Pieta House criticised over salaries of staff

By Maurice Garvey

PIETA House has been criticised for the salaries of it’s top six earners, which combined, are in excess of €500,000 per annum with CEO Elaine Austin being paid a salary of €120,000, up to almost €150,000 with benefits.

Since opening its doors in Lucan in 2006, Pieta house have grown to operate 15 centres and five outreach services across Ireland.

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Mark Ward, TD

Mark Ward TD, a prominent mental health activist, who has taken part in fundraisers for Pieta House over the years, said he was shocked to discover the high salaries, coupled with the service running at a loss pre-Covid and set to pay €420,000 in redundancies this year.

The Sinn Féin Deputy raised concerns last November that Fine Gael leader of the Seanad Senator Regina Doherty joined the board of Pieta House.

“Put into context, some front-line therapists only receive a salary of €25,000 per year,” said Deputy Ward.

“I highlighted last year concerns I had with the governance of Pieta House when questions were raised about its finances. Pieta’s 2019 accounts show a deficit of €700,000.

“The massive fundraiser on the Late Late Show helped the organisation. This was in addition to €2.5 million in government support. Pieta also availed of the wage subsidy scheme.

“To hear today that Pieta will be paying over €400,000 in redundancies this year is worrying. When people fundraise for Pieta they do so to support service delivery and not to pay the wages of top earners.”

Deputy Ward said he received information from self-employed therapists that “counsellors only charge Pieta €24 per hour, yet the State is funding Pieta to the tune of €1,146 per hour”.

Pieta’s CEO Austin and the charity’s chairman Fergus Clancy wrote to the HSE and Government several times last year calling for a €4.4 million financial boost as they were struggling to survive after their key fundraiser Darkness Into Light was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Pieta have said it is a large organisation with over 200 staff and raises millions of euro annually through the generosity of the public.

“We are a professional organisation providing life-saving counselling to those in suicidal crisis. Thousands of people depend on this service.”

In a comment to The Echo, a Pieta House spokesperson said: “There are no planned redundancies in 2021 so we’re unsure why a figure of €420,000 is quoted in this context.

"Therapists work 12-20 hours a week and their pay of €25k reflects this.

"The HSE is funding 300 hours of counselling a week at a cost per session of circa €85 not the €1,146 quoted by Deputy Ward.”

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