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Summary of key facts – McIntyre Centre expression of interest process

Over the past ten days, factually incorrect information has been circulating about the McIntyre Centre. We’ve provided two detailed statements to the parties who expressed interest in taking over the site and offered to meet with them to discuss further this week. Key facts to clarify the situation are summarised below.

The decision to cease services was a very difficult one. We appreciate and share the concern for our McIntyre participants and horses.  

HELP has not cancelled the Expression of Interest process, however we did have to pause the process. Help remains focussed on getting the best possible outcome for the site. More below. 

Help never arranged to sell the horses at an auction. Help’s intention is to find suitable homes for all the horses. More below. 

Any suggestion of profiting from the site or financial impropriety is completely rejected. Help Enterprises is a committed not-for-profit organisation and takes its obligations very seriously.

Who was involved and why did Help take on the Centre?

Help Enterprises Ltd is a public benevolent institution and disability services provider. One of Help’s assets is the McIntyre Centre, which has provided equine-assisted and other activities to support people with disabilities. The McIntyre Centre property and business undertakings were given to Help by way of a Deed of Gift from the McIntyre Centre Riding for Disabled Ltd (an entity which is now wound up) in 2017.

The previous entity contacted Help to become involved with the McIntyre Centre as they were no longer financially able to operate their programs and the centre needed significant upgrades. The State Government had made the decision to cease the funding programs that enabled the School Riding Program, and there was considerable change and uncertainty around the introduction of the NDIS.

At the time, some Help clients were already using the McIntyre Centre, and there was an obvious mission-based alignment. Help felt an obligation to do everything it could to keep the Centre operating. A Memorandum of Understanding was entered into which eventually saw a Deed of Gift between the parties exchanged. This process was not simple and took well over six months.

The Deed of Gift did not come ‘free’. It came with conditions that had a significant monetary cost. Help accepted those conditions so that the centre could continue. Help committed to do its best to continue the good work of the previous owners.

How was the Centre gifted?

The Deed of Gift established a charitable trust which came with conditions, including but not limited to, further financial investment into the site.

Help is unable to remove or vary the charitable trust obligations, including ownership of the site, without express authority of the Courts.

Help’s operation of the McIntyre Centre in line with the conditions of the gift.

Help has operated the McIntyre Centre for six years, and has endeavoured to adhere to the conditions of the gift to the best of its ability and the prevailing business environment. During Help’s operation of the McIntyre Centre:

  • Help undertook and completed the task of transitioning the McIntyre Centre to operate as an NDIS funded service. The provision of NDIS services brought with it a set of standards, safeguards and compliance requirements. The new operating model required greater engagement of specialist paid staff, changing the McIntyre Centre service delivery to a blended model of employed staff and volunteers. Help had 40 active volunteers at the time of ceasing services. 
  • Help continued to deliver a range of equine based activities including mounted and groundwork programs, school programs and other equine assisted therapies. 
  • Help developed the capacity of the site through significant infrastructure upgrades– including new barns, vet room, wheelchair lifts, and additional riding arena capacity.  
  • Help developed an outcomes measurement framework to measure the impact of services on participants, but the data collection for this framework was put on hold due to COVID-19 and interruption of services. 

The switch from Queensland Government funding to user-pays via NDIS plans in 2018 impacted operations and participant numbers. This had major impacts on the revenue and the operating shortfall of the Centre. When Help took on the McIntyre Centre in 2017, there were about 7,500 ‘rides’ undertaken in a year. With funding changes including those to the School Riding Program, this reduced to around 2,800 per year, as schools could not self-fund their riding programs.

What has Help contributed financially to the McIntyre Centre operations?

Over six years, Help has contributed over $4 million towards infrastructure improvements, maintenance and running costs. This figure is over and above any donations received during this time from external parties. This contribution was necessary to keep the Centre open, and bridge the gap between fees for service and operating costs. Help has also made other changes to improve the Centre’s financial position.

Why did Help stop operations of the Centre?

The current NDIS funding model and aggressive inflationary costs caused Help to make a very hard decision on the future use of the site. Keeping the McIntyre Centre open cost approximately $70,000 per month. Costs include vet bills, horse feed, farriers, insurance premiums, ground maintenance, staff costs and utilities.

It was unsustainable for Help to continue meeting these costs. It was utilising funds that we have an obligation to apply to Help’s other not-for-profit mission related activities.

On 31 May 2023, Help announced its decision to stop operations at the McIntyre Centre.

The Expression of Interest Process

Help called for expressions of interest from third parties interested in taking on the Centre. It advised it would prepare the property for transfer or sale on 31 July, if a suitable arrangement was not identified.

Help received six expressions of interest from community groups, not-for-profit organisations and “for-profit” allied health providers. From the information provided to Help, none of the parties would have been able to meet all of the existing requirements of the charitable trust.

On Friday 21 July Help updated the parties on the next steps with the Expression of Interest process.

Reasons for pausing of the Expression of Interest Process

Help undertook the Expression of Interest process in good faith. At the same time Help was receiving information from advisors about the implementation process for the transfer of the site. Help now understands the process could take up to six months. Help will re-engage with interested parties when we are in a clear position to progress.

Help’s priority is to act in accordance with our responsibilities under the conditions of the gift, and our mission as a not-for-profit entity.

As explained above, the terms of the original charitable trust have now become impractical or impossible for Help to perform, and Help has sustained ongoing financial losses in operating the McIntyre Centre and maintaining the trust property as required by the trust terms. Help continues to discharge all of its legal and financial obligations, as required by law.

Unfortunately, despite very genuine expressions of interest from various groups in the community, and the best intentions by Help, the complexity of the arrangements meant that an immediate and sustainable solution could not be identified to meet the fixed costs of the site over the next six-month period while the mechanics of the transition of the property are resolved. As a result, the EOI process has been paused.

Rehoming of the horses

The need to delay the EOI process led Help to reconsider the care of the horses and maintenance of the facility without full-time staff on the site.

Help decided that the best solution for the horses’ wellbeing is rehoming them. A careful process is underway, involving previous owners, re-homing of older horses to former McIntyre staff and private sales managed by an agent under Help’s direction. Help responded to a large number of enquiries from parties interested in taking on the horses.

Horses in the current herd were purchased by Help for the McIntyre Centre. Funds from the sale of the horses and other items will be used for the required charitable purposes, including essential maintenance at the Centre site during this transition time.

Safe operations of Help’s disability Hub on the McIntyre Centre site

Help continues to run a disability care hub at McIntyre Centre, providing day activities for a small number of local participants. The hub will continue from this location until at least the end of September. We are working with the families committed to continuing with the service with a view to moving to a suitable location in the area. In the meantime, our main concern is to keep the site safe and happy for the participants who attend our disability care hub.

Contribution of Volunteers to the Centre

Help acknowledges the significant role that volunteers have played over the history of the Centre. The provision of NDIS services necessarily brings with it a set of standards, safeguards and compliance requirements. This means that the operating model requires greater engagement with specialist paid staff resulting in the service delivery being a blended model of employed staff and volunteers. While Help has always appreciated and continued to engage volunteers in service delivery, it is not possible to run the service exclusively with volunteers.

About Help Enterprises

Help is a social enterprise and not-for-profit entity with our primary mission being the support of people with disabilities. We’ve been around for more than 50 years and currently support around 3500 Queenslanders with disabilities.

Help could not continue to invest funds in a venture with unsustainable costs. The closure of the Centre has been extremely difficult for everyone involved – first and foremost the participants and families who used the service, the staff and volunteers. 

We appreciate the concern the community has for the future of the McIntyre Centre and our amazing herd who has brought joy to many.

The welfare of the horses is paramount, and we are making sure that they are cared for, read the full details on our re-homing process below.

We are taking this matter seriously. We ask the community to understand that the arrangements regarding the site are extremely complex. We need several months to make sure all relevant conditions are complied with.

We are deeply grateful for all donations and volunteer efforts received and are very disappointed by comments that these have not been respected.

We are working hard to ensure a sustainable and responsible future for the site.

We are doing our best to keep everyone informed and thank the community for their patience.

Late last week Help provided an update to parties who expressed interest in the McIntyre Centre site.

Help has been advised that the implementation of any arrangement relating to the transfer of the McIntyre Centre to a third party would be complex and would take some time to finalise. We’re committed to continue the process, but need to pause discussions with interested parties until we are in a clear position to progress.  

As you can understand, our priority is to ensure that any actions we take are appropriate and in line with our own responsibilities with the Centre and our mission as a not-for-profit entity. As soon as we can progress, we will contact interested parties.

This delay has caused us to reconsider the best approach to ensure the welfare of the horses, and to maintain the facility, without full-time staff on-site.

Our plans for the McIntyre Centre horses are as follows:

  • We’ve contacted the owners of several horses that were sold to the Centre to see if they wished to re-purchase the horses. Four owners have chosen to so far, and we are still in discussions with three others.
  • Two older horses with health problems are being re-homed with former McIntyre staff members.
  • For the horses that aren’t re-homed in the manner described above, we have carefully selected an agent based on reputation and values alignment. We have instructed them to follow an equitable private sales process and select suitable owners.

We have also provided an update to community members and equine centres who previously expressed interest in the horses. If you wish to enquire about purchasing a horse, please contact  Linda Hingst from Kilcoy Cow Horse Club.

Any funds from the sale of the horses will be applied towards the McIntyre Centre, including for essential maintenance of the Centre during this period of transition.

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