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Cash-strapped charity’s spending disclosed

A charity for abused women which is facing closure because of a lack of funds spent more than 99 percent of its funds on salaries, payroll costs and administrative expenses last year.

Financial records show that The Centre Against Abuse spent $359,285 of its $413,000 fund last year on salaries and other payroll costs, and a further $51,961 on office expenses — a total of $411,246.

The centre did spend $47,000 in running costs for its shelter, including $14,000 in insurance, $8,700 in gas and electricity and $10,000 on a rebuild — ending the year in debt by more than $61,000. And included in its payroll costs are the salary for a shelter matron earning $86,546 and counsellor fees of $1,485. But office staff were paid $207,214 while other expenses included pensions of $8,790 and medical insurance at $32,224. The charity has three full-time and one part-time staff members.

The bulk of the centre's $51,961 bill for office costs — $34,450 — was swallowed up by rent.

Last month the charity announced it was shutting down its shelter — the only safe house on the Island for vulnerable victims of domestic violence — because of a lack of resources. And executive director Laurie Shiell told The Royal Gazette that the cash-strapped charity will have to shut down completely unless it can raise more cash.

Since then, the organisation has launched a highly publicised campaign to raise funds.

The latest accounts for the charity reveal that 87 percent of its income between April 2013 and March 2014 was spent on payroll costs. An additional 12 percent of income was used to cover office costs.

According to US watchdog CharityWatch, administrative and fundraising costs of less than 40 percent are “reasonable for most charities”.

“Most highly efficient charities are able to spend 75 percent or more on programmes,” the watchdog claims.

Last night Ms Shiell defended the charity's accounts, saying that it did not spend money “foolishly”.

She pointed out that some of the salaries were paid to professional staff who provided a 24-hour service for people in desperate need of help.

“If you measure it out, it's very little money because our people are getting paid a minimum,” she said.

“We are not here to provide alternative accommodation, we provide a service, with people doing work that simply can't be done by volunteers.

“If there is some notion out there that we have been spending our money foolishly, that's a foolish notion. We are here because we are dedicated professionals, not because of the money.”

Ms Shiell declined to say how much she is paid, but stressed that it was far less than executive directors in commercial companies.

“I left a job to take this job and I am earning $50,000 less than I was, so I am not getting paid what a typical executive director gets paid — I came in with a salary that is below the minimum standard,” she said.

She added that the charity's expenses will be less this year because of downsizing.

Community Minister Wayne Scott has come under increasing pressure to bail out the charity in recent weeks. Last year Government paid out $100,000 to the organisation, but it cut the grant to $75,000 this year. Campaigners have now called for more public funds to be pumped in, claiming that the shelter's closure was “tragic”.

An online petition was launched, while Shadow Health Minister Kim Wilson called on Government “to uphold their responsibility to the community to provide sufficient funding to keep the safe shelter open”.

“As the only provider of this kind for the entire community, the Centre Against Abuse must be supported through sufficient funds from the Government in order to meet its mission of providing a safe shelter to those in our community who are the victims of abuse,” Ms Wilson said.

“The safety for victims of domestic violence and their children must be a priority and the Government should provide sufficient funding now and ensure that future expenses are all budgeted for on an ongoing basis.”

And one man, Mark Anderson, walked the length of the Island in an eight-hour fundraising effort.

Editor's note: On occasion The Royal Gazette may decide to not allow comments on a story as we are legally liable for any defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

Laurie Shiell

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Published September 29, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated September 29, 2014 at 2:59 am)

Cash-strapped charity’s spending disclosed

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