Nexus contract extended

Date published: 04 March 2024

Health Minister Robin Swann has confirmed the Department of Health’s contract with Nexus will be extended for one year.

Nexus was awarded a three-year contract in April 2019 to provide a specialist counselling service for victims of sexual abuse, with an option for two one-year extensions.  The second of these extensions ceases on 31 March 2024. However, following today’s decision, the contract will be extended for a further 12 months. This will ensure there is service provision in place for new people coming forward for counselling.

Speaking in the Assembly, the Health Minister recognised the importance of sufficient specialist counselling for victims of sexual abuse and outlined the Department of Health’s engagement with Nexus:

“The Department has been in communication with Nexus over many months in connection with the contract and has worked extensively with Nexus to improve waiting list times and the standard of service being provided.

“Unfortunately, significant performance and operational issues have been identified in relation to the delivery of this contract. I should clarify that these largely relate to efficiency and lower than expected numbers of sessions rather than the quality of the counselling that is being provided.

“The areas of identified underperformance include the number of counselling services provided, with a projected 24% gap for this year between the contracted sessions and the total delivered. To put that in perspective, on the current trajectory, that is over 4,000 fewer sessions being delivered than expected. And considering the need and demand for such services, that is something that does cause real concern.

“My department has been examining potential alternative arrangements following the conclusion of the Nexus contract.

“A number of options have been identified, including the provision of support by the community and voluntary sector, HSC Trusts or Primary Care.

“However, having discussed the situation with officials, it is clear to me that further work is required on mapping out future sustainable arrangements.

“I have therefore instructed that the Nexus contract be extended for a further 12 months, with close monitoring of performance throughout that period. Whilst there may be some deep concerns about the broader delivery of the contract, equally I was not prepared to tolerate a position whereby new victims and survivors had no service at all come April.

“This one year extension will allow proper consideration, decision and implementation of the best way forward for counselling services of this nature.

“I should also advise Members that the planned ending of this contract was not a cost-saving measure. The intention has always been to use the available funding to continue to support people who are victims and survivors of sexual abuse in line with the draft Domestic and Sexual abuse Strategy 2023–2030.

“A priority had been to ensure that clients currently in receipt of counselling services would continue to receive them after April 2024. My Department had been involved in detailed discussions with Nexus to make the necessary arrangements. This was intended to ensure that anyone currently in receipt of counselling, or who has had an initial assessment will receive an appropriate service from Nexus.”

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