Belfast Telegraph

Frantic efforts to stop drug support charity going under

By Rebecca Black

Stormont has been asked to carry out a financial investigation following the collapse of a drug support charity last week.

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

World champion boxer Carl Frampton has 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 take place on Belfast's Shankill Road tomorrow 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.

Last week its board said it is "facing the prospect of immediate and terminal financial insolvency".

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

The FASA board has now announced that 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 from across the community in fighting to maintain FASA services.

It continued: "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FASA added: "Our current financial status has not come as a result of our funding being withdrawn for the services we provide.

"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."

The charity revealed that two Stormont departments have been asked to carry out a financial audit. The Charities Commission is also investigating.

A FASA spokesman added: "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. 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.

"The liquidation will commence on March 16, 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."

Belfast Telegraph


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