A CAFE that helps adults with learning disabilities boost their employability and life skills is celebrating its first Christmas in Darlington.

Since opening in May, Daisies Cafe on Duke Street has built up a loyal clientele and, despite another year of economic austerity that has seen over 1,500 Remploy workers lose their jobs, the future is looking bright for the cafe.

It now has six adults with a range of disabilities including Down’s syndrome and autism who work regular hours at the cafe, funded by grants sourced by the Accept Care Group which runs several social enterprise cafes in Northern Ireland and the UK.

General manager at Daisies, Laura Watson, said: “It’s sad what’s happened at Remploy, but we are very different to them and what’s happened there doesn’t have any effect on us.

“We are different in that we take on people with learning disabilities and mental illness together, and a lot of places don’t do that.

“It has been a really exciting eight months.

“Like everybody else we get peaks and troughs, but we are doing really well because we are something different.”

Daisies staff work with Darlington Borough Council to identify people who would benefit from working at the cafe.

Once clients are taken on, they are trained in basic food hygiene, health and safety and learn how to work as part of a team and interact with customers.

Marina Collins looks after the front of house and uses her experience as a former manager of Darlington pub the Glittering Star and her subsequent training as a support worker to help create a positive learning environment for Daisies’ workers.

She said: “It is a great concept, but also a difficult one because there are an awful lot of charities in Darlington and we are in a very commercial area so it is fiercely competitive.”

She said that in the future the cafe would like to develop its upstairs rooms and plans to use online social network sites such as facebook to reach a wider clientele.

Daisies held a Christmas party today (Friday, December 14) to thank its regular customers and members of the local business community who were treated to live singing from quartet Dreamwork Productions.