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Fears after substance support group halts operations

By Lesley Houston

Published 10/03/2016

Resignation: Anne Bill
Resignation: Anne Bill

Drug and alcohol abuse support group the Forum for Action on Substance Abuse (FASA) is being investigated by the Charity Commission after it suspended services due to serious financial difficulties.

The service had 60 paid staff, who are set to lose their jobs, and 70 volunteers.

FASA said “all services have been suspended” due to “terminal financial insolvency”.

However, its Shankill Road headquarters was open last night, and is due to stay open this evening.

But it is believed that after tonight it will shut, cutting off an estimated 4,500 service users from help dealing with self-harm, substance misuse and mental health problems.

Management of the body — which has branches in Bangor, Ballymena, Ballywalter and Belfast — is now seeking an urgent meeting with Stormont ministers over funding.

It is understood CEO Anne Bill had resigned from the organisation recently.

The Charity Commission said last night that it was investigating “concerns” over FASA.

It added that the “charity is co-operating with the commission’s investigation”.

There are fears that the demise of the organisation will result in the deaths of vulnerable people battling drug and alcohol addictions.

In a statement last night, the board of FASA made the announcement “with overwhelming sadness”.

“FASA is facing the prospect of immediate and terminal financial insolvency,” it said.

“As a result all services have been suspended.

“We are deeply committed to the vital services which FASA provides to needy and vulnerable individuals and we are seeking urgent meetings with funders and with political representatives at the highest level to avert this crisis and to enable the continuation of these essential support services.”

Rev Lesley Carroll, Ulster Unionist Assembly candidate for North Belfast, said she feared for FASA’s future.

She added: “The loss of this resource could result in loss of life.”

If you have been affected by this statement and require support please contact Lifeline on 0808 8088000 or the Samaritans 116 123. 

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