Gatelodge Cafe in Ards is Officially Opened

25/02/2016

Ministers Dr Stephen Farry MLA and Simon Hamilton MLA have officially launched a new supported employment service for people with a learning disability in Newtownards.

The Gatelodge Café and Training & Employment Service is operated by Stepping Stones NI, an award winning charitable organisation with almost 20 years of expertise in running social enterprises that provide supported employment to people with a learning disability .

Adults with learning disability in Newtownards are provided with one-to-one support by a team of experienced job coaches, trainers and mentors. The Stepping Stones NI Training & Employment Service has established links with employers across Northern Ireland with the aim of securing volunteering, work placements and paid jobs for their clients. The service also provides a realistic working environment for clients who wish to explore catering and hospitality as a career option at The Gatelodge Café.

The social enterprise cafe, located at the main entrance to Ards Community Hospital on Church Street is run by a team of catering and hospitality staff who train adults with a learning disability to prepare and serve food and drinks.

This project is part funded through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014 – 2020 and the Department for Employment and Learning.

Carole Veitch, Acting Assistant Director, of the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust comments on the official launch of the service “The Trust is delighted that the Gatelodge Café and Training & Employment Service has now opened its doors and is providing day opportunities to adults with learning disabilities in a structured and productive environment. We are excited about the Stepping Stones NI model of support coming to Newtownards and believe it will make a big impact to the lives of people with a learning disability and their families”.

Stepping Stones NI have developed a proven model in the development of social enterprises with four catering / training businesses, a bespoke wedding stationery business and picture framing business. The charity recently achieved two high commendations at the Social Enterprise Awards NI for 2015 for Social Enterprise of the Year and Best Health & Social Care Award.

Chief Officer of the charity Paula Jennings states “We are excited about replicating our model of supported employment into Newtownards with the support of the European Social Fund, the Department for Employment & Learning and the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust. The Gatelodge Café and Training & Employment Service brings a much needed supported employment service to adults with learning disability in Newtownards to progress to employment and offers an exciting new eatery for locals, hospital staff and visitors to enjoy. All our profits are reinvested back into supporting adults with a learning disability in Newtownards and we encourage locals to “buy social” and local employers in the area to engage with our employment service to give work opportunities to people with learning disabilities progressing through our service”.

The Gatelodge café is housed within the historic gate lodge building at the main gate to South Eastern Trust’s Ards hospital. The building c.1870 which was a former gate lodge for the Newtownards Union Workhouse has been renovated by the South Eastern Trust to house the social enterprise café. 

Pictured top:  Health Minister, Simon Hamilton, MLA, Louise & Kieran and Dr Stephen Farry, Minister, Department of Education & Learning

Pictured below:  Hugh McCaughey (Chief Executive, South Eastern HSC Trust), Health Minister, Simon Hamilton, MLA, Paula Jennings (Chief Officer, Stepping Stones) & Dr Stephen Farry, Minister, Department of Education & Learning