See you in Court... for a coffee

6 March 2019 | Wales

Charlotte Sandford and Angharad Murray

Charity opens snack bar in court.

When a charity realised a kitchen in a local court was not being used, they came up with a clever plan for a community venture.

Aiming to tackle the chronic lack of work experience opportunities for people with learning disabilities, they launched a cafe. Now a steady stream of lawyers, magistrates, witnesses and members of the public queue up daily for coffee and sandwiches at The Hatch in Haverfordwest Magistrates Court.

The unique social enterprise launched last September and was the brainwave of the Pembrokeshire branch of charity Action for Children.

Now they offer dozens of young people with special learning needs the chance to gain experience of working with members of the public, as well as more practical training. It is a unique example of people helping people.

"The Hatch offers volunteering positions and the chance to develop social and customer care skills, as well as budgeting, food hygiene and barista skills,” explained Angharad Murray, Youth Person Practitioner. “In the long term, the aim is for young people to build relationships with local suppliers and customers and open up career opportunities as a result.

“Most of the young people on the scheme volunteer at least one full day a week.

“You can really see how their confidence has grown in even just a month. At first most didn’t even want to go near the till but now they are fighting over who serves a customer,” laughs Angharad. “But you can really see their skills improving quickly. I work alongside and they can now do coffees without prompting. It is a proper professional barista machine too, so quite technical and I was initially quite nervous that it might be too complicated. But I’ve been very proud how they have got to grips with it. To the point that we are now hoping to be able to offer some of our young people proper barista qualifications.”

Those not confident with dealing directly with the public can take a back office role working on management, stock control, leaflets, menus and theme days. Angharad said she hoped the money made would be fed back into the project to make it sustainable.

Charlotte Sandford, 17, is just one of dozens of young people benefiting from the project. “Working at the Hatch is my favourite day of the week,” said Charlotte, who goes to volunteer every Wednesday. The Portfield School pupil says the project has helped with her communication skills and helped her handle money better.

“It makes me feel proud and happy when people take things I have made. And I like wearing a uniform, it makes me feel professional.”

She hopes to use her new-found skills to help her get a job in health and beauty. “I think the fact I have worked with the public will help me get a proper job. I used to be really shy, but now I feel much more confident. And I can make a mean latte!”

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