Paradigm Foundations supports Café in the Library

Posted on the 31st August 2018

Last year Paradigm Foundation granted a £3,000 award to Watford and District Mencap to support the start-up of a café based at the central library in Watford. We caught up with Michelle Hamilton to find out how the scheme is going…

Watford Mencap believes that people with learning disabilities have the right to enjoy equal opportunities and be valued as members of society, and the Café in the Library project does just that.

The new Café opened in November 2017 and is set is a beautiful bright space with parquee flooring and high ceilings on the side of the central library. Expert advice on the industrial style and feel was provided by local companies Warner Bros, John Lewis and Topps Tiles.

The Café is a new and exciting way to support people with learning disabilities. A manager and assistant mentor the ten trainees with learning disabilities whilst they are working at the cafe. The trainees gain on-the-job experience and learn valuable skills for their future, such as catering, barista skills, money handling, H&S, cleanliness, customer service and hospitality. Advice and information is also provided to the trainees on benefits and access to work.

The scheme has received great feedback from the public and The Café has quickly become a community hub where people go to relax, have a coffee and a chat. It’s become popular with local groups such as a reading group, a knitting group and a breast-feeding group, as it’s an easily accessible and comfortable environment. The friendly relaxed atmosphere at the café is helping to break down barriers towards people with learning disabilities.

Michelle Hamilton from Watford and District Mencap said: “The funding from Paradigm Housing has been really really valuable. It has helped towards training costs for the staff and volunteers who work at the café. The staff have been trained to support people with learning disabilities in the right way and have learnt how to tailor learning to specific learning styles. The Café experience is helping support our trainees into real jobs in the retail industry.”

Jane Harrison, Deputy Finance Director, commented: “We are very proud to be supporting such a fantastic project as the Café in the Library. Equipping people with learning disabilities with real life skills will help them to lead a happy and fulfilled life and be valued in society.”

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