South African scheme to help get deaf people into work arrives in London

South African I Love Coffee Group  arrives in London to support deaf people into work (I Love Coffee Group)
South African I Love Coffee Group arrives in London to support deaf people into work (I Love Coffee Group)

Four London-based baristas with impaired hearing will be starting new jobs next week as part of a South African scheme to widen job opportunties for deaf people.

I Love Coffee Group, which runs the social enterprise, launched its first coffee shop in South Africa in 2016.

It began working with WeWork, a co-working space provider, in 2019 and is now expanding its reach to Londoners who may struggle to find work.

The group will support four trained baristas who were expected to begin working in Holborn, Waterhouse Square, and Covent Garden this month.

Gary Hopkins, founder and managing director of I Love Coffee Group, said the coffee supplier collaborates with other organisations to support those from underserved communities.

He told The Standard that the scheme aims to fill a gap in support for those with hearing impairments.

“There is a universal problem within the deaf community around access to work. I Love Coffee was created to employ and train deaf individuals as baristas. Not only to create more job opportunities for the deaf community, but to break the barriers of communication between the deaf and the hearing.”

WeWork members will use interactive iPads to order coffee through sign language.

The newly trained baristas have been supported by Insign Language and BSL interpreters, who will be on-hand to support.

Mr Hopkins said the group hoped that eventually by creating a “bridge between the hearing and the Deaf”, I Love Coffee “will no longer exist” . He said they hoped to be able to support more deaf people into work beyond being baristas.

“As we look to expand operations beyond baristas, we’re hoping to set up roasteries and establish a whole network of trainers,” he said.

The project is being faciliated through trading, and partners such as Change Please, a coffee company which provides barista training, jobs paying the London Living Wage, and support for people experiencing homelessness. It will provide the team with coffee beans and training rooms.