Abuse charity ‘will survive’ amid government cash crisis

Open Secret chief executive Janine Rennie has told vulnerable clients their counselling service will continue. Picture: Michael Gillen

Open Secret chief executive Janine Rennie has told vulnerable clients their counselling service will continue. Picture: Michael Gillen

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A charity which supports people who were sexually and physically abused as children says it will survive despite a potential funding crisis.

Chief executive of Open Secret Janine Rennie says she has promised her vulnerable clients it would provide its In Care Survivors Service Scotland counselling even if the Scottish Government pulls funding of £200,000.

The organisation is at loggerheads with the Scottish Government over providing information on the clients it supports.

The government wants Open Secret to divulge confidential details on each client to evaluate the charity’s work under an overhaul of the system for a new funding model of £13.5 million until 2020.

The charity is refusing to hand over the data which it says would breach data protection, as well as breaching trust with its clients.

Mrs Rennie said: “We feel we are being held to ransom here. Client files don’t belong to us, they belong to the client and they have told us they do not want us to give their information to anyone else.

“We are a very confidential service, for obvious reasons, and we share information on the basis of what our clients want. We are prepared to provide some of the information, but the other stuff the government wants would make clients identifiable.”

The Scottish Government say it has never asked for any information that would compromise data protection and is meeting with survivors to ensure they have the best possible service that meets their needs.

Charity faced council review

It’s not the first time Open Secret has faced a funding crisis.

Falkirk Council pulled financial support from the charity last year following an external review it instigated following allegations of mismanagement.

The review has not been published by the council, but chief executive Janine Rennie said that the allegations were “totally unfounded” – a conclusion the external review found.

The council also suspended referrals to Open Secret in 2014, but despite the charity being cleared in the review, the council did not reinstate referrals.

Mrs Rennie says Open Secret is now funding support for Falkirk clients from its own reserves, but is working with the council on a way forward to work together.

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