Community and Connection

Cafe Central at River House

Cafe run by service users and staff gives first-hand professional training and work experience for patients

Funding from the Maudsley Charity and Trust has enabled River House Medium Secure unit to open a café, run together by service users and staff. The project will enable service users to get first-hand experience in a vocational setting, providing a commercially recognised environment for professional training and work experience.

The café was opened by Professor Tom Fahy, SLaM Clinical Director and Professor of Forensic Mental Health, King’s College London. Speaking at the opening Tom acknowledged the hard work of the River House Occupational Therapy (OT) team who have led the project, their phenomenal level of dedication and collaboration with service users across River House.

The project was led by OT Louise Mccombieand supported by Head OT, Sarah Cook.  Sarah spoke about the important role the café will play in helping service users to gain access to training, qualifications, providing service users with an opportunity to prepare for re-entering the community when leaving hospital and to make links with other OT projects across Bethlem.

The café will be open to service users and staff at River House and will work together with the Bethlem OT Garden to provide home grown organic vegetables, jams and chutneys for use in café food. Alongside the café a market stall will sell additional food and drink, arts and craft products.

Months of planning and consultation went into the project, service users at River House got the opportunity to give their feedback through the weekly community meetings run on each ward and comments were sought on everything from the furniture to the café menu and logo design. A competition was held to name the café, attracting more than 100 different suggestions. Café Central, the winning name was the suggestion of Julie Davis a member of staff.

As the project developed catering equipment was installed, including a professional coffee machine and barista training was provided by external experts. Everyone was given the opportunity to learn how to make hot beverages using professional techniques. Other training includes cashier, catering and stock control, cleaning and food hygiene. Importantly the training is being linked to the City & Guilds scheme, meaning that over time service users will be able to obtain recognised, transferable qualifications.

Everyone working at the café has to take part in an application and interview process designed to give people additional skills. Interviews last between 30 and 45 minutes for each applicant, and people are guided through a full recruitment and induction process.

Sarah Cook OT River House
Cafe Central ribbon cutting
A view of Café Central