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‘My confidence has sky rocketed.’ The Swansea coffee shop that helps those struggling to work


Tucked away in Swansea city centre along St Mary’s Square, is a special cafe which offers a lifeline to those who have found themselves overlooked for employment opportunities through no fault of their own.

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The Social Bean provides jobs and work experience to people with disabilities who may otherwise struggle to find work. Serving up coffee and an extensive food menu, it it a social enterprise from Leonard Cheshire Cymru, one of the biggest third sector organisations providing care for disabled people at homes throughout the UK, as well as championing measures to improve the quality of life for disabled people.

The vision behind it is simple – supporting people of all abilities to live life as freely and independently as they choose.

READ MORE:A new pub is opening on the old Mumbles Mile

As well as the coffee shop and cafe element of the business, there is also a digital IT suite available to use especially for those with disabilities, with accessible assisted technology available such as specially designed keyboards, magnifying screens, and VR headsets to give people an experience they never would have in normal life.

There is also a disabled changing room which can be used by the public, and lining the walls there is a gallery of photos to admire, all taken by those with disabilities.

After graduating from university, Joe Long developed stress and anxiety after finding he was faced with frequent rejection when it came to applying for jobs.

The 29-year-old, from Mumbles, was referred to take part in Leonard Cheshire’s Changing Futures programme, which provides one to one support to develop essential skills and confidence through a series of employment sessions, facilitating practical, real-world scenarios and paid work placements to improve employability.

He now looks after Social Bean’s social media accounts, and admitted it had a huge impact in changing his life.

Joe Long

“My confidence has sky rocketed, I’m so grateful to the people who helped me gain skills, not just within social media and marketing but through communication,” he said.

“I developed feelings of stress and anxiety – rejection triggered those feelings within me. I am feeling far better now than I did before. Coming straight out of university, I didn’t have the experience that some job applications were looking for. I’m grateful for this opportunity, it gives me the experience I need going forward in the future.”

One of the Social Bean’s team members, Tilly Dennis, who works behind the counter preparing drinks, has what she describes as a “hidden disability”. She described her joy at working within a team where her disability was not seen as an obstacle.

Inside Social Bean at St Mary's Square in Swansea
Inside Social Bean at St Mary’s Square in Swansea

“I love working at the Social Bean and being part of a team where my disability isn’t seen as a problem or a burden,” the 26-year-old, from Morriston said.

“As well as serving food and drinks, our social enterprise is changing lives, providing a vital stepping stone to employment for disabled people.”

Helen Hall is manager of Social Bean. She said: “When we started off, some of the staff came in a bit anxious and reserved, but they have been able to improve their social skills which will stand them in good stead in the future.

“It’s an important scheme, because at the moment I don’t think there is anywhere else like this in Swansea. Everybody should be entitled to have a go at anything, and should be able to have opportunities to work.

“For some, it is their first employment, and others come in from areas where they were not treated as important or regarded as they should have been.

“They come here quite shy and with a lack of confidence but then they come out of their shell and have been able to show their personality. It’s been great since we opened and we’ve been growing our customers, some of whom have become regulars. We try and explain to them the idea behind it all and it is great to see the community supporting that.”

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Director of Wales for Social Bean, Glyn Meredith, added: “Places like this are vital. We know how locked out many people are from the employment market and opportunities like this give them self confidence. Sometimes, businesses do not give them a fair crack, so if they can come here and get that experience, it provides them with more skills and the opportunity to have more job opportunities in future.”

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