As much as I like to moan about work, really, when you think about it, it’s a massive privilege.

Like many things in life, working is something that most of us take for granted, and without it we’d be at a bit of a loss.

That’s why making the workplace more accessible to those with special needs is imperative, which is exactly what a cafe in Headingley, Leeds has done by allowing young adults with Down Syndrome the chance to gain some valuable work experience.

Café 21 opened on 12th January and was created by the charity Sunshine & Smiles in a bid to help young people with the genetic condition get work experience and training that will boost their career prospects.

The cafe allows people to work in the kitchen and front of house, serving homemade cakes, food, hot and cold drinks, and even gifts. And the good news doesn’t stop there – all the workers get paid the national living wage.

Ailith Harley-Roberts, 47, helped launch the cafe following a ‘very successful’ trial week that took place in March last year.

Ailith 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 47-year-old explained that workers will be able to add health and safety training among other transferable skills to their CVs, which will help boost their career prospects.

“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,” she added.

One of the workers is Kathryn O’Donnell, 21, who helps to take orders, clear tables and prepare food. The staff take on a number of different roles around the cafe depending on their preference.

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.”

Cafe 21 will be a permanent fixture for the next six months and will be open from Thursday to Sunday.

Ailith and her team of helpers hope it will stay open beyond that and we concur.

It’s nice to read a story like this every once in a while isn’t it?

Brilliant stuff.

Images via SWNS

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