Cafe with benefits

6 March 2019 | North West England

Cafe 7 Shop Manager Kay Penkethman and Project Co-ordinator Andrew Forse

Community cafe and supermarket helping those most in need on the Wirral.

Managing a budget can be tough for most of us. Now a pioneering community cafe is transforming lives on the Wirral by offering employment help and advice on welfare and how to deal with debt.

Cafe Number Seven is a membership-based, not-for-profit citizens supermarket and cafe in Birkenhead.

Those who are referred to the shop are invited to be members. That means they can come along and sit with a coffee and speak to specialist advisors who will help get them back into work, or work with them to consolidate their debt into a manageable payment. The team also offer interview techniques, help with improving CVs and even secure them work.

After they have taken advantage of the help on offer they can head to the cafe which sells surplus food donated from supermarkets at a discount. Families are able to benefit from prices at least two-thirds lower than a normal shop.

“The idea is that we help people help themselves. They stay with us until we sort them out and when they are flourishing, they can move on,” said project coordinator Andrew Forsey. “We also want to enable people on low incomes to access affordable food in a dignified and welcoming environment." Andrew works with Birkenhead’s independent MP Frank Field, and the cafe is run in partnership with Feeding Birkenhead, a coalition of local community groups.

“A driving force is to offer an intervention to people. For someone who is struggling from week to week, it can sometimes just take one event like a broken fridge or unexpected large bill to find yourself in crisis. So shopping with us for a while will help keep them over while we can advise over how best to get a grip of underlying debt problems.”

Members are able to take advantage of the scheme for up to six months while they find their feet.

The community cafe serves wholesome, healthy and affordable meals. A family of four can eat a hot meal for under £10. “We are working with around 100 individuals and their families,” said Andrew. “These are people that were mostly referred by a local housing association but in future we are working with people who come to us from job center.”

In the future the centre hopes to help in other areas, like cookery classes. “We have had members tell us, that they buy the food but could do with help with ideas of how to make meals, so that is something we will look to launch soon too.”

Staff and volunteers at Number Seven have also been specifically chosen from the community. Those who have been out of work for a while or who need a confidence boost have been employed.

Andrew added: “An unexpected boost has been the benefit to people’s mental health, those who have felt isolated and have come here for a shop, a meal, a coffee, have reported feeling uplifted.”

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