Café ‘Inspires’ those with Learning Disabilities

Café Inspire is based at Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s Headquarters in Penrith. It is renowned across the Trust for its delicious tray bakes, sandwiches, cakes and soups.

Below is the story of how the café came about and how it’s success has led to some of the students gaining secure jobs. It is written by Jaqui Taylor – Chief Officer at Eden Mencap.

It all started in around June of 2010 when keen eyes spotted and very small advert in The Herald, inviting interested caterers to tender for a new café being created for the new Trust HQ.

Eden Mencap has been providing a service for many years supporting adults with learning disabilities (LD) to gain independent skills in making and preparing snacks and meals, understanding where foods come from, using knives and kitchen equipment, oven, hob & microwave. Several of the students were keen to work in cafes – but this became very difficult as local employers could not see the benefit of employing a person with LD. Having worked with many students for several years we were convinced that with practical experience in real work settings would bring the training out and prove that people with LD were very capable of working.

We chatted to our students and told them about the tender, they were very excited and we decided that we would ‘pitch’ and try for the contract. Many months of planning and practising followed; we submitted paperwork and were invited to do a presentation to the Trust. Although very nervous 3 students confidently and competently told the directors about their plans and how running a café would help them to develop their skills further – and maybe lead on to employment, but would also benefit the Trust as they would have a good café, and the Trust staff would be supporting learning disabilities. The students were thrilled to receive the phone call saying that they had been successful in winning the contract.

Café Inspire opened in Voreda House in October 2010.

Over the last 4 years the café has grown and expanded it products. We make all our own cakes, scones, traybakes and savoury food. All prepared fresh each day. There is one member of staff employed each day to support the students, as you will realise 1 person could not do all the work and prepare the food, each student has their list of jobs to do, they all play their part in the café team, they are all passionate about the work they do. The students learn front of house skills, back kitchen duties (using and industrial dishwasher, making café food and buffets, taking them upstairs and setting up rooms, learn how to use a coffee machine, catering equipment, stock control and rotation, cleaning, tidying …. and so on. We have very little sickness; everyone comes in because they want to be here. The student’s skills increase and most importantly their self-esteem and self-worth has grown enormously. The students have all passed their level 1 in food safety and are working towards their level 2, these are the same qualification that all food staff complete, real qualifications.

Two of the café students have now secured a part time job. One at Costas and one at Sainsbury’s café, these jobs are real jobs, earning real money (the same as any other employee) with contracts and a pay slip. Their journey through cafe Inspire has enabled them to do what they always wanted to achieve – a job – just like you and me.

This has been made possible through their training at café Inspire – Trust staff have been a part of their training, their support and have encouraged them to achieve their goals.

Watch the video that was made in 2011 about Cafe Inspire