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Man ‘practically bankrupt’ due to counselling debts

Irish Times/October 23, 2007

A man who says he paid nearly €250,000 to the Roebuck Counselling Centre in Rathgar, Dublin, for counselling and “life mentoring” services has told The Irish Times he had to sell his house in order to keep up payments to the centre, writes Róisín Ingle.

Des Martin (57), from Dublin and now living in Co Meath, said he was left “practically bankrupt” after being asked for and agreeing to pay sums totalling €235,550, with the promise that his building business would thrive as a result.

This newspaper reported on Saturday that a counsellor at the centre, Claire Hoban, has resigned from one of its programmes after admitting she requested large sums from people who sought counselling and other services.

Mr Martin said yesterday he was left with “massive debts” and had to sell his house as a result. The money was refunded by the centre earlier this year after repeated requests from Mr Martin and his accountant.

He said the refunded money went into paying off company debts that he had incurred during his time at the centre. “I now have no house, my relationship suffered and I have had to cease working.” His is one of several cases to emerge since it was reported that Ms Hoban resigned her position as head of the centre’s “Life Mentoring Programme.”

A man in his 20s told this newspaper he went to the centre last year for individual counselling sessions. “I wanted one-on-one help but was told there was no option except to pay up front. I ended up paying around €12,000 over the course of the year,” he said.

He demanded his money back and received it in full.

On RTÉ’s Liveline radio programme yesterday a former client of the centre, who had gone there with his wife, said they were both asked to pay €2,500 up front. “She was very manipulative,” he said of Ms Hoban. Three callers claimed they had had negative experiences at the centre but two defended its services, including a man who said the advice and courses were “superb.”

He defended the up-front payments. “It’s about letting go of the various weights that are holding you back from achieving your full potential and for a lot of people that can be a desire for security.”

The Irish Times tried to contact the centre but the call was not returned. Public relations consultant Paul Allen was yesterday dealing with the media. He said he was a friend of Bernie Purcell, who owns the centre with her partner, John Milton.

Asked about the claims made by Mr Martin and others, Mr Allen said there was no comment.


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