Collapse of Mash shows director ‘unethical’

Julia Albrecht. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Julia Albrecht. PHOTO: ODT FILES
A Dunedin parent who has been chasing an embattled after-school care provider for money for months says the company’s collapse shows its director was "unethical".

Macandrew Bay School parent Julia Albrecht said she had been trying to get $667 from My After-School Headquarters (Mash) managing director Craig Fortune since October last year.

To date, the company had "refused" to return the funds, she said.

Mr Fortune, of Christchurch, sent an email to staff this week confirming yesterday was the last day for all Dunedin sites.

He told Christchurch’s Chris Lynch Media on Thursday because of extended cash-flow issues the company would be placed into voluntary liquidation yesterday.

Further, he said his company, which also operates in Canterbury and Nelson, was owed about $800,000 by parents who were yet to make payments.

Mr Fortune could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In the email to staff, Mr Fortune said there had been issues with staff pay for the past two pay periods.

"I would like to assure you that I am working extremely hard with external professionals and will do everything within my power, including selling my personal vehicle, to ensure all staff are paid in full," Mr Fortune said.

"I understand that you are all upset, angry and extremely stressed and I sincerely apologise for being the cause of this."

Dr Albrecht said when her children were enrolled with Mash she set up automated payments that, over time, accrued to almost $700.

After Mash left the school at short notice, she applied for the funds to be returned and sent "multiple" emails in an attempt to address the issue.

By and large the staff at Mash who cared for the children were "lovely", but the letter to staff reinforced her view the management of the company was unethical, she said.

"It’s quite interesting that they say on the one hand it’s all about the children and all about community and being a social services provider ... and a lot of families are doing it hard at the moment and at the same time they don’t see any moral obligation to return parents’ funds either."

The company’s website yesterday showed after-school programmes had been offered at seven Dunedin schools.

However, schools spoken to yesterday were reluctant to speak on the record.

Outram School principal Kim Allan confirmed the school’s contract with Mash had ended and she was in the process of sorting out further after-school care.

Fairfield School principal Greg Lees said the school had changed providers during the last term last year and there were "multiple reasons" for the change.

Earlier this week, the ODT reported Wakari School teachers had to fill in for Mash staff after the company failed to show up.

Ministry of Social Development service and contracts management general manager Rebecca Brew-Harper said as a private business, the programme providers were the best people to respond to questions about their operations.