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Mayor of Ennis Ann Norton

Crusade to avert 2020 closure

Clare Crusader’s Clinic is facing the threat of closure by 2020, unless major Government funding is provided on a annual basis.

While neither of the co-founders, Councillor Ann Norton and Frank Cassidy, want to close the clinic, they have warned its current losses are unsustainable without Government funding.

In the wake of the Console scandal, the co-founders have decided to open the accounts for the first time to dispel the perception that it has loads of spare cash.

According to profit and loss accounts provided to The Clare Champion, the clinic has accumulated losses of €107,341.

The charity made a slight profit of €1,495 in 2012, a profit of €14,615 in 2013 before sustaining a major loss of €48,523 in 2014. The clinic suffered further losses of €17,587 last year and €41,231 for the first six months of this year.

Fundraising from 2005 to 2016 generated a gross return of €2,684,779, less €395,931 in costs, giving a net figure of €2,288,848 for an estimated 76,295 hours of therapy.

Out of this figure, the State contributed €40,000 over an 11-year period, which represents 1.5%.

The main sources of income were: events, €1,136,765; marathon, €593,286; donations, €487,563; cycle, €277,555 and White Collar boxing, €149,610.

Wages and salaries paid to therapists have grown slightly from €210,605 in 2012 to €221,231 in 2015, while rent has practically remained constant at €10,800.

Frank Cassidy, who is a chartered accountant, proposed the clinic would have no problem matching a government grant of €125,000, considering the clinic provides in the region of €60,000 in PRSI and PAYE contributions annually.

All donations that come directly to the charity are receipted and Carmody Kelly Accountants audit the accounts on an annual basis.

About 85 cents of every euro raised goes directly to pay seven therapists and one administrative staff, while ten cents goes on rent and five cents on utilities.

“Clare people have paid enough for Clare Crusaders. It is time for the Government to step up and maintain it. Without people’s generosity, it would not exist. It is very difficult to keep asking the same people over and over again for money.

“Without the charity people would not be employed. We are collecting money in PRSI and PAYE and paying it over to the Government. If the clinic was making an industrial electronic part we would be able to claim all our tax back but because we are providing a service to a special needs child, we can’t,” Mr Cassidy stated.

He said the clinic has not increased service provision in the last six or seven years and admitted that people are “sick of seeing the Crusaders collecting money”.

“If we maintain the current service, we will be out of business in four years due to losses. It is not sustainable without major Government support. We could cut the service but then you go past the point of a positive contribution, as the children may only get therapy once a month,” he added.

Councillor Ann Norton acknowledged the charity is constantly collecting money, which is a turn-off for some people who have contributed generously in the past. She stressed there is no other way to keep it going however.

“People have been incredibly generous to Clare Crusaders but there comes a point when people say ‘I have given enough to this charity’. We have seen this in the fall from some of our traditional sources of income, such as the marathon and cycle, which now account for only 20% of income,” she added.

Eighty percent of funding has to come from donations and individual events throughout the year. Only for a €49,000 cheque from Genworth in Shannon, which was spread over 2014 and 2015, the clinic would have lost in the region of €100,000 at the end of last year.

If another big sponsor does not come up trumps this year, the charity could be facing a shortfall of up to €50,000, she added.

Ms Norton said it is “farcical” that the clinic is providing a free service that the Government should be providing, is employing seven people and has also paid in the region of €225,000 in employer’s PRSI without any State support or rebate.

Councillor Norton said she consistently lobbied Oireachtas members to try and remove this anomaly but without any success to date.

Following General Election 2016, which she contested unsuccessfully, the Barefield mother-of-three again sent letters to Deputies Pat Breen, Joe Carey, Timmy Dooley and Michael Harty seeking their assistance in securing Government funding.

She said she had got a “standard letter” back from the deputies, pledging they would look into the matter and get back to her.

“I speak to deputies regularly. Not alone am I talking to them with a begging bowl, they are also asking me to look after their constituents’ children,” she added.

The clinic cannot provide any more services for new children, as it does not have the capacity to deal with the demand it currently has, which Councillor Norton claimed has “gone through the roof in recent years”.

“Unfortunately we had to make a decision whether we want to provide a proper service to children who are attending, or do we spread it out and end up not giving a full and proper service,” she added.

Despite giving talks in schools and public events, Councillor Norton admitted not everyone understands what the clinic is doing and many do not believe that the clinic doesn’t get any Government funding.

She half-heartedly joked that when some people see her on the street, they cross the road as they are worried she might be looking for sponsorship or another spot prize for the clinic’s latest fundraiser.
“The reality is I am looking for sponsorship on a daily basis. I always have a begging bowl out,” she said.

Mr Cassidy admitted the other major frustration is the high staff turnover, as the HSE recruits most of their therapists, who are highly trained and skilled at no cost to the health authority.

He said the HSE should be paying the clinic a recruitment fee, as most of their therapists were poached after two or three years.

Mr Cassidy stressed that neither Ms Norton or himself get a cent from the charity in terms of wages, director’s fees or expenses and their only reward is the fact their children get the best one-on-one therapy, which wasn’t available before the clinic was set up.

Dan Danaher

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