My name is Jennie Kettell and I am the founder of this social enterprise.
I came up with the idea of having a coffee van for young people with severe/specific learning disabilities after looking at what is 'out there' for my daughter to do when she leaves school. My daughter, Jessica is 17 years old and is Autistic and has severe learning difficulties/disabilities. She was diagnosed at 3 as she didn't understand or interact very much with the world around her and had no speech. Thankfully, she was able to access an amazing special needs school almost straight away and has come on in leaps and bounds since then. It was a miracle for us when she started to talk at age 6 and now we can't shut her up! Jessica is very sociable but academic skills are very much behind. She will not be pursuing an academic career. She does however, have a lot of skills to offer our community and has expressed an interest of working in a café. She will be great at this but as her learning problems are so complex, she will need a lot more time to learn the skills needed and even more time to consolidate them. Obviously, she is not alone. There are many young people in special needs schools across the country who are able to learn and apply skills but need extra time and patience from others to be able to do so.
The Office of National Statistics (2019) states that only 0.8% of people aged 16-64 with SLD are in any type of employment. This is a shocking statistic and we need to do something about it!
Our coffee van, when set up, will be able to teach many students the skills that they need from an earlier age, to give them the time that they need. Not all of these pupils will have the burning desire that Jessica has to work in a coffee shop, but this enterprise is so much more than that!
The young people accessing this venture will learn the following life skills that can be applied to many forms of employment:-
Meeting new people & friends.
Working as part of a team
Food and drink preparation
Hygiene and safety
Functional numeracy and literacy
Experience of running and contributing to a real business.
Baking cakes and biscuits
Gain industry recognised certification to take on to other employers
Our social enterprise has been set up as a community interest company whereby all profits from any sales will be ploughed back into training more students.
We have 4 Directors:-
Works for a Berkshire based charity helping other parents who have children with special needs. She has also worked with Autistic teenagers in a special and well known residential school, has run holiday clubs for children with special needs and has been a Parent Governor at her daughter's special needs school for 6/7 years. She will also be chief taster!l
Has worked for a well known Berkshire based charity as their Finance Manager for several years after having been a Trustee before that. Jo also has children with special needs.
Jennie's husband, Jessica's Dad is a Mechanical Technician in a sweet factory and will be helping us to source the right coffee van and keep it running smoothly.
Our guru for everything compliance and policy related. Polly also has children with special needs and has been on the committee of an extra-curricular club for children with Autism for the last few years. She also works for a local charity.
Misconceptions and negative attitudes can be a barrier to people with a disability living the lives they want (Dixon et al., 2018). We want to use our coffee van to raise awareness that our young people have a lot to offer the world of employment and the wider community.