DES provider will apologise to participant for phoney barista course

Posted 1 year ago by Bianca Iovino

A company advised by the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of People with Disability to apologise to a Disability Employment Services (DES) participant for a fraudulent course arrangement has said they plan to take the advice and apologise to the participant directly.

Earlier this week, Disability Royal Commissioners released their report for public hearing 21 – The experience of people with disability engaging with Disability Employment Services – and recommended Arriba Group apologise to DES participant, Mzia*, after being signed onto a fraudulent barista course that lacked resources, support and training.

Mzia, who has attention deficit hyperactive disorder, told the Commission how she was enrolled at BusyBeans “coffee school” in 2019 through her DES provider and co-company of  Arriba Group, AimBig. The program was advertised as a barista training course for people with disability.

Mzia confirmed the lack of resources and support within the “course” and described how she took responsibility to develop her own training program to help other BusyBeans participants “because no one else was helping [them].”

Mzia said her experience at BusyBeans had detrimentally affected her health and left her with a “broken heart” and a “broken life”.

An Arriba Group spokesperson told Talking Disability that Chief Executive and Managing Director, Marcella Romero, will be making contact with Mzia to make a direct apology.

Ms Romero told the Commission in February that AimBig “did not live [up to its] ‘people’ value” when signing Mzia up for the course.

After receiving nearly $1 million of Federal Government funding through the DES scheme, Arriba Group was found to have signed Mzia up for an “artificial” and “inadequate” barista training course that she said left her with a “broken life”.

In February last year, the Commission heard allegations that at least one of multiple BusyBeans training centres had “no established policies, procedures, safety measures or proper facilities to train the participants” and lacked basic equipment.

As well as apologising to Mzia, Arriba Group was advised by Commissioners Ronald Sackville, Rhonda Galbally and Andrea Mason to consider “making appropriate redress to Mzia for the adverse impact on her health, wellbeing and the impairment to her future employment prospects as the result of AimBig’s acts and omissions”.

Commissioners also highlighted concerns that AimBig “did not have appropriate processes in place to manage the conflict in its dual roles” and no clear complaint-making and resolution process.

The Commission recommended Arriba Group should undertake a review of its employment contracts to ensure they referred to the correct laws and awards and were delivered in an accessible form.

In August 2022, AimBig was one of 52 for-profit and charity-run employment services providers stripped of their employment services contracts with the Government following a performance review.

The employment services program has repeatedly been criticised for allowing privatised providers to refer job seekers on their books to jobs or training courses run by a related entity.

*Mzia is a pseudonym provided by the Disability Royal Commission.