Ministers open ‘Stepping Stones’ Gatelodge Cafe

Date published: 24 February 2016


Health Minister, Simon Hamilton and Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry, today opened the Gatelodge coffee shop and Training and Employment Service.

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Based in the grounds of Ards Hospital, this is the latest Stepping Stones’ initiative; offering adults with a learning disability the opportunity to access accredited training; prepare them for the world of work, and improve their overall health and wellbeing.

Speaking at the launch, Mr Hamilton said: “It has been my Department’s policy for a number of years, to encourage and support people with a learning disability to live in a community setting (where possible), and to enhance the provision of person-centred day opportunities that promote integration and social inclusion.

“I am very impressed with the ongoing work being demonstrated here today, and I am pleased to have had the opportunity to acknowledge the achievement, not only of Stepping Stones, but of all those who have taken part, who are working hard to learn skills, which will enhance not only their own lives, but that of their families; friends and communities.

“To provide proper support we must all continue to work together. That includes engagement with other departments, such as the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL); Health and Social Care Services, and independent/voluntary sector organisations, with particular skills in this area.”

Qualifications in catering will be delivered at the cafe in conjunction with accredited customer service, health and safety, food hygiene and barista coffee making qualifications.

Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry said: “The Stepping Stones Youth Service project highlights the excellent outcomes achieved under the European Social Fund.

“The integrated packages of support will help young people who have learning and communication difficulties make a successful transition into and within the labour market and simultaneously improve their skill levels. Overall, 67 ESF funded projects will provide support to over 42,000 participants across Northern Ireland over the next three years.

“The Gatelodge Cafe and Training and Employment Service is an excellent example of a collaborative and innovative project and I look forward to hearing the outcomes as the project progresses.”

The Gatelodge Training and Employment service is an ESF/DEL funded, with match funding provided by the South Eastern HSC Trust and DEL’s Disability Employment Service. The Gatelodge Cafe, a newly refurbished gate lodge at the main entrance to Ards Community Hospital has been refurbished by South Eastern HSC Trust.

The Department for Employment and Learning is the managing authority for ESF in Northern Ireland.

Notes to editors: 

  • Stepping Stones NI (a Company Limited by Guarantee with charitable status), has been delivering training and employment services (in a real work-place environment) for people with learning disabilities and learning difficulties since 1998.
  • Stepping Stones is funded by a variety of statutory and charitable organisations, including the SEHSCT; DEL and the European Social Fund.
  • Media queries to DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0074, or out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 9971 5540 and your call will be returned. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt

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