Afterschool programme workers furious as businesses folds, owner says people will be paid

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Mar 07, 2024 |


Staff members of an afterschool programme have expressed their concerns after suddenly finding themselves unemployed, but the owner of the company said he was taking all steps to settle outstanding debts.

Chris Lynch Media first reported that the shutdown of all citywide MASH and CASPA programes was announced via an email to certain parents and staff on February 29 “effective immediately.”

Craig Fortune, the owner of both brands emailed all staff on Thursday saying “as you are all probably aware, MASH & CASPA sites are permanently closing at 6pm tomorrow evening (Friday, March 8th). Most of you will also be familiar with the recent issues regarding pay over the past two pay periods. Unfortunately, this is due to the cash flow challenges the companies have been experiencing for some time now, which is the major reason for our current predicament.”

In an interview with Chris Lynch Media on Thursday, Fortune said “the reality is that COVID was a massive issue for us, not so much the virus itself but the way it changed society and people’s work habits, which continues to impact us significantly. With more people working from home, the demand for our services significantly declined.”

Fortune revealed his company was owed about $800,000 by parents who have yet to make payments.

“We’ve been quite understanding, considering we operate both as a social service and a business.

“It’s difficult to press for payments when parents are struggling to even afford basic necessities.

“I’m not a businessman. I’m not a cut-throat big time, corporate capitalist. I’m an educator at heart.

“Despite rising costs, we’ve resisted increasing our fees to keep the service accessible, and we’ve been trying to keep the company afloat, but we ran out of money, and I can’t continue to pay staff out of my back pocket.”

Cecilia Miras, a former employee at MASH’s St Albans branch, discovered she was out of a job when informed by the landlord, Empower Church, that MASH had been unable to pay its rent since December 2023.

“I’ve worked for MASH for a month without receiving any pay, choosing to stay for the children. It’s not about the money for me; it’s about the relationships I’ve built with the children and their families. Now, I’m relying on a food bank for meals,” Miras said.

Fortune indicated that most of his staff would receive their pay on Friday.

However, many parents, who had prepaid for the programmes had not yet received any information about refunds.

Miras also said Fortune had requested two weeks of payment in advance from parents, just days before announcing the programmes’ closure.

Additionally, on the day of the announcement, he updated his contact details on the Companies Office’s website, changing from a residential to a commercial address.

On March 5th, Fortune was listed as a new director of a company named “Kids Matter,” co-founded with his partner, which was registered on February 16th.

When questioned, Fortune said, “at some point, I need to start anew to ensure I can provide for my family.”

He acknowledged the community’s frustration, saying, “today, I’m aware that no one will have kind words for me, and I fully respect that. Being a parent myself, I can deeply empathise with their situation and what they’re going through.”

He said the company would be placed into voluntary liquidation on Friday.

Rebecca Brew-Harper, General Manager at the Ministry of Social Development’s Service and Contracts Management said the ministry was assessing the situation but could not provide further comments due to commercial confidentiality.

She said “MSD offers a subsidy to eligible families for out-of-school care. Information about OSCAR providers in their region is available on the Family Services Directory website.”

A spokesperson for OurKidz NZ OSCAR, an afterschool programme unrelated to MASH, expressed disappointment over the closures.

“It’s disheartening to see so many families in distress, trying to find alternative care options. Our organisation is doing its best to accommodate and assist those affected.”

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

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