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Windmills Café – evaluating their service to young people with learning disabilities

Joy and Chris from Windmills Café took part in a small group of community cafés looking at self-evaluation with CFHS. They used personal planning, relationship mapping and other tools to evaluate how successful their independent living skills training and employability service was.


Between August 2017 and March 2018 we worked with a small group of community cafes to look at self-evaluation, including Windmills Cafe.

Based in Motherwell town centre, Windmills, Café with a Conscience, (WC) began trading in 2010. It was established to support the development of independent living skills and provide meaningful work experience and training opportunities for 16-25 year olds with learning disabilities. Young people have the opportunity to engage in kitchen, front of house and barista activities, ranging from basic skills to Modern Apprenticeships in Hospitality and Community Jobs Scotland supported employment posts.

The café is open 6 days a week providing breakfasts, lunches, snacks and drinks. It also caters for outside events, providing a buffet service.

What outcomes did they focus on and why?

WC focused on improving the independent living skills and employability of young people with disabilities.

Joy and Chris identified that there was an optimum period for trainees to engage in their programmes and that by remaining beyond this time some regressed rather than continuing to develop new skills. The systems in place to monitor and record trainees’ progress and successes were insufficient to capture the progress being made by individuals, identify when trainees had gained everything they could from being at WC, and should be supported to transition to another (positive) destination.

What evaluation activities did WC use?

Joy and Chris adopted a system which includes the development of a personal plan for each trainee.  Utilising a number of tools, they established a staged baseline evaluation which includes the opportunity for WC staff to get to know each young person.  Utilising relationship mapping, LD CORE and other questionnaires, staff break down barriers, identify strengths, weaknesses and capabilities.  They also establish levels of independence outside Windmills, this includes gathering information from external sources such as families, schools or support workers.

A one-page learning profile is produced that highlights how best support can be provided for each individual.  Following four session observational assessments working in the café, staff work with each individual to develop an Individual Learning Plan which sets out their personal goals and how they will know they have achieved them.  These are available for trainees and are used at review meetings to identify progression in gaining qualifications and/or developing core and other skills.

At baseline evaluation young people are encouraged to share their hopes and dreams for the future and discussion takes place about their post-Windmills plans.

What have they found out?

As this approach has recently been implemented, it is too early to quantify to what extent it is benefiting trainees in achieving long-term goals. However, early indicators show some benefits, which include improved communication with trainees as they begin their traineeship, staff being more intentional in training individuals and parents and other stakeholders sharing information and working cohesively for the wellbeing of the young people.  Collectively, the staff have reported that it is rewarding talking about the trainees’ progression, and that being able to capture information about this is empowering for the team.

There are also some signs that young people’s progression is being accelerated, however, it will take some time before data is available to substantiate this.

What was key for Windmills Cafe?

Windmills recognised the need to ensure that systems were in place to identify their trainees’ journey, achievements and point of transition from their programmes.  Investing time in baseline evaluation including breaking down barriers and relationship building is essential to this approach being effective.  It is also vital that staff commit to the process understand the long term benefits for individuals.

Published: April 24, 2018