Yellow Submarine had a strong track record of helping teenagers transition into adulthood, having started by running holidays away for young adults with learning disabilities. However, founder Toby Staveley wanted to do more to address the fact that fewer than one in five people with a learning disability work – whilst at least 65 per cent would like to, for much the same reasons as everyone else – it provides us with a sense of purpose and is an important part of our identity. A job can make people with learning disabilities feel useful and worthwhile; become more independent; and engage them with their community.
Yellow Submarine set out to remove the obstacles to getting into work – giving people with learning disabilities and employers alike confidence in their abilities. They decided significantly scale up their services by opening a new social enterprise in Oxford city centre: a café that gives young adults with learning disabilities work experience, as well as selling delicious sandwiches, cakes and coffee to local office workers and shoppers. They have since received rave reviews in the local press and on TripAdvisor endorsing the quality of their food and service.
Unlike with internships or traineeships, the 18-month apprenticeships provide full employment rights and a weekly salary. This have proved to be totally transformative for the individuals, all of whom have gone on to gain full-time employment in other local catering and food businesses.
OCF provided Yellow Submarine with their first ever grant, or as their founder calls it, “a vote of confidence”. This helped them run their first holidays, and since then OCF has worked closely with the charity, in particular awarding them two grants from our Step Change Fund totalling £70,000 to help with the opening of a second social enterprise café in Witney.
During Yellow Submarine’s early days, the charity had started to become a ‘serial grant applicant’ to OCF – leading us to have concerns that they were relying heavily on OCF as their sole source of funding. After an honest conversation with the founder, a different model was developed that would allow the charity to be self-sustaining. OCF tried to balance support and challenge for this organisation, and when they came back to us with the café idea, which would bring more financial stability, we were able to provide the next level of support. In the current context of local government cuts, Yellow Submarine’s evolution from charity to social enterprise could be an inspiration for others.