Adults with learning disabilities in Newcastle are cooking up exciting new skills in the kitchen thanks to the ambitions of local charity Journey Enterprises and new funding from Newcastle Building Society.

Journey Enterprises, which celebrates its 40th anniversary next year, provides specialist support for adults with learning disability. With four Day Centres, Blyth, Hexham, Newcastle and Bishop Auckland, its services enable adults with learning disability to develop life and work skills, and to lead active, inclusive and fulfilling lives.

With the support of a £3,000 Society grant, the Charity has bought two Norseman mobile cooking uits which include hobs, ovens and storage space. These are being used at the former Shandon Way Community Centre which became Journey’s Newcastle Day Centre in April 2021. The Newcastle team was formerly based at Cowgate.

Moving outdoors at Shandon Way, the grant has also enabled Journey to install a pizza oven in the garden from where it will be selling the food Clients make make to local people via a new social enterprise.

The funding has been provided through the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund. Administered by the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear, the Fund grants to charities and community groups located in or around the communities served by the Society’s branch network.

Over the past few months, Journey’s Day Centres have been busy preparing to welcome back the public on site. The Charity normally runs community cafes which provide nutritious meals for local frail-elderly adults. All the food is prepared and served by the Charity’s Service Users.

This year, Service Users have been preparing and delivering treats and meals to older adults as a special outreach service whilst COVID restrictions have prevented welcoming visitors on site.

Maggie Leadbeater, Journey’s Operations Manager and Safeguarding Lead, says: “For some of our Service Users, working with us provides the first time they’ve had the chance to learn to cook for themselves and you can see the confidence that gaining new kitchen skills gives them.

“Whether they use these skills at home or to go in to part-time employment in the food sector, our Norseman units will give Service Users a wonderful platform to practise.

“Being able to share their skills with local people from our amazing pizza is very important for Journey. We always run programmes where we can provide a service to the local community and this gives us a great opportunity to expand our community kitchen.

“Looking back at the last two years, like every other local charity, the pandemic had an impact on our funding and the way we have delivered our Day Services.

“We redesigned our services over a three-week period when lock-down started and Day Centres shut, so that all our Service Users could be supported in a new programme called J2U. This took our services out to Service Users at home as well as online.

“Bringing our Service Users back to sites has been very exciting, particularly to our new Newcastle and Blyth sites, and we are so grateful to Newcastle Building Society for helping us develop our Newcastle site resources.”

Natalie Barclay, Assistant Manager at Newcastle Building Society’s Denton Park Centre branch in West Denton, adds: “Journey Enterprises does a fantastic job in helping adults with learning disabilities realise their potential and achieve their ambitions.

“Developing new skills in the kitchen can make a big difference to someone’s employability, as well as to their personal confidence and home life, and we’re very pleased to be helping Journey Enterprises increase the opportunities they can offer for their Service Users to do this.”

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund has contributed over £2.1m in grants and partnerships to a wide variety of charities and projects across the region, including the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Prince’s Trust.

The grants are so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 151,000 people.

The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund is run in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.