Belfast Telegraph

Charity chief Nevin Ringland gets £210,000 in a year

By Adrian Rutherford

A charity boss saw his earnings soar above £200,000 in the last year, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Nevin Ringland is already one of Northern Ireland's highest paid third sector chief executives, with an annual wage of £142,000.

Now it can be revealed that Mr Ringland, who is the head of mental health charity Praxis, received more than £210,000 during the past financial year.

The package, which includes his pension and other benefits, rose by almost a third on the previous year.

His remuneration is disclosed in Praxis's latest annual accounts, filed with Companies House.

Praxis said Mr Ringland's salary has not increased, and that the hike in overall earnings is the result of changes to his pension.

The charity said the £210,000 to £220,000 total quoted in the accounts is explained by backdated pension payments, adding that the arrangements actually represent "significant savings" for the charity.

Yet the figure will raise eyebrows and prompt fresh questions about the wider issue of charity bosses' pay.

DUP MLA Jonathan Craig said he had concerns about a number of charities' salary costs.

"I would share the concern felt by many members of the public about the salaries of charity chief executives," he said.

"Someone giving their hard-earned money to charity will expect it to go to aid and help people.

"They will not, and this goes beyond Praxis, expect it to go on salaries for administrators and senior management."

Praxis is Northern Ireland's biggest charity, dealing with mental health and learning disability issues.

The charity was founded by Mr Ringland in the 1980s and now has more than 1,500 clients.

It hit the headlines last month when a High Court judge ordered Praxis to relinquish possession of its walled garden cafe at Hillsborough Castle.

Mr Ringland's remuneration is disclosed in Praxis's accounts for the 2013/14 financial year.

It reports income from charitable activities of £27,919,847 - up by £923,000 on the previous 12 months.

Meanwhile, Praxis's staff costs were £21,955,603, a rise of £1,083,000 on the year before.

The accounts add: "One employee received emoluments including benefits in kind between £210,000 and £220,000 during the year (2013: £160,000-£170,000; one).

"This employee's emoluments increased between 2013 and 2014 due to the individual opting to convert an entitlement to employer pension contributions into basic salary, reduced by the value of employer NICs due thereon."

It said three employees received emoluments of between £70,000 and £80,000 during the year.

The issue of charity bosses' pay was the subject of a Belfast Telegraph investigation last year.

We reported how Mr Ringland's £142,000 salary was one of the highest for a third sector chief executive in Northern Ireland.

It is just below Prime Minister David Cameron's £142,500 salary.

At the time we surveyed 60 charities, three of whom paid their chief executive over £100,000.

Mr Craig said an "open and transparent" system which details charities' overheads and staffing costs was needed.

"I am aware of other charity bosses earning huge sums of money, which are very hard to defend," he added.

"I think people who give what little they have will be absolutely alarmed and disgusted to see figures like these bandied about."

A statement issued by the board of Praxis, which is responsible for staff remuneration, said salaries were benchmarked against similar organisations to ensure good value and retain managerial talent.

"Mr Ringland is paid on a salary scale which progresses from £75,000 per annum to £142,000, the maximum on that scale.

"This is fully commensurate with his skills, abilities and leadership qualities," it said.

The board said that Mr Ringland gave back £15,340 of his salary to Praxis in 2013.

It also explained that the high remuneration quoted in the accounts was caused by pension changes.

"In 2010, the pension provider for Praxis Care was changed.

"Alternative pension arrangements were not put in place for Mr Ringland until 2014," the board added. "The figure quoted in Praxis statutory accounts therefore includes pension contributions for 2014, along with backdated payments from previous years.

"The new arrangements represent significant savings for Praxis Care over the period."

Praxis's board added that the total also includes a "notional figure" of £18,658 which relates to a company car and is included in the total for tax purposes.

'Pay in private sector would be far in excess'

What Praxis said: "The remuneration of all staff including the chief executive is fixed by the board's remuneration committee.

"We benchmark against similar organisations in order to ensure good value and retain top managerial talent.

"Mr Ringland is paid on a salary scale which progresses from £75,000 per annum to £142,000, the maximum on that scale.

"This is fully commensurate with his skills, abilities and leadership qualities. Under the 35 years of his leadership, Praxis Care has progressed from a small non-profit enterprise in Northern Ireland to an international organisation, operating across four countries with an annual turnover of £28million, providing accommodation and support for 1,500 service users and jobs for over 1,200 members of staff.

"The equivalent salary for a chief executive in a private sector company of this scale would be far in excess of his current remuneration.

"His salary remains at £142,000. However, in the 2013 year Mr Ringland gave back £15,340 of this to the organisation, a gesture appreciated by the board which is reflected in the annual report.

"The explanation for the figures stated in the accounts is as follows.

"In 2010, the pension provider for Praxis Care was changed. Alternative pension arrangements were not put in place for Mr Ringland until 2014. The figure quoted in Praxis statutory accounts therefore includes pension contributions for 2014,along with backdated payments from previous years. The new arrangements represent significant savings for Praxis Care over the period.

"In 2014, Mr Ringland was provided with a company car. An inland revenue notional figure for the vehicle of £18,658 is included in the accounts. This figure does not reflect a salary payment. It is the figure that the government uses to calculate the tax to be paid by Mr Ringland for the use of the company car. This is reflective of the new tax reporting rules for all not-for-profit organisations in the UK."

Statement is from the board of Praxis, which is responsible for staff remuneration

Man who founded Praxis after death of mother

Nevin Ringland founded Praxis in 1980, and has helped grow it into Northern Ireland's biggest charity.

As a teenager he cared for his mother before getting a job at the then Purdysburn Hospital to support her.

He vowed to set up a charity to help carers as he put himself through university and gained a degree in psychology.

After working for another mental health charity in London, Mr Ringland returned to Northern Ireland and set up a group that would go on to become Praxis.

It now employs around 1,200 staff and has 1,500 service users.

In a 2011 BBC interview, Mr Ringland explained how the charity got its name.

"I wanted to find something that's meaningful, but also catchy," he said.

"So I sought out a lecturer in Greek and explained to them what I wanted to achieve through the charity.

"They came up with about six different words, and Praxis was one of those words. One of the meanings of Praxis is that where theory and practice interact, the result of that interaction is the praxis."

Mr Ringland explained the charity is important to him because of his own experiences.

His father died when he was 10 and his mother was admitted into hospital at 16.

"I was living on my own and not having a lot of support from either the state or from charities," he added.

"So I understood a little bit about what a lack of care can do for an individual."

Mr Ringland said demand in the mental health and learning disability sector has increased dramatically since the 1980s.

He explained the satisfaction which the charity has brought him.

"When I see the look on a vulnerable person's face, when they've actually achieved something that they perhaps thought they could never achieve, and with the support of Praxis have been able to achieve that - that's what keeps me going now."

According to Praxis's website, Mr Ringland is a graduate in psychology, and also holds a diploma in business administration from Queen's University.

It states: "Nevin has accrued a broad experience in a number of mental health and learning disability settings, culminating in the setting up of Praxis Mental Health as a charity in 1981 and two further charities Challenge and Respond in 1993."

Praxis has been in the news during the past year after it was ordered to leave Hillsborough Castle.

The charity had been running the Secret Garden cafe within the walled garden in the castle grounds for around 14 years.

However, the Northern Ireland Office asked it to leave last year because of plans to hand over the running of the castle to English heritage charity Historic Royal Palaces.

Praxis refused to leave, starting a year-long stand-off until last month when a High Court judge ordered it to go.

Our investigation delved into health, poverty and the arts

Ten months ago the Belfast Telegraph investigated the issue of charity bosses' pay in Northern Ireland.

We surveyed 60 of our best-known charities asking for the salary of their chief executive.

Over half - 34 - confirmed their CEO earned more than £50,000. Three earned over £100,000. Another 13 - around a quarter - declined to comment.

Our investigation covered charities which covered health, poverty, the environment and the arts.

Where the charity is UK or Ireland-wide - for example Oxfam and Christian Aid - we asked for details of their main representative in Northern Ireland.

Over a third - 22 of the 60 surveyed - agreed to disclose their CEO's exact salary, another 23 provided salary bands.

Two responded with partial answers, indicating their senior official earned above or below £60,000.

The rest refused to release any details.

The highest salary was drawn by Nevin Ringland, who is chief executive of Praxis.

Other charity bosses drew salaries of more than £100,000.

These include Tim Cooke, then director and chief executive of National Museums NI, which is a non-departmental public body and a registered charity, who earned between £105,000 and £110,000. Mr Cooke resigned from his post in November.

Peter Power, all-Ireland executive director of Unicef, received a €140,000 salary - equivalent to £114,000.

Kieran Murphy, national director of the St Vincent de Paul Society, received between €115,000 and €125,000 (£93,647 to £101,791), while Oxfam's all-Ireland chief executive Jim Clarken received €110,000 (£89,576).

Peter McBride, chief executive of mental health charity Niamh, earned between £90,000 and £100,000, while Contact chief executive Fergus Cumiskey drew £85,714.

The Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action carries out a salary survey every three years.

Under the statement of recommended practice, charities must disclose the number of directors earning over £60,000 in their annual accounts.

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