The Better Health Bakery offers three-month trainee placements to adults recovering from mental ill health. The London-based artisan bakery teaches its trainees a therapeutic craft, as well as helping people, many of whom have spent long periods out of work, gain valuable employability skills.
The bakery, alongside its sister initiative Better Health Bikes, is run by the Centre For Better Health. The retail model provides an operating income for both, and the outlets are staffed by full-time bakers and bike mechanics, and supported by a team of volunteers.
“The idea was to create a community oriented social enterprise,” says Tabitha Wells, Social Enterprise Manager at the Centre for Better Health. “We wanted a public-facing business - something involving manual labour but very accessible.”
The bakery and bike repair placements offer on the job training and peer-to-peer support allowing participants to gain confidence and develop new skills. At the end of the placements, the Centre for Better Health works with the trainees to help them identify potential education, volunteering or employment opportunities.
The original idea came from Centre for Better Health director Ashwin Matthews. After seeking advice from a local artisan baker, he launched the bakery’s wholesale operation in 2012, and the retail arm opened the following year. The bike repair shop opened in 2014.
To date, nearly 70 people have completed the bakery placement, while 11 have been through the bike repair shop.
“Many of the people on our placements have been very isolated, and are lacking in social or employability skills,” says Tabitha. “Our focus is on offering them the support they need to get back into work.”