Ben at work in Sparky's Café

Greater independence has been achieved for a 33 year-old man with a learning disability after seven months of working at Sparky’s Café in Guildford.

Following a successful interview and trial day Ben started work in November 2016, learning how to operate the till, interact with customers and serve a variety of hot drinks to them whilst maintaining a clean café area.

He was thrilled to get the job at Sparky’s and to be given the opportunity to get some hands-on experience. Since starting at the café, which serves the community from Farnham Road Hospital, Ben has learnt a range of new skills, made new friends and bolstered his confidence.

Sparky’s Café is run by Richmond Fellowship, a community based project aimed at providing ongoing training and opportunities for people with mental health issues and learning disabilities.

Several customers from Surrey Choices Employability programme have undertaken placements with the Fellowship, allowing them to gain valuable work experience that will enable them to go on and find paid employment.

Surrey Choices Employment Support Specialist, Deborah Mandelli, said: “Since starting work at Sparky’s, Ben has learnt a wealth of valuable new skills and has really developed his confidence.

“He really enjoys having the freedom to travel independently on the train into Guildford, and the daily interaction with staff and customers has improved his self esteem immensely. We’re exceptionally proud of his achievements.”

Sparky’s Café is managed and run by Maria Ruiz, and provides a community hub where people can go for a relaxing chat with friends, as well as providing people with health and wellbeing advice, ranging from healthy eating to dementia awareness sessions.

The employment opportunities on offer at the café give people the opportunity to develop key skills and give something back to the community.

Surrey Choices EmployAbility service is open to everyone they support, helping to find work placements, training, volunteer opportunities and paid work. More than three people enter paid employment every week as a result of the service. Of those supported in work, 70% have been in that job for over two years.

Is employment an issue affecting you or someone you care for? You may be interested in our other recent articles Support into employment and Self-employment for disabled people.