Praxis chief's wife earns up to £78k as director at the charity
The wife of Northern Ireland's top-earning charity boss is also employed in a lucrative executive role within the organisation.
Irene Sloan earns up to £78,000 each year as director of care at Praxis.
She is married to Nevin Ringland, the £142,000-a-year chief executive of the leading mental health provider.
Between them, the couple earned at least £187,000 last year from the charity.
It is understood Ms Sloan's wage has been nearer the top end of her £45,000 to £78,000 salary bracket, which would have pushed the couple's earnings above £200,000.
That does not include other benefits such as pensions.
Praxis said all salaries were benchmarked against other organisations and reflected the expertise and experience of senior staff.
However, it will raise further questions about its pay structure.
Praxis is Northern Ireland's biggest charity, and specialises in mental health and learning disability issues.
Founded by Mr Ringland in the 1980s, it now employs more than 1,200 staff and has 1,500 clients.
It has been in the spotlight because of a long-running court battle with the Northern Ireland Office over a cafe at Hillsborough Castle.
The Belfast Telegraph has been investigating the salaries of senior staff at the charity over the last 10 months.
Last May we revealed how Mr Ringland earned £142,000 a year - just £500 less than Prime Minister David Cameron.
And last month we reported how his overall package last year was £210,000.
Praxis pointed out that Mr Ringland's salary did not increase, and the higher figure was the result of back-dated pension changes.
His wife, who is listed under her maiden name on Praxis's website, is one of six members of its senior management team.
Praxis confirmed director grade remuneration runs from £45,000 to £78,000.
The charity's most recent annual accounts filed with Companies House show three directors earn between £70,000 to £80,000. Praxis would not confirm if Ms Sloan was one of the three.
Added to Mr Ringland's salary, it would put the couple's combined basic pay at between £187,000 and £220,000 a year.
Praxis's accounts also show that total pension contributions made on behalf of staff earning £60,000-plus were £41,373 last year.
It is not known how much of this total contribution related to Ms Sloan.
Praxis's website lists Ms Sloan as director of care with lead responsibility for quality & governance and development. It states: "Irene has worked with Praxis Care since October 1993, having previously worked in the statutory sector for 15 years in a variety of posts, which included operational responsibility for mental health services and learning disability services.
"Irene has a particular interest in staff development, research and organisational systems."
Praxis said the current senior managers in Praxis Care had extensive executive management experience within the statutory and independent sectors.
"All directors of care opted to take a decrease in salary and benefits to take up employment with Praxis Care," it said.
Praxis added: "It is not unusual for employees of any organisation to be married or be in a relationship. At Praxis Care, when such circumstances arise, stringent governance processes are put in place to ensure recruitment, performance and remuneration of the individuals concerned are independently appraised and managed."
Details of senior staff remuneration are 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.
'All directors took decrease in salary to work here'... what Praxis said:
Full statement from Praxis Care Board:
"Director Grade remuneration runs from £45,000 to £78,000 and is set lower than the NHS equivalent band.
"This band was set by the remuneration committee of the board following an independent formal job evaluation comparing Praxis Care directors with similar NHS staff in the United Kingdom.
"The current senior managers in Praxis Care have extensive executive management experience within the statutory and independent sectors.
"All directors of care opted to take a decrease in salary and benefits to take up employment with Praxis Care.
"It is widespread practice for women to retain their maiden names on getting married and that is a matter for them, not their employers.
"It is especially commonplace amongst professional women with an outstanding reputation in their field of expertise.
"Ms Sloan would be considered to be one of the most respected, experienced and professionally qualified managers working in social care today.
"It is not unusual for employees of any organisation to be married or be in a relationship.
"At Praxis Care, when such circumstances arise, stringent governance processes are put in place to ensure recruitment, performance and remuneration of the individuals concerned are independently appraised and managed."