CAFE BEST will close next month due to high operating costs and lack of government funding.The cafe has provided work experience, employment and training opportunities for people with a disability in the Ballarat area for the last three years.Fifteen jobs will be lost when the cafe closes on March 31, including five positions currently filled by people with a disability.BEST Community Development chief executive officer Ron Stone said the decision to close the cafe had been made reluctantly by the board due to the high cost of operating the business, particularly in regard to a high staff support infrastructure, and the lack of any government funding."We've had terrific local support but what we needed was long-term support in the form of government funding," Mr Stone said.BEST Community Development has injected more than $500,000 of its own funds to subsidise Cafe BEST over the past three years.Mr Stone said the cafe required $100,000 in government funding for the next year to restructure the operation to make it financially sustainable. "The irony is if these people don't get work the government will end up having to pay 100 per cent of their disability support pension rather than us paying 60 per cent in wages," he said.Ballarat MHR Catherine King said Cafe BEST has worked hard to provide opportunities to people with a disability and should be commended for these efforts."I am certainly disappointed that funding to assist the financial viability of Cafe BEST has not been able to be found," Ms King said.Cafe BEST drew national attention after winning local, state and national awards."The awards confirm what we think, that the cafe has been an outstanding success in terms of its social agenda," Mr Stone said.The agenda has been to provide people with a disability with work experience, accredited training and a transition to employment. Mr Stone said the staff's commitment and professional approach, appreciation of their job and loyalty, in addition to the skills they have gained, made them attractive candidates to any workplace.
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