Upper Crust Cafe


Story Details

7 years ago, in a deal struck with the department of family and community services the charity, House With No Steps, made quote "a long term commitment" to provide supported employment for 10 people with disabilities working at this suburban cafe.

But that commitment was not honoured.

At least, so far as these people are concerned, cafe workers Alison, Emma, Damien, Vaughan and their parents are distraught.

“This whole thing is not ethical, they are a charity, they should be looking after people, they should be concerned. They have been very callous. To my mind this has been a very calculated way of realising this asset.” Said Parent Lyndsey

27 years ago, Trevor and Berwynne Taylor got together with other parents of disabled children to form a small charity called Werrigal.
With government help, they bought this cafe as a place where people like Adam Leeson could work and be happy.

“I’ve learnt how to make wraps, sandwiches, bread rolls and the washing up as well.” Said Adam Leeson

“This place has been going for 27 years, it was opened by Hazel Hawke, it's got a fantastic history in this location.” Said Lyndsey

Under the management of parents like Lyndsey Showyin and the Taylors, Upper Crust thrived.
The $620,000 dollar mortgage on the building and business was reduced to $74,000.

“I think it was the first transition to work operation in Australia at the time.” Said Trevor

But in 2006, the Federal Government sent the parents this disturbing letter.

The department of Community and Family services had commissioned an audit by KPMG which recommended "the strategic future of Werrigal is best served through a merger with a compatible business service"...

In other words, in spite of its success, the government would only continue funding Upper Crust if it merged with a larger charity.

“House with no steps got this because the federal government forced us to go to a larger organisation, they played very hardball.” Said Lyndsey

House With No Steps would only manage upper crust and continue supporting their children if they could own the business and its premises, for which they offered to pay out the mortgage.

The parents needed to secure continued government support for their kids - so they merged with House With No Steps, which got upper crust and the premises for next to nothing.

“They've taken a very good business, that we've paid $620,000 for, for the princely some of $74,0000.
We gave it to them because they're an iconic group that should have been able and capable of keeping open a business that was running perfectly well and make sure that it thrives.” Said Trevor.

But 6 years on, House with No Steps says the business is unviable, that they are losing $100,000 dollars a year and they need to close to prevent further losses.

“We believe they have not tried, it’s an assett grab. They want the property which has been upzoned.
It's worth over a million and a half dollars now.” Said Lyndsey

“They haven't tried to make it succeed. We made it succeed for 20 years and purchased the building, i think that speaks for itself. I think they are assett stripping.” Said Trevor.

The parents are cynical.

“They'll leave it open for a few months and then they'll sell it.
I wouldn't be a bit surprised if they don't have a buyer already.” Said Trevor.

House with no steps refused an on camera interview but in an email to me they say they have lost 750,000 dollars over the past seven years and that keeping upper crust open will compromise their ability to support the other 3000 people with disabilities for whom they provide services.

They add that they are committed to supporting the nine affected employees and have already offered alternate employment for some of them.

Vaughan and his co workers have been informed they will be redundant at the end of next week.

“I don't want you to shut down, i want to stay open forever.” Said Alison

“Will you get another somewhere
D: i don't know , I’ll stay at home and do some sweeping!” Said Reporter and Damien

“They have 5 million in the general kitty that comes from the population in donations.
Now, if they can't spend a little bit of that on keeping an operation like this going, then i don't know what they are doing with their money?” Said Trevor

The parents are refusing to give up and are offering a compromise to House With No Steps

“We expect them to give it back.
That would be the honourable thing to do, to give it back for the same money they paid for it.” Said Trevor

House With No Steps have refused to sell the business back for $74,000 dollars.
The parent's and their kids have a matter of days to find a solution.

“All of the parents are devastated. One of the children's father has ended up in hospital this week with a chest problem. The ladies are crying, the kids are absolutely devastated. They don't know where they are going or what they are doing. I mean the stress and the absolute lack of compassion from the government minister responsible; minister macklin should hang her head in shame for what she's doing here, she's not even interested.” Said Lyndsey.

The Minister denies any lack of interest. As does the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Amanda Rishworth who says she is trying to secure a satisfactory outcome. There is only one satisfactory outcome for Vaughan and his colleagues.

“Very worrying. It just simply can't afford to close.” Said Vaughan... but already, there's a sense of the inevitable.