Lifeline call centre: over 100 jobs at risk in Derry and Belfast

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The head of a company which runs a suicide-prevention service in Northern Ireland said that over 100 jobs are at risk in its call centres.

One hundred and thirty four people work for Lifeline in two offices in Londonderry and Belfast.

But a contract for the 24/7 helpline, funded by the Department of Health, is due to expire at the end of this year.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) is consulting on Lifeline's future.

Fergus Cumiskey, managing director of the charity, Contact, who manage Lifeline, said all Lifeline jobs across Northern Ireland were now at risk.

He said: "From our read of the PHA outline business model for Lifeline, the changes are so radical that we believe all jobs associates with the current model are in jeopardy."

Twenty nine managers, 72 counsellors, 22 trainee counsellors and 11 administration staff work across the two offices.

Some 90,000 calls are made to Lifeline every year.

Mr Cumiskey said that job losses would have a "grave impact" for those who rely on the service.

Last year, there was a large increase in the number of people contacting the service.

The PHA confirmed it was holding a 12-week consultation on the future of the Lifeline service to ensure it best meets the needs of the people who use it.

A spokesperson said: "The consultation proposals would maintain the 24 hour, seven days a week telephone helpline provided by staff who are skilled and qualified in talking to people in crisis."

The PHA is proposing that the telephone helpline service provided by Lifeline staff be managed by the ambulance service.

The closing date for responses to the consultation is 19 November 2015 at 1pm.

The current Lifeline contract was due to end on 31 March 2015, but has been extended until 31 December 2015 with the potential of a further extension until September 2016, but the PHA said it is prevented from extending the contract further because of "procurement rules".

A spokesperson said: "No decision on the service model will be taken until after the consultation has been completed and the findings given full consideration."

Link to the consultation:

I sincerely hope that the telephone crisis counselling service will continue. It's superb, and it's not hyperbole to say that it's saved my life on more than one occasion.