I write this as the new Chair for Help Enterprises, a role I am privileged and honoured to assume from my predecessor Garry Butler. Garry retired at the end of FY21 after a long and dedicated contribution to the HELP Board. He was instrumental in contributing to the growth of the organisation from its humble beginnings in a few sheds at Eagle Farm over 20 years ago, and as the constant “voice” from a parent/carer perspective. We will miss him around the board table, but wish him and his family all the very best for a new relaxed, retirement lifestyle.
This year continued the challenges with COVID lockdowns and related business impacts. The Delta variant spawned a new wave of service adjustments, and together with extended lockdowns in the southern states, delivered soft commercial conditions all round. However our front-line teams have continued to adapt effectively to the changing environment, and I’m sure there will be more to come over the next 12 months. Our priority continues to be keeping our participants, supported employees, job seekers and staff safe and well.
On a more positive note, this year we launched the new 5-year Strategic Plan which will drive an exciting future for HELP. The Board and management have determined a significant growth and development agenda, which includes:
- Development of new “whole of Life” opportunities for people with disability (particularly intellectual impairment) across hub and community supports, short and long-term accommodation
- Growth of employment services and opportunities for people with disability, including both open and supported employment, in our own commercial businesses and a range of employer partnerships
- Planned expansion of our services in the south-east corner of Queensland, extending south to northern NSW and north to Townsville
- A significant investment in a range of social assets
- Increased investment in our people, digital systems and communication tools
- Continuing focus on long-term financial and operational sustainability.
While this future planning was underway, the broader HELP team also delivered a series of operational highlights over the year, including:
- Continued supports (as far as possible) during the lockdowns
- The official opening of our new Customer Communication Centre at Petrie, which was well supported by several local, state and federal politicians and celebrated with our local indigenous community
- Completion of MAYBO training for the Board and staff to assist in delivering more positive and safer outcomes for our participants
- Property maintenance and upgrades at the McIntyre Centre hub and riding school
- Continuing work towards accurately measuring the Help Enterprises Social Return on Investment (SROI) as a key outcome and performance indicator for the whole enterprise.
From a Board perspective, we welcomed three new directors, adding to the skills profile in clinical and disability services (with Miranda Bruyniks and Kim Rayner) and additional property and commercial expertise (with Nick Bonifant, one of the founding directors of Youngcare). We farewelled Associate Professor Paul Harpur and Megan Elliot, both of whom remain closely connected with HELP. In his role at the University of Queensland, Paul will be assisting us with developing a framework for some future longitudinal research into innovation in Supported Employment. We thank Paul and Megan for their significant contributions over their time on the Board.
As well as addressing some board skills gaps, we’ve also generally strengthened our corporate governance with the development of a new Governance Framework and Governance Statement. These tools assist the Board in undertaking the critical oversight role over the entire organisation to ensure legislative and funding compliance; safety, wellbeing and engagement of our clients and staff; and disability services delivery to the very highest standard.
We regularly hear stories about our clients, and how they are achieving their goals and living out their ambitions. It is a wonderful reminder of why we exist, and the Board is committed to continually reviewing how we can do this better. It goes without saying that they are supported by a great management team led by our Group Chief Executive Denver Fresser, and in turn, lots of committed and caring staff. While we will continue to be challenged by the pandemic, uncertain economic conditions and critical labour shortages, I have full confidence in the spirit of our team to continue quality supports for our clients, so that they can live their best possible life.