In a visit to Portsmouth social venture, Canvas Coffee, Penny Mordaunt, the Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work applauded social entrepreneurs tackling the disability employment gap.
Canvas Coffee is a speciality coffee shop founded by Pravin Isram in 2014. Originally a pop-up in Portsmouth & Southsea Railway Station, supported by UnLtd they have established a permanent home in the station thanks to South West Trains.
To the average customer, Canvas is simply a great coffee shop, but behind the scenes the space is used to help those in early recovery from addiction.
Pravin explains: 'People come in because of the great coffee and our brand. Most customers don't realise the coffee they buy is doing good.'
Barista skills training courses, open to anyone, are designed to help people in early recovery break a cycle of social isolation. According to Pravin, 'people in early recovery often struggle reintegrating back into society. The barista volunteer opportunity at Canvas supports people in recovery to reconnect with the world.' For those that are ready, barista training can lead to an 8-12-week volunteering opportunity - offering an experience of work as well as much needed support.
After having a tour of the premises the Minister enjoyed a freshly brewed cup of coffee and discussed the role of social entrepreneurs with Pravin and Mark Norbury, CEO of UnLtd.
Minister for Disabled People, Penny Mordaunt said i'm very impressed by the team at Canvas Coffee. The Government is committed to tackling the disability employment gap, to ensure that people with health conditions and disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to benefit from the positive impacts that work can have. We need to find personalised solutions to the challenges faced by those with health conditions and disabilities. I believe that social entrepreneurs like Pravin at Canvas Coffee can play an important role in this.'
An UnLtd award winner (including Big Venture Challenge 2016), Pravin also highlighted the impact of UnLtd's support: 'I don't think we would have got this far without the support we've had from UnLtd. At the beginning, it was a potentially risky idea. When the award came through it was like someone believed in us, they gave us the freedom to do what we felt was right and create the impact we wanted.'
Mark Norbury, CEO of UnLtd added: 'Canvas Coffee is a brilliantly run business that is doing good. It has a sustainable business thriving in a highly competitive market and that self-sufficiency allows it to play a powerful role in people's recovery.'
The Minister concluded: 'Government needs to work with organisations like UnLtd to find and support entrepreneurs with sustainable models that can solve the employment challenges faced by people with health conditions or disabilities.'
Canvas Coffee is one of the many social ventures UnLtd supports which work on increasing the employability of those distant from the labour market.
I joined UnLtd in 2016 after previously working in China and for a UK government backed scheme to help people start their own business. I’m focussed on spreading the achievements of social entrepreneurs and sharing UnLtd’s stories. I want to see pragmatic responses to challenges facing society.
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