Gatelodge logo

The Gatelodge Cafe, located at the main entrance to Ards Community Hospital on Church Street in Newtownards is the newest addition to the Stepping Stones NI family. Run by a team of catering and hospitality staff who train adults with a learning disability / difficulty to prepare and serve food and drinks, the cafe is going from strength to strength.

This project is part funded through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014 – 2020 and the Department for Employment and Learning.

We also have a team of employment officers and job coaches based in Newtownards to support our clients with training as well as securing work placements and paid jobs.

The Gatelodge Cafe and Training & Employment Service was officially launched on Wednesday 24 February 2016 by Minister Stephen Farry MLA and Minister Simon Hamilton with over 100 people in attendance.

Carole Veitch, Acting Assistant Director, of the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust comments on the official launch of the service “The Trust is delighted that the Gatelodge Café and Training & Employment Service has now opened its doors and is providing day opportunities to adults with learning disabilities in a structured and productive environment. We are excited about the Stepping Stones NI model of support coming to Newtownards and believe it will make a big impact to the lives of people with a learning disability and their families”.

Over the last 18 years we have developed a proven model in the development of social enterprises with four catering / training businesses, a bespoke wedding stationery business and picture framing business in Lisburn. The Garden cafe at the Saint Patrick Centre in Downpatrick is also a recent addition with tourists from across the world and locals enjoying the delicious range of hot and cold food.

It has been a busy 12 months for us and we are delighted with the profile and recognition of our growth plans having recently achieved Best Social Enterprise Business at the 2016 Lisburn & Castlereagh City Business Awards with our Chief Officer winning the top award of Business Person of the Year. We also secured two high commendations at the Social Enterprise Awards NI for 2015 for Social Enterprise of the Year and Best Health & Social Care Award.

Chief Officer of Stepping Stones NI Paula Jennings states “We are excited about replicating our model of supported employment into Newtownards with the support of the European Social Fund, the Department for Employment & Learning and the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust. The Gatelodge Café and Training & Employment Service brings a much needed supported employment service to adults with learning disability in Newtownards to progress to employment and offers an exciting new eatery for locals, hospital staff and visitors to enjoy. All our profits are reinvested back into supporting adults with a learning disability in Newtownards and we encourage locals to “buy social” and local employers in the area to engage with our employment service to give work opportunities to people with learning disabilities progressing through our service”.

The Gatelodge café is housed within the historic gate lodge building at the main gate to South Eastern Trust’s Ards hospital. The building c.1870 which was a former gate lodge for the Newtownards Union Workhouse has been renovated by the South Eastern Trust to house the social enterprise café.