Disability services company Endeavour Industries’ collapse leaves workers without homes, jobs


Posted

October 25, 2018 14:39:18

Workers and residents of collapsed Hunter Valley disability services company Endeavour Industries are distraught over the loss of their home, community and livelihood.

Next month, 131 workers from the company in Cessnock will be without a job, with 87 of those working with a disability.

Thirteen current and former workers who are also housed by Endeavour are set to lose their homes, unless an eleventh-hour saviour comes forward.

A community-owned project, Endeavour was known for its commitment to disability services within the Hunter region, with its main business a laundry service in Cessnock.

When administrators took over in June, the company had a five-person board in place but has had seven CEOs in the past five years.

Endeavour was formed as a workplace for the disabled by a Cessnock parents and friends group in 1965, and by late 1968 an official entity, Endeavour Industries, was created.

In 1969, Endeavour had its first official premises, the laundry at Edgeworth Street which remains today.

About 50 years later, the company is in ruins after going into voluntary administration.

A report by the administrator obtained by the ABC showed the company placed itself under significant long-term financial pressure, after a series of speculative investments.

The report also pointed to a failure to prepare for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

“Hourly rates provided by NDIS are extremely low compared to previous funding by the NSW Government, affecting profitability of businesses such as Endeavour,” the report said.

The report also highlighted risky financial deals made by Endeavour in 2012 and 2013.

They included purchasing an ultimately unused block of land and a failed olive tree farm.

A former Endeavour employee said the company only ever sold around “a couple of hundred dollars’ worth of olives”, despite years of maintenance and upkeep.

The olive trees, which were gifted to Endeavour, were later found to be unsuitable for the site and were eventually discarded.

The administrator’s report also showed a software development company was suing Endeavour for nearly $1 million over a failed software deal.

Workers, residents ‘distressed’ about uncertain future

“We just want to know who’s going to take us, and what’s going to happen to us”, said Sally*, a worker at the laundry.

“It wasn’t as if we weren’t getting enough work,” she said.

Most of the 87 Endeavour workers who will be without employment from November 9, were driven to and from the laundry facility to complete their duties by the company.

Efforts by the administrator Rapsey Griffiths to secure the future of the laundry business have so far proven unsuccessful.

Local businesses have been approached to see if any were willing to take on the facility.

Rapsey Griffiths also offered support by holding disability employment expos at the laundry, and parent and carer forums.

For the residents, many feared for the future.

June*, one of 13 residents housed by Endeavour, said the prospect of losing her home was frightening.

“We try to tell ourselves that we will be okay, but we just don’t know, we just can’t understand how this all just went so wrong,” she said.

The villas went up for auction this month and the property was passed in following a vendor bid, the result of which the residents had no idea of until a day later.

The sale of the property may prove to be a challenge, with the villas purpose-built for disabled accommodation.

Rapsey Griffiths released a statement stating it had continued to inform the residents about any new developments on the sale of the property.

A spokeswoman said the administrator had little influence over a future buyer’s plans.

“Looking ahead, ongoing leases will be a matter for the incoming purchaser, it is important to note that tenants have certain rights under the existing leasing arrangements,” she said.

The beginning of the end

The ABC understands when the company posted a loss of more than $2 million in 2014, the board of directors changed the constitution to start being paid for their roles.

Changes were made so that members of the board were paid more than $20,000 each a year, while the chairman of the board was to be given double that amount.

The report from the 2013/14 financial year showed wages increased by $1.13 million and contributed to an overall loss of $2.16 million.

June said she wanted answers from the company about what went wrong.

“Nobody has ever said sorry to us about this, no one has put their hand up to be accountable.”

Endeavour Industries was contacted for comment but referred the ABC to the administrator.

* Names of workers have been changed to protect their identity.

Topics:

disabilities,

unemployment,

community-organisations,

management,

cessnock-2325,

newcastle-2300



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *