Belfast Telegraph

FASA latest: Drugs charity staff will stay as volunteers to care for clients

The charity announced it had been forced to suspend all services last week due to financial crisis

The news of The Forum for Action on Substance Abuse (FASA)'s crisis sparked shock and worry across the community last week.

World champion boxer Carl Frampton added his voice to those speaking out in support of FASA.

Almost 7,000 people have signed a petition urging politicians to help save the vital service and a rally is set to place on the Shankill Road on Tuesday evening in support of the charity.

FASA has been working for more than 20 years to help people struggling with substance abuse and mental health challenges.

However, a board statement confirmed that it is facing an uncertain and challenging immediate future due to financial reasons.

The organisation employed around 60 staff and is helped by some 70 volunteers.

The FASA board has now announced 13 staff have been asked to remain on a voluntary basis to continue some of the charity's important work.

The statement released on Saturday said the charity has been overwhelmed with the support it has received across the community in fighting for maintaining FASA services.

"We would like to take this opportunity to provide an update on the current situation and to thank everyone who have worked tirelessly in recent days to support the survival of life saving services within our communities," a spokesman said.

"On Wednesday 9th March 2016, sadly FASA Chair Stephen Reynolds announced that FASA were to suspend all services this resulted in 46 staff members being made redundant with immediate effect. Thirteen staff were asked to remain behind in a voluntary capacity across our sites to continue to support those most vulnerable and complete transfer of clients to other services, Funders are supporting us to manage this difficult transition.

"This task has been difficult, challenging and very emotional for all involved."

FASA has also moved to clarify its financial status.

"Our current financial status has not come as a result of our funding being withdrawn for the services we provide," a spokesman said.

"The organisation in recent months has experienced financial hardship in relation to cash-flow problems in sustaining the full range of services that FASA have provided to meet the needs of its services users.

"In recent years FASA has endeavoured with support of our funders to become a regional organisation, unfortunately the risk elements attached to this strategy have proven to be detrimental to the organisations existence."

The charity has also revealed that the Department of Social Development and Department of Health will carry out a financial audit.

"Within today's competitive sector and without full cost recovery in place to match our service delivery we find ourselves in a position of insolvency," he said.

"We have asked the Department for Social Development and the Department of Health to carry out a rigorous and full independent financial audit. We are supporting the Charities Commission for Northern Ireland in their investigation.

"Until last Wednesday the delivery of our specialist services were carried out professionally by our staff and volunteer teams. We thank our staff and volunteers for their work and ongoing commitment to maintain a level of service within this crisis to support the most vulnerable affected by substance abuse, suicide and self-harm.

"The liquidation will commence on 16th March 2016 , however we will continue to endeavour to look for the vital funds needed to secure a rescue package that would allow the services to remain within local communities.

"Should this happen it will enable FASA to take learning from this situation so that we can plan and implement a review of service delivery, staffing levels and our social economy projects under the guidance of a new robust and corporate structure from the Board of Directors downwards."

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