Oldham cafe celebrates Learning Disability Pride Week

Date published: 13 June 2019

Students from New Bridge School are celebrating Learning Disability Pride Week (15th – 21st June) this week with friends and customers while on work placements at the First Choice Homes Oldham (FCHO) café.

New Bridge School, a state of the art secondary special school in Oldham, teamed up with housing association FCHO two years ago to create placements for its students to lead on all aspects of running a busy cafe. They provide opportunities to gain invaluable skills and experience of a real working environment.

Edward, a 20 year-old student, works at The Atrium cafe at FCHO’s Union Street office on Wednesdays and Thursdays and is sharing his story on Learning Disability Pride Week in a bid to inspire others to go and gain work experience. He said, “I really, really enjoy working at The Atrium as it offers something different to every other place I’ve worked at before.

The jobs I do include stock rotation, cleaning tables and recording stock levels which I enjoy doing on the computer or iPad. These jobs have improved my co-ordination and confidence.”

Since the Atrium’s launch, the partnership has gone from strength to strength and the project is booming, not only in its popularity with FCHO’s employees but also as a place of work for New Bridge students.

The organisations are highlighting the partnership’s success during Learning Disability Pride Week, a week of celebrations across Britain. It encourages people with learning disabilities, their friends, families and supporters to have marches, walks, parties and events.

The students from New Bridge School are aged between 16 and 20 and cook and serve food at The Atrium as well as operating the till.

They also do the twice daily trolley run around the building selling snacks and drinks and keep the kitchens stocked with tea and coffee.

The work experience equips them with skills they can go on to use in other jobs and sometimes they make such an impression, they continue to work at FCHO in a different capacity.

“It has been a partnership that has benefited so many and has been a great success all round,” Daniel Wood, Director of Employability at the New Bridge Group said.

“Our students love working and learning there and, given the school has a site just over the road from First Place, it’s really handy for everyone. Additionally, the café provides food to our staff and students at our Medtia Square campus, which coincidentally happens to be the former offices of First Choice Homes Oldham. And the café has also provided catering for big events and themed days at FCHO.

“We employ three members of full-time staff, each with catering backgrounds and they’re fabulous at training the students and guiding them through the day-to-day tasks of running a café.”

And the benefits to the community don’t stop there as New Bridge makes a point of using local bakers, grocers, milkmen and butchers as suppliers to the Atrium, helping to keep small Oldham businesses thriving.

Vinny Roche, Chief Executive at First Choice Homes Oldham said: “When we moved into the offices on Union Street we always had a vision that we wanted to do something with a social purpose within that atrium area. It all fell into place when Dan approached us about his students taking it on and there’s now a lovely friendly buzz each day in the café.

“The food is great and it’s fantastic value too so it’s incredibly popular with our staff.  The contract with New Bridge’s has been extended for another three years and we’re hoping our partnership will continue for many more years after that.”

First Choice Homes Oldham employs 423 people, 259 of whom are based at First Place. Staff based at FCHO’s other building Primrose Place can also use the café.

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