Worthing Mencap is building on its work over the past 61 years with the development of a social hub and training space at the charity’s refurbished Buddys Cafe.
Having celebrated its diamond jubilee last year, the local charity has seen a major refurbishment at the cafe, in South Farm Road, Worthing, including a whole new kitchen.
The aim is to expand on the support given to people with learning disabilities or autism by developing tailored training opportunities.
Richard Deniese, business development lead, said: “It represents a big step forward for Worthing Mencap and it is very exciting. We are looking forward to the next stage.
“It was a big thing to close Buddys but we knew we could be doing more, and we wanted to be, so now we can provide a better space for more people.
“We have just undergone a massive refurbishment of the site, which was supported by many local companies, tradesman and stores giving materials, time and expertise for free, to deliver a state-of-the-art building that will enable people with learning disabilities and autism to get closer to paid employment and reduce isolation locally.
“Buddys is now a social hub, offering space for people in the community to get together so no-one is left isolated. We have staff on site to offer information, advice and support to people with additional needs, carers and professionals.
“From the Buddys site, we will be delivering work-based training programmes for people with learning disabilities or autism to gain the skills needed to gain employment or more independence.”
The cafe will be officially reopened on Saturday, September 14, with a ribbon cutting at 11am.
There is a new bean-to-cup coffee machine and a new chiller unit, where pre-packed food will be displayed.
Everything will be prepared in the kitchens by the clients but Buddys will be moving away from the old cook-to-order menu.
Richard explained: “We are changing the way we run to be more like the high street coffee shops.
“We want to really highlight that we are open to everyone. We are here for the community and we want to welcome everyone in. By coming here, you will be supporting the people to gain valuable experience to move into a workplace.
“We will be working towards opening six days a week, later this year, and are currently having a soft opening on Thursdays and Fridays, 10am to 2pm, until staff are in place to enable us to open more.”
Worthing Mencap will be delivering a wide variety of community services from Buddys, which is next door to its charity shop.
As well as the work-based training programmes, covering customer service and food preparation, the aim is for Buddys to be a social hub where people can drop in, whether or not they are buying anything at the cafe.
Richard explained: “We are inviting people to come in and use this place to be social. It is not about coming in here and buying something, you can come in and sit in the corner and read a newspaper and not talk to anyone if you want to.
“We are looking at having a co-ordinator to offer support and conversation, if people need it. A big part of it will be facilitating social interactions.
“We are building on our strengths but making it simpler, as before, people weren’t sure when they could come due to the clubs we run.”
New folding tables will be used in the cafe so the space is adaptable, for example using it for cinema evenings.
There will also be information drop-in sessions, including advocacy services, social work, carers group and a drop in surgery with county and borough councillor Bob Smytherman on the first Friday of the month from 10am to midday.