Pear Tree Café

S.A.F.E tries to facilitate as much agency to the service user as possible as the more agency an individual has the more power is handed back to them. This is also the case at the Pear Tree Café, the Café is run by those individuals with Learning Disabilities (LD) and additional needs. We ask the volunteers at the Café to choose how it runs and what they choose to do within that. S.A.F.E co-workers are simply there to facilitate these wishes. Power and agency are arguably things that have been in short supply for those that volunteer at the Café as they develop new skills and take on new roles including chef, front of house Manager of Stock, Control Operative, so their identity is strengthened as is their self-esteem. This, in our experience impacts throughout every aspect of a volunteer’s life and hopefully enhances it in many ways. This ‘circle of positivity’ is what is at the heart of S.A.F.E’s approach to the co-production of good lives for those with LD and additional needs.

The Café’s mission is to provide a direct link for those with LD and/or additional needs and paid work. Volunteers have to pass through a formal interview stage in which they are asked to demonstrate a clear desire to want to work and to ultimately make the most out of a position at the Pear Tree Café. The way the Café is structured is in a way that rewards desire to work not ability to work. If someone has desire and is willing to try the Café has the infrastructure to support them to realise their potential.

When and Where

Café serving hot and cold meals every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Open to the general public 9.00- 16.00. The Café is located on Saxon Road, Saxmundham IP17 1EA

What we do

  • Run by adults with Learning Disabilities, who have support from S.A.F.E staff members.
  • Provide valuable work experience for those with Learning Disabilities in the Saxmundham area.
  • Work experience in:
    • Prepping food
    • Money skills
    • Customer service
    • Waiting tables/ front of house
    • Appropriate self-presentation
    • Social etiquette
    • Baking
    • Food hygiene and correct practice
    • Public relations
    • Stock rotation
    • Domestic/commercial cleaning skills
  • The Café provides a valuable bridge between the local community and those with Learning Disabilities that work there.
  • All support staff working at the Café have a food hygiene certificate.
  • Any special skill that a S.A.F.E staff member might have is utilised– e.g. catering skills, front of house management.
  • The Café has been awarded a 5 star food hygiene rating.
  • The emphasis is on what those that work at the Café can do, not what they can’t. This can involve focusing on skills that they excel in so that they can feel involved and proud of any accomplishments. Some of the service users work best waiting on tables and others enjoy baking. Though this is encouraged, everyone is welcomed in learning new skills or doing multiple job roles.
  • Work is voluntary at the Café with all tips going to co-workers.
  • In order to provide the service that S.A.F.E sets out to achieve, the job is taken seriously which gives the co-workers a sense of real work experience. With this comes the rules expected in any work related setting including being punctual to shifts, wearing appropriate clothing and calling in absent rather than not turning up.
  • Volunteers are encouraged to find paid employment and several have managed to do just that. Many of the skills that are acquired at the Café are transferable and used in any job such as time management, personal management, customer liaison, money management, motivational skills and social etiquette. There are also many practical skills that are transferable such as stock control/rotation, bakery skills, food preparation and cookery skills, kitchen management i.e. safety checks, restaurant floor management and cleaning skills.
  • The Café provides a good link between volunteers and local businesses. Because of its location in a town that is very close knit, many trades people pass through during a working day. The volunteers at the Café are able to get to know them and have the opportunity to show case their skills
  • Volunteers use the Pear Tree star reward system it is a simple idea that promotes self confidence and self-esteem. After every month volunteers receive a star (if they have managed to complete their goals regardless of the level of support required), after 6 months they become fully fledged 6 star workers who are then able to assist newer volunteers to achieve their goals. Once six stars have been achieved a volunteer can choose a specialist area to work in, if capacity can facilitate them.
  • Volunteers at the Café receive a fortnightly pay packet that is their share of the tips that are taken during service. Volunteers are supported by their co-workers to think of what they might do with the money. Co-workers hand over details of how much a volunteer has earned to volunteers support at the end of the working day. They may also hand over what the volunteer has decided they would like to do with their earnings. Apart from verbal hand over co- workers will use the volunteers ‘Pear Tree Communication book’ to make sure it is documented correctly.
  • Co-workers are encouraged to explore issues around benefits and employment with volunteers and in many instances volunteers assume that having paid work means their benefits will cease. The fear around this issue can have a direct implication on a volunteers willingness to work so it is important that the facts are set out correctly.

Future Opportunity

  • The Pear Tree Café has grown consistently over the last three years, we have reached a point where we need to ask ourselves- where next? The concept of a business run for, and by those with Learning Disability may not be a new one but the way Pear Tree Café has evolved seems too successful a process to be forgotten. The Café has facilitated other activities and groups that have been inclusive of adults of any ability these include cookery, cake making, gardening and flower arranging. At the present time we do not have the resources to set up another Café ourselves, although, it could be set up in the same way a franchise would be. When the Cafeéinitially opened it only offered tea, coffee and cake, the takings were very small but so were our overhead costs. Our lack of experience was the biggest obstacle we had to overcome as we had very limited understanding of how to operate in a productive way with the resources we had available.
  • It would not be beyond the realms of possibility to imagine the Pear Tree Café staff team traveling to a near by town such as Ipswich and training a team within another provider similar to ourselves. Those who have been labelled as learning disabled may pass on their knowledge and experience to others with the same label, in so doing adopting a new role; ‘Social Entrepreneurs’. Not only would this arguably empower all involved, but also facilitates integration, new communities, new friends and work acquaintances. Ultimately, if this could be replicated three or four times successfully, the area that would have access to a Pear Tree Café would be large enough to make others further away sit up and take note.