A CHARITY has set up a coffee shop offering work placements for people with disabilities.

Southend Mencap, which supports people with mental health difficulties, has opened the Novel Coffee Shop, in London Road, Southend.

Dre Bellamy, 49, retail manager at Southend Mencap, said the charity’s staff had the idea of wanting to offer work placements for people with learning difficulties because they can often find it difficult to get work.

She said that most of the people working in the shop are living with autism or Down syndrome and there is now a waiting list for people who want to work there.

She said: “For some time now it has been our wish to expand and enhance our little hidden gem of a bookshop.

“An opportunity we were keen to embrace was the new coffee shop culture which we’ve thought for a while would be good for the society in terms of a business and to enable us to offer a learning disability friendly meeting place- a warm, safe environment where everyone is welcome.

“To see our idea now coming to life as ‘The Novel Coffee Shop’ is very exciting for the society.”

The Novel Coffee Shop opened its doors on Wednesday and Dre said the opening was busy and popular.

The opening was attended by Southend Mencap’s chairman Chris Hebden MBE.

She said that she had been blown away by the support from the community.

Ms Bellamy added: “

“The most exciting prospect of our new project is the training and work placement opportunities it will provide for adults with learning disabilities.

“These opportunities are unfortunately few and far between, so we’re very proud to be able to offer this service.

“At the minute the workers who live with learning difficulties are helping carry orders to tables, clean tables and restock items where needed.

“We’re inviting residents to come to see how our volunteers are doing.”

She added: “The shop offers a variety of freshly ground coffees, served by our barista trained staff, as well as a range of teas and of course homemade cakes.

“We’ve made it our mission to source the most delicious cakes, we are hoping to expand our menus to include cream teas and afternoon teas too.

“We also offer our customers a chance to combine this with a browse around the shop for books, DVDs and CDs.

The coffee shop is open on Mondays to Saturdays from 9.30am until 4pm.