Foyer chief hits back at Executive comments

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COMMENTS by the Housing Executive about Lurgan Foyer and its management have been strongly refuted.

The row erupted as the NIHE have yet to find suitable housing for the young residents at Mount Zion. The NIHE’s Southern Area Manager Mrs Lorraine Campbell, who was critical of the Foyer at a recent meeting of Craigavon Council, has come in for strong criticism by the Shankill (Lurgan) Community Project management.

SLCP chief executive, Janice Bunting said their organisation had never met nor discussed the housing project with this manager, nor had the manager visited the project.

Ms Bunting refuted allegations by the NIHE that the SLCP had been given “numerous opportunities to meet required standards” adding the NIHE had only undertaken two visits in 12 years to consider standards.

“The first visit took place in 2006 following which the NIHE accredited SLCP until February 2013.

“A second visit took place in March 2011 and a draft report was issued in May 2011. This report process has not yet concluded,” said Ms Bunting.

She also queried NIHE’s “serious concerns” about the management, adding that if they had such concerns, why had they not acted with spot checks, issuing default notices and other remedies.

Mrs Bunting stressed at no time had any of the above actions been taken by the NIHE in the last 12 years and, a month after the second inspection visit the NIHE reissued a new three year contract.

SLCP said an independent assessor had been recommended to them by the NIHE and that the assessor was not engaged to comment on service standards but to consider other issues.

The Board of SLCP said they were involved in a comprehensive process to re-engineer their supported housing service which they believed would have been beneficial to the young people.

They had embarked on this process in good faith and with, they believed, the support of the NIHE and SLCP’s staff.

“In December 2011 SLCP submitted exciting and innovative plans for future development that were in keeping with the NIHE’s strategy on homelessness and would have sustained the supported housing service into the future.”

The NIHE didn’t respond or give feedback however verbally asked the SLCP to bring the service to a close, she said adding there had been great support frin other stakeholders including the PSNI.

Mrs Bunting said they had met with the Executive’s Deputy Chief Executive on 25 September and had written to him on 26 September highlighting their concerns about these comments.

The Board of Mount Zion stressed that they have always had positive relationships with all their funders and stakeholders. Indeed all other projects based at Mount Zion including the LIAISE Advice Service, Mount Zion Domiciliary Care Agency, Zion’s Den Childcare and a range of other services including Daisies Café, Homestart, Voypic Opportunity Youth, etc are running normally within Mount Zion and remain unaffected by the problems facing the housing service.