Advertisement
Social Justice

The south London café helping people with learning difficulties into work

Cafe Van Gogh is hoping to raise £22,000 for a new kitchen – to train more people with learning difficulties into work.

The staff shortage in hospitality is hitting businesses hard – but one south London café thinks it has an innovative solution.

Cafe Van Gogh, in Brixton, trains adults with learning difficulties to work as front of house staff. But it’s now raising money for a new kitchen – in a bid to help a marginalised group into work.

“You can’t, for love nor money, get kitchen porters these days,” says founder Steve Clarke.

“For people with a learning difficulty in my experience, job retention is incredible. Staff sickness is rare. They’re reliable people, easy to train.”

Clarke is aiming to raise £22,000 for the new kitchen – which would allow the café to double its cohort of trainees.

Ehima, another participant at Cafe Van Gogh. Image: Cafe Van Gogh

He hopes that they will then go on to the world of work, filling crucial jobs. Brexit has made life difficult for the hospitality industry – a crisis which has opened up opportunities.

Advertisement
Advertisement

“They can definitely get jobs everywhere. If we can hit the big chains we can make a difference,” Clarke says.

But the task of raising money has been more difficult after the café became embroiled in a dispute with UK Power Networks.

The café has had to spend around £6,000 after it was billed for power installation – work that Clarke says was messed up.

That money was earmarked for the kitchen refurbishment – leaving the café further away from its goal.

Cafe Van Gogh has benefitted from investment from Big Issue Invest, as well as support for the refurbishment.

Alongside helping people into work, Clarke hopes to provide them with a social life outside of work – “a sense of purpose, a reason to get out of bed in the morning”.

And it’s moments where this plays out, as much as job offers, that stick with him. One day, he saw one of his waiters – “a young man with Down’s Syndrome, you would not meet a more upbeat guy” – chatting to another member of staff about going to the gym.

“I thought, my work here is done,” Clarke says. “We want people to lose their disability at the doorstep.”

A spokesperson for UK Power Networks said: “We have been in close contact with the customer to outline the reasons why the work had to be aborted for safety reasons and have already discounted the cost for the additional work that followed as a gesture of goodwill.

“While we cannot give specific detail on individual connections customers, we can confirm we did provide all the necessary information in the letter sent with the initial quotation to ensure a suitable location was chosen.

“Customers are always advised to make use of a local qualified electrician when working with us to ensure their chosen connection location is safe and not situated too close to existing water and gas pipes.”

Cafe Van Gogh’s fundraiser can be found here.

Advertisement

Every copy counts this Winter

Your local vendor is at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis this Winter. Prices of energy and food are rising rapidly. As is the cost of rent. All at their highest rate in 40 years. Vendors are amongst the most vulnerable people affected. Support our vendors to earn as much as they can and give them a fighting chance this Winter.

Recommended for you

Read All
Time to Talk: 'Don't let your debt and mental health struggles bury you'
Time to talk day

Time to Talk: 'Don't let your debt and mental health struggles bury you'

A disabled woman has been left without a toilet or shower for months by her healthcare provider
Disability

A disabled woman has been left without a toilet or shower for months by her healthcare provider

This map shows you where to find a warm bank near you this winter
Winter survival guide

This map shows you where to find a warm bank near you this winter

Free school meals: Everything you need to know
Free school meals

Free school meals: Everything you need to know

Most Popular

Read All
Lauren Layfield: 'Normal men, innocent men' and me
1.

Lauren Layfield: 'Normal men, innocent men' and me

Here's when people will get the next cost of living payment in 2023
2.

Here's when people will get the next cost of living payment in 2023

Where to find grants for furniture and carpets in 2023
3.

Where to find grants for furniture and carpets in 2023

Scotland aims to cut car use by creating '20-minute neighbourhoods' in net zero push
4.

Scotland aims to cut car use by creating '20-minute neighbourhoods' in net zero push