressing issues and inaccuracies in the report. Despite promising to take our response seriously and answer many of the questions posed within it the dept HAVE YET to address this issue with the RCC.
    In our response we pointed out how PA Consulting and the dept flouted their own rules and regulations continually throughout the process and demanded answers as to why this had happened.
    Survivors who bravely took ltime out of their days to attend meetings with PA Consulting during the evaluation process were silenced once again and ignored throughout the report.
    We would be very happy to meet with anyone who would like to discuss this issue further, obviously you cannot find any information on this on the web – to understand this issue YOU MUST speak to the people concerned.

    2. On September, 30th 2002 the Northern Ireland Assembly passed a motion to direct the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to adequately fund the RCC. The full debate can kbe read at..
    http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/record/reports/020930.htm

    “Dr Birnie:
    “I beg to move
    “That this Assembly notes the dire financial situation of the Belfast Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Centre and calls upon the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and the Northern Ireland Office to provide adequate funding to ensure the long-term future of the centre….”
    When the Assembly fell so did the directives it had put in place.

    3. In approximately 2002 or 2003 in a meeting with the dept the RCC was promised further funding for a full-time administrator, in a subsequent meeting with the same officials this was denied and they went back on their word.

    4. On the issue of whether or not the RCC could get funding from other sources it amazes me to think that anyone would be so naive as to assume the RCC has not tried every source possible. However, if anyone has any experience and would like to offer their services on a volunteer basis to help us source other funding streams we would appreciate a call from them.

    5. The most recent letter received by the RCC stated that funding would “cease” – it is not a case of it being “withheld” as some have reported.

    To be honest I could literally go on about this for pages and pages, however, I will post the transcribe of our Press Conference yesterday in the hope that those of you who are commenting with aim to arm yourselves with all the facts of the matter before posting.

    I’d also like to thank those of you who took the time to post positive remarks…..

    The Rape Crisis Centre is happy to meet with anyone who would like to discuss this further and have publicly stated that we would be happy for any independent accountant or auditor to take a look at our accounts.

  • PART 1

    Transcribe of press conference at the Rape Crisis Centre

    EC= EILEEN CALDER (CENTRE MANAGER)
    PG= PEARL GRAY ( CENTRE CHAIRPERSON)
    TS= TED SOUTH (BUSINESS MANAGER)
    PM= PHIL MULLAN (CENTRE VOLUNTEER)
    PADRAIGIN DRINAN = LEGAL ADVISOR TO THE CENTRE

    EC:-At the NI assembly almost unanimously the motion was passed that both the NIO and the DHSS should ensure that our centre was properly funded. After that motion was passed we had a meeting with the department who promised to increase our funding and give us an administrative post. Because we have only two staff here who are not trained in administrative matters, and are over worked and under funded and found it difficult to keep up with administrative tasks.
    However when the assembly fell the attitude of the dept changed completely because they were no longer answerable to politicians and they have carried out what I can only describe as a vendetta against this centre The got an org called PA consulting to carry out an evaluation which is a global organisation. They specialise in cost cutting. This evaluation we don’t know how it was tendered for because the department have refused to be clear about the details.
    What is clear is that it was a hatchet job. We proved that they broke their own rules in how to evaluate a voluntary org in a written report so they then bullied us to try withdraw that response but we refused. They then sent in auditors twice. We are prepared for any independent financial consultant or auditor to come in and look at our accounts because it is all there. Even the department has not alleged misappropriation of funds they have worded their press statement so as far as the general public is concerned if they see bad accounting practices they must assume that money is being misused and we want to assure everyone that that is not the case.
    We have this report here. It is full of inaccuracies and lies, and things that have been twisted.
    One example Pearl Gray our chairperson can give you is

    PG:- I came in Jan of this year to do the verification we were told that would take a matter of weeks, became very drawn out. During that time one of our staff members had a death, and I was ill so was unavailable.
    We have since found out that the verification team were told to terminate the business on the 28th Feb. We were not told this, we had assumed that it had come to its natural end, and on the 28th March myself and our volunteer business consultant Ted South were still waiting to meet with them . We have still not been told that the verification team were terminated on the 28th of Feb. We received that information this morning when we got the official letter.

    more to follow…

  • PART 2

    Transcribe of press conference at the Rape Crisis Centre

    EC= EILEEN CALDER (CENTRE MANAGER)
    PG= PEARL GRAY ( CENTRE CHAIRPERSON)
    TS= TED SOUTH (BUSINESS MANAGER)
    PM= PHIL MULLAN (CENTRE VOLUNTEER)
    PADRAIGIN DRINAN = LEGAL ADVISOR TO THE CENTRE

    EC:- They criticise us in the report for not paying our health and National Insurance contributions, and the reason of course that we couldn’t pay them was because they had been holding back our funding repeatedly.
    It’s just incredible that they can actually criticise us for something that is actually their fault.\They cut our money last year for no good reason. We applied for the funding using exactly the same letter as last year except the word ‘etc’ was cut out and so we did not receive funding for a whole lot of things we had received funding for in years gone by. They only gave us funding for what was specifically in the letter. We were told that the department in March last year that they would no longer fund travel expenses, which we have received funding for since the centre opened. There was a seven month period that the staff were not paid.

    PG ::- They also stopped us form paying our accountant and from paying VAT on our rent.. They wanted us to be financially responsible and we were doing that but how could we when they were not giving us the money to do it?

    EC:_ Our accounts are available for anyone to see them

    EC: Any questions?
    NOT QUESTIONS WERE POSED

    TS::- I would just like to make a brief point on the 11th Jan the chair and myself had a meeting with senior civil servants. It was explained to them on numerous occasions before this that this centre needed two administrators. The centre last year took over 3600 calls. The 2 ladies here are in counselling sessions and there are calls coming through, and it is their first contact with a rape crisis centre and so we do require two people to answer the telephones and we were assured this would be a completely new start for this year , 2006/07. At that meeting we requested the documentation to fill in for this years funding in November last, it was brought up again at the January meeting. To date we have not received any documentation at all so in May we sent through our own estimates of what it takes to run this centre. Now we are not looking all the money from government, we are quite prepared to raise money ourselves we cannot do that until we know how much we are receiving from government.
    I think it is despicable that in Jan senior civil servants would say this year would be a new start and in the opening paragraph of their letter it says “The Department of Health Social Services, and Public Safety is committed to funding services for victims of rape and sexual violence in NI”. Well they have some way of showing it.

  • PART 3

    Transcribe of press conference at the Rape Crisis Centre

    EC= EILEEN CALDER (CENTRE MANAGER)
    PG= PEARL GRAY ( CENTRE CHAIRPERSON)
    TS= TED SOUTH (BUSINESS MANAGER)
    PM= PHIL MULLAN (CENTRE VOLUNTEER)
    PADRAIGIN DRINAN = LEGAL ADVISOR TO THE CENTRE

    EC: I could go this report bit by bit but it would take hours. But the biggest criticism they have is that there was £3000 in cash lifted out of the bank. But that was for wages for that month, salaries that owed from the previous month. There is clear documentation and a letter from the bank to show that. Its also shown that no cheques were written that month for salaries. But the way the department have written this its like Pearl stuck it in her pocket and went to Hawaii. It is deliberately misinterpreting things that they have had explanation for.

    PG::- As a 10 year volunteer, and not a trained administrator it was an administrative error on my part. I arranged with the bank for an overdraft, the overdraft was agreed and the bank manager, who has always been very supportive said I can give you that money now.

    PG::- This report makes out that somehow there is no explanation for this even though obviously both Eileen and myself can explain it..

    EC::- We will have a written response on every point in this report within two weeks.

    Another example is Angela one of our volunteers who has a small child, and gets childcare expenses and she uses a bona fide women’s centre crèche,. They have complained about the invoices sent by the crèche, one wasn’t initialled by the owner of the crèche or something ridiculous like that. These are the kinds of things they are picking out. Eileen Kelly and I have been in this centre for 20 years, I have 7 children and I have never received a penny of child care, despite having to be away evenings and weekends on centre business. There’s only two volunteers in the history of our centre who have received child care and yet they are nit picking over ridiculous things.

    TS::-The 2 counsellors, that we are privileged to be involved with, work 7 days a week 24 hours a day. They are constantly on call, its extremely stressful and extremely upsetting. The department are telling lies, they are inaccurate in what they say, they are wrong in their conclusions.\And I can personally assure you that there was no fraud. The first thing I did when I came in here was dept tests and everything was in order, and still is. The veiled implications in this report are atrocious, and coming from a government department it is even worse.

  • PART 4

    Transcribe of press conference at the Rape Crisis Centre

    EC= EILEEN CALDER (CENTRE MANAGER)
    PG= PEARL GRAY ( CENTRE CHAIRPERSON)
    TS= TED SOUTH (BUSINESS MANAGER)
    PM= PHIL MULLAN (CENTRE VOLUNTEER)
    PADRAIGIN DRINAN = LEGAL ADVISOR TO THE CENTRE

    PG::- Can I emphasise that we are being persecuted here because we exercised our democratic right and took the funding issue to the assembly. And we will be taking our issues back then if and when it gets up and running, as well as the judicial review.

    JOURNO: Did you go to the assembly because you had already crossed swords with the civil servants?

    EC:- Yes they said we hadn’t sent in an application for funding that year. That was 2003, so there was a dispute about whether the application had been sent or not. But believe me not matter what you would make sure the application that pays your wages goes in. They said they did not receive it , so we went to the NO assembly and a unanimous motion was passed allowing funding. We have been absolutely persecuted since then.
    The department are punishing all the survivors who use our centre and all the survivors who will use the centre in the future. Sometimes we are all that stands between women and sometimes men, and suicide.
    There are survivors here today all of whom are willing to speak publicly about their stories, and about how the centre has helped them. Because of the nature of our work we cant show all the people we work with, some of their own families don’t’ even know what has happened to them. And the department know this and they are using that against us as well.

    The department have tried to bury this under the world cup final the 12th of July and the anniversary to the 7/7 bombings. The deliberately announced this to the press at a time when they believed it would not get coverage, and they asked our chairperson not to go to the press. And then they sent a copy of the letter which we had not seen yet to the Newsletter. We read that letter the next day for the first time in the paper.

    PG: – (chairperson) I was talking to Mr Andrew Hamilton a senior civil servant, who said we had 14 days to respond . He then said that he hoped he and I would be able to do this without going to the press. I said that a meeting would be called at the centre and the decision to go the press would be taken at that meeting and that he would be the first person to know if we were going to the press. Within minutes the Newsletter and the BBC rang me, they both already had copies of the letter we had not yet seen.

  • PART 5

    Transcribe of press conference at the Rape Crisis Centre

    EC= EILEEN CALDER (CENTRE MANAGER)
    PG= PEARL GRAY ( CENTRE CHAIRPERSON)
    TS= TED SOUTH (BUSINESS MANAGER)
    PM= PHIL MULLAN (CENTRE VOLUNTEER)
    PADRAIGIN DRINAN = LEGAL ADVISOR TO THE CENTRE

    EC:-We dealt with Andrew McCormack who is the permanent secretary in the department and Andrew Hamilton who is a senior civil servant. These 2 very civil servants phoned Pearl in her own home to give her this news. They had asked her to attend a meeting at one day’s notice which she couldn’t attend , she gave them the choice of rescheduling it, they said that was not good enough, and so gave her this news when she was on her own at home.

    PG:- We received the hard copy of the report in the post this morning.

    TS:- Having given the ladies 14 days to reply Mr Hamilton is unavailable to comment he is on holidays for 2 weeks and Mr Frew is unavailable until next Monday so there is no-one in Stormont who is available to deal with this problem. I feel this timing is deliberate. I think that as public servants their behaviour is atrocious.

    Padraigain Drivan (solicitor): _ They also asked me for my comments on the letter which I had not seen and the centre had not received. We needed the letter in order to reply within 14 days.

    EC:_ We will be holding a press conference next Monday at 11am which is not directly connected with our funding but where we will be revealing the most explosive information about how badly public bodies deal with the monitoring of sex offenders, and it relates to the Patrick Coleman case and we will be calling for a public enquiry. I think there is a coincidence between the powers that be knowing that we know this information, and the decision to cut our funding.

    TS:- The centres funding was cut by £15,000 in February and they were informed of this by a handwritten, illegible letter in pencil that a senior civil servant dropped in to the centre. There was a meeting where it was agreed that the move should be properly explained, It never has been.

    EC: We are still owed £17,000 from the funding from last year. Our rent has not been paid and we are behind in our tax and national insurance because of that, and yet they are using that against us. The staff are supposed to be paid on Friday. We are not going to get paid.

    Phil Mullan:- I have worked in this centre for 10 years as a voluntary counsellor and I ‘ve taken calls from all kinds of organisations the PSNI, doctors, CPN, social workers and then friends, mothers and people who have had no-where else to go. When I had to go and visit these people I paid for it out of my own money. And I am outraged that these people are being turned away from this door, and they have no-where else to go. Bureaucrats sitting in an office nit-picking over petty irrelevant details about this centre, when we have been giving our lives and our energies and our entire commitment to survivors of sexual abuse and rape.

  • PART 6

    Transcribe of press conference at the Rape Crisis Centre

    EC= EILEEN CALDER (CENTRE MANAGER)
    PG= PEARL GRAY ( CENTRE CHAIRPERSON)
    TS= TED SOUTH (BUSINESS MANAGER)
    PM= PHIL MULLAN (CENTRE VOLUNTEER)
    PADRAIGIN DRINAN = LEGAL ADVISOR TO THE CENTRE

    EC:- We would hope that regardless of what happens we would be able to keep some kind of helpline open, because of the commitment of the people involved but we will not be able to continue as we do today.

    PG: Existing clients that we are seeing at the minute will be taken care of, whether that means we have to see them in their homes, or what ever, we will not be walking away from the.

    JOURNO: When they say that you continually failed to meet government accounting requirements it sounds very serious.

    EC: It does but the worst example they gave was that one time in 10 years that salaries were paid directly from the bank, at their offer, rather than doing it by cheque. But its very clear where that money went, and that the money wasn’t paid twice or anything.
    They have deliberately twisted things again. That was another example of where we had been waiting and waiting for our salaries and as far as we were concerned it was the quickest way to pay it.
    They describe this as a poor audit trail for salaries due to the sporadic nature…. What about the sporadic nature of them paying us? The money added up correctly but because we were not paid correctly it was more difficult for them to see, but that was their fault for holding up our money.
    Another thing they would consider a serious clerical error was that Eileen Kelly and I get paid exactly the same amount and once we were written out cheques and they got mixed up,.

    TS::_ Also they did not accept invoices that had been rubber stamped and were properly written out but were not acceptable according to them because they did not have the word ‘invoice’ written on it.

    EC:- A MLA Copeland has come out and said that all voluntary agencies are straining under the enormous amounts of time they are forced to spend on bureaucratic red tape. But there is a particular vendetta against us, that has been there since we went to Stormont, and we will prove that in a court of law, and these people will have to publicly apologise for how they have treated us.

    ends

  • Miss Fitz

    Tina

    I’ve just seen your posts this moment, and my first reaction is to thank you very much for taking the time to repsond.

    I dont have the time to read the material right now, as I am off to a bonfire, but I intend to give it my full attention at some point tomorrow.

    I have tried very hard to work within the frame of available information on this thread, and had hoped to elicit some responses. I searched the RCC website for information, the DHSS, etc etc, but there is a paucity of information.

    I also looked to find some kind of public record of accounts, again to no avail, to see what level of overall funding is available to the centre.

    In introducing this thread I stated clearly that there was no doubt about the excellence of the service of the RCC, and I have tried not to let any doubt be cast over that. However, it has been difficult to maintain that with no information, so once again, thanks for this, and a fuller post/ thread will follow.

    YOKEL: You made an offer in good faith, so what about at the very least returning the correspondence that Tina Calder made to you?

  • Les Marshall

    Comments about the financial management of the Belfast Rape Crisis Centre are probably justified but what sort of financial expertise can be bought for £66,000 per year. This amount could not even pay for the counselling service.
    Whilst the government throws buckets of loot at services for paedophiles (one recent project providing a helpline for paedophiles was given six figure sums even before it was up and running and without having to go through the hoops that services for sex abuse victims have to go through)survivors of sexual abuse continue to be marginalised and excluded.