Café Hires People Living With Down Syndrome And Pays Them National Living Wage
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A charity-run café has employed workers living with Down Syndrome to help them gain work experience while also being paid the national living wage.
Ailith Harley-Roberts, 47, helped to launch the café on 12th January 2019 after a "very successful" trial week in March 2018.
She said: "The young people here have thrived.
"When we had the trial, it was just for a week and it felt like such a shame to have to close the doors.
"Since then, the charity have sought funding to re-open and I think it is brilliant we have now been able to launch."
The café opens from Thursday to Sunday, and is a permanent fixture for at least the next six months in Leeds.
Ailith said she hopes the café will remain a success.
She said: "Even after being open for a week, we have provided health and safety training to our staff which they will be able to put on the CV.
"I have spoken to one parent who said their son has been setting his alarm each morning and can't wait to come into work.
"That is what it is all about. The support we have had is phenomenal."
Staff members take on a number of different roles around the café depending on the area they prefer.
Some of the staff prefer to be customer-facing while others enjoy stock take and preparing food.
One of the workers, Kathryn O'Donnell, 21, helps to take orders, clear tables and making food.
The national living wage must legally be paid to those over 25 but the cafe has decided to pay their staff, even those aged under 25, this amount which many are applauding.
Ailith is expecting the young adults to 'thrive' through working in the café as part of a 14 member team. She also wants to provide them with transferable skills that they can use in their future careers.
She added: "Some of the staff want to be customer-facing, others love doing stock taking or working in the back.
"There is so much involved, they are learning a lot about customer service."
The project has been funded with help from The Seedbed Trust and The Wesleyan Foundation.
Sunshine & Smiles is a parent-led charity that helps children and young people across Leeds by providing speech and language therapy, regular groups and activities, individual support and advocacy for families.
The charity aims to raise awareness and challenge preconceptions about Down syndrome in the wider community.
You can find out more about Sunshine & Smiles here.