Protesters gather outside Foyle Haven

Local people gathered at the protest outside Foyle Haven on John Street.
Local people gathered at the protest outside Foyle Haven on John Street.

Protesters have gathered outside Derry addiction support charity Foyle Haven amid allegations over the treatment of workers and volunteers.

Former workers and volunteers were joined by several dozen people at the event on Friday.

Foyle haven was set up to help street drinkers but some workers and volunteers spoke out this week about how their ‘dream’ roles turned into a nightmare.

The workers expressed amid anger and dissatisfaction over the alleged treatment of those who have worked at the facility and claimed service users had also noticed a difference.

In response, Depaul Ireland, which runs the Foyle Haven, have refuted claims regarding the operation of the facility and have pointed to positive recent assessments from outside bodies.

Among those who speak to the Journal earlier this week about their experiences was ex-volunteer at Foyle Haven, Derry man, Dee Butler (33).

Mr Butler, who was Volunteer of the Year in 2014 out of all DePaul projects, after working with Foyle Haven from the end of March 2013 to September 2014 said things changed shortly after he received the award last summer.

Speaking at the protest on Friday, Mr Butler said he was heartened by the the support they were receiving from the public.

Eamonn McCann meanwhile addressed those gathered through loud speaker.

He said: “The facility we have here is absolutely essential for the town and some of the most vulnerable people in it.

“It is operated and fuelled by idealism and we don’t detract from that at all, so we are not here to denounce or attack Depaul in any way. But it is an organisation dedicated to looking after the most vulnerable people in our society. The fact that historically it has been drivne by idealism, that makes it all the more necessary that it treats its workers and treats its volunteers with dignity.”

Mr McCann added that staff and volunteers working at the Haven have always gone the extra mile.

Local Independent Derry & Strabane Councillors were due to meet with the affected people following the protest on Friday afternoon.

Speaking at the protest, Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly said he hoped that the issues can be resolved.

“We hope this can be sorted as quickly as possible,” he said.

Responding to the concerns raised by workers earlier this week, a Depaul Ireland spokesperson said it was “disappointing that this has complaint has been brought forward to the ‘Journal’.”

The spokesperson said: “We would refute claims that the service is not performing to the standard of care that it has always been committed to.

“Recently we have been audited by our funders, the Supporting People team from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, and the project was assessed as being of a ‘b’ standard (project are graded from ‘d’ lowest to ‘a’ highest).

The spokesperson went on: “There have been a number of grievances brought forward which we have been dealing with and liaising closely with Unison regarding these.

“Additionally, we have recently sought external support to provide interventions including team building and this is due to take place in the very near future.

“Annually we undertake a staff survey and act on any areas of concern from this and we have a planned volunteer forum in Derry.”