Townsend Park is a retirement village that consists of 49 units, 12 cottages and 47 apartments. It is a social enterprise that was established by Townsend House. It won their then CEO, Paul Flynn, a Social Entrepreneur of the year award in 2005. In a 2006 media release proudly displaying the Townsend Park Logo, Townsend Park marketing representative, Robert Milton, explained that Townsend Park was developed for a worthy cause. Because of the Townsend Park development, said Milton, Townsend House has, ““quadrupled Cando4Kids ability to serve clients…”[i]
Milton went on to explain that Townsend Park was in stage 3 of its development. An important part of the Townsend House Development was the open spaces and gardens that residents were able to access. Milton publicly stated in the media release that, ““Stage Three is our Final Stage – Residents can be assured their open space and garden views will remain.”
This promise that there would be no further developments at Townsend Park has been broken. The Rebuttal has received an email from a family member of a resident of Townsend Park. The email claims that residents were promised a beautiful living arrangement with manicured gardens and parks. “Little by little…” said the family member who did not want to be named, “…this is disappearing.”
The email from the family member explains that residents were promised that Townsend Park would be free of any further developments and the chaos, dust, noise and traffic such developments bring with them. Despite these promises, development of Townsend Park has continued unabated.
The email alleges that at a meeting with residents, Townsend House CEO Judy Curran, argued that this promise came from a sales representative and not them. If this is so, why then did they allow the article to be printed with the business logo that Townsend House own? Indeed why did they endorse the release at all. One assumes that any marketing rep worth his salary would first get approval from the people they are representing for any publicity of the product that they are marketing.
Residents of Townsend Park have, apparently, officially opposed any further developments to the site. They lodged this opposition to further developments with the local council. In lodging this opposition they also had the support of other citizens that reside in the area. The opposition to the development by these people has been ignored.
It seems that it is not just the South Australian Deaf community that is being treated with disdain. Residents of Townsend Park are also being treated appallingly. Their wishes are being completely ignored as Townsend House and its CanDo brand search for dollars to cut their losses. It begs the question though, why is Townsend House and the CanDo group in such a financial mess? Is it just the Deaf Can Do part of the services or is it the whole of the company? Whatever happened to the revenue stream that had apparently allowed for CanDo4Kids services to be “quadrupled”?
The family member also provided The Rebuttal with copies of letters from Townsend House to Townsend Park residents. The letters refer to further development of the site. It is alleged that the Townsend House CEO let it be known in 2012 that further developments of Townsend Park would occur because, “We have lost a lot of money, a substantial amount.”
Ms Curran is alleged to have announced at this time that Cando4Kids would move to Welland so that developments could occur in the area that Cando4Kids was based. This is the Harold Raymond Close. Ms Curran is alleged to have indicated that the development of the Harold Raymond Close area would, “… satisfy our financial requirements for the foreseeable future.” An excerpt from a letter, printed on CanDO Group letterhead, dated 8th May 2012 and signed by Ms Curran, states that the Harold Raymond Close developments would, “provide financial security for Townsend House …”
Interestingly in the same letter Ms Curran indicates that Townsend House receive $800 000 in government grants. Service and overhead costs amount to $2.5 million per year. Ms Curran indicates that Townsend Park is a major contributor to making up the loss that the services make. Ms Curran cites, “… challenging economic times” as necessitating further development of Townsend Park.
Ms Curran states in the letter that there were other developments on the cards that included, “Developments of our South Terrace Adelaide property” (262). This is interesting because even though Ms Curran indicates that 262 is owned by the Royal South Australian Deaf Society it is clear that Townsend House has full control of the future of 262. Ms Curran stated at this time, May 8th 2012, “…unfavourable market conditions mean that project is some years away.”
What is very clear is that moving services to Welland was a strategic move so that Townsend House could develop the Harold Raymond Close area and make money to cover their substantial losses. Indeed Ms Curran admits as much when she states that moving services to Welland allowed Townsend House to, “Expand Townsend Park and improve its viability.” Likewise moving Deaf Can Do services to Welland was probably also done to free up 262 for sale.
Townsend House clearly do not recognize the validity of the statement made by Robert Milton in 2006 that there would be no further developments at the Townsend park site. This is clear because in the email to residents Ms Curran is adamant that, “.. no guarantees that Townsend House land would not be redeveloped any time is contained in resident contracts.” This may be so but the media release issued by Robert Milton on behalf of Townsend Park must have been endorsed for release by the management of Townsend House. Residents have every right to be miffed that they have been misled.
BUT what is really interesting is that the date of the letter to residents, 8th May 2012, is just one week after the Deaf Community Forum where Townsend House ‘Gifted’ the 262 building to the Deaf community with conditions. There is no mention of this in the letter. Indeed it confirms what we already know, that the ‘Gift’ was nothing but a PR stunt. It was never a serious offer.
What becomes really clear from the letter is that ALL of Townsend House’s services, including Deaf Can Do, are making a loss. It may well be that money made from the Townsend Park development is being channeled into children’s services so that it looks like they are actually breaking even. The reality is that these services are also making a loss and it is only the redevelopments of Townsend Park that are making them viable
It is alleged that Townsend House services lose upwards $60,000 a month and possibly more. It may well be that Townsend House are trying to lay the blame for these losses solely on the Deaf Can Do services so as to justify the sale of 262. In my view the reality is that all of their services are making a loss. If CanDo4Kids is looking healthy it is only because income generated from Townsend Park is propping them up.
In my view Townsend House do not want to sell 262 to save Deaf Can Do services. They want to sell it to cover their overall losses. Did you know, and this is confirmed in the letter, that maintenance of the Townsend House gardens alone is costing $300 000 a year? The losses of Deaf Can Do and the maintenance of 262 make up only a small part of Townsend House’s overall financial woes.
Ms Curran, in her letter to residents, called 262 , “…our South Terrace Adelaide property” In making this statement she confirms that Townsend House have full control of the future of 262. It seems that they have gained control of 262 and any profits that are made from it without paying a cent.[ii]They stand to make $3 to $4 million from an asset that cost them NOTHING. To me that is the definition of daylight robbery.
The problem that Townsend House has is that they are running a business and a service model that is not sustainable. They can sell 262 against the wishes of the Deaf community to make money. They can tread roughshod over the rights of the residents of Townsend Park to make money. However, if they do this simply to prop up services that are not sustainable they are throwing good money after bad. It makes no sense. What is worse is that the Deaf community and residents of Townsend Park are being made to pay for their incompetence.
[i] CanDo4Kids is the name of Townsend House children services that support children who have a sensory disability. It is part of the CanDo group of companies.
[ii] Townsend House may claim that they are channelling money into Deaf Can Do Services and therefore have a stake in 262. This is a valid argument that needs to be challenged.