A Whanganui facility for people with disabilities has a new owner after facing the prospect of closure.
Auckland-based Laura Fergusson Rehabilitation has pulled the pin on its Whanganui centre, along with its facilities in Waikato and Auckland, saying in February that it couldn't balance its books and planned to "transition" the services to other providers by August 2020.
The Whanganui centre, based in Liverpool St, specialises in the care and rehabilitation of clients who have a neurological or physical injury or are experiencing the symptoms of a deteriorating neurological disease. It provides residential and respite services.
Laura Fergusson Trust Wellington chief executive Robert McIntyre has announced that his organisation is taking over the Whanganui centre from July 1.
McIntyre said people may find it confusing because there are three business entities - in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch - that bear the Laura Fergusson name, but the name and a shared philosophy is all they have in common and each operates independently.
"Our philosophy is independence for individuals with disabilities and maximising their potential," he said.
"We are very excited to be taking over in Whanganui."
McIntyre has met with the 16 current residents and their families and with the 22 staff.
"The residents and families are really looking forward to the relationship with Laura Fergusson Wellington," project manager Alison Molloy said.
"We're looking at opportunities to develop services in Whanganui. Community work is an area we are keen to be thinking about. That's all about relationships.
"The conversations Robert has had with staff and relatives in the last few weeks have been positive. We're committed to the current staff, residents and families. We're planning to have more staff rather than less.
"The clients within the facility will determine what is required in the future."
McIntyre said part of the changeover programme would be to reassure people and relieve any anxiety about the change of ownership.
"We recognise that it's a fundamental service for the area. There's quite a need in the community and we are well placed to continue that journey. We're wanting to develop community relationships."
Laura Fergusson Wellington is working on a research project about how the organisation might be in 20 years' time and how to integrate people with disabilities into their communities.
"We really want to push the boundaries and have something quite funky and contemporary," McIntyre said.
In Wellington, the organisation will host an event for the Wellington On a Plate festival in October, with residents cooking alongside celebrity chefs. It's part of a move to get residents engaged in community activities and McIntyre said the organisation planned to get involved in the Whanganui community too.
Laura Fergusson Rehabilitation was set up in 1967 to provide residential facilities for people with disabilities who were otherwise being sent to rest homes. It began providing services from its Whanganui Regional Centre in April 2009.
The organisation gets funding through the Ministry of Health and ACC along with donations and trust fund money from its original benefactors. McIntyre and Molloy said those organisations had been supportive of the changes and Laura Fergusson Wellington had been working closely with them to ensure contractual obligations were met.
McIntyre said he was unable to comment on the Liverpool St property which was listed for sale earlier this year. At that time, the agency's listing gave several possible options for the property, including the current lease allowing the purchaser to retain the facility on a "buy and hold" commercial investment basis.