Eastbourne’s JPK Project’s ‘life-changing work’ for people with learning disabilities goes from strength to strength

The JPK Project has opened a popular tea rooms, has some training success stories and is ever closer to providing a supported living centre for people with a learning disability.

Thursday, 18th July 2019, 10:30 pm

It was formed by Jill Parker as a charity in 2003 for people with a learning disability in Eastbourne and the surrounding areas.

Mrs Parker, who has since been made MBE for her efforts, said, “This was not ‘on whim’ but because extensive research showed that there were few suitable supported living placements in the area.

“It was also considered essential to provide meaningful training and work experience as people were leaving full time education with insufficient services and needed a purpose to get up the morning, lead a meaningful life with opportunities for continued learning.


“Over the age of 25, opportunities are not available for people with a learning disability in further education as funding is not available unless statutory outcomes can be achieved.”

The JPK Project has struggled over the years to firstly raise £900,000, the capital to purchase the site, and obtain planning consent, and again raise a further £900,000 to commence building, refurbishment and the purchase of all the furniture and equipment for the community training centre.

Mrs Parker added, “Our grateful thanks to all those that have supported this endeavour, which includes grant-making trusts, associations, organisations, councils, individuals, the general public at large and all those that have supported the JPK fundraising events over the years.”

On September 29, 2017 The Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Peter Field and Mrs Field officially opened the training centre along with many dignitaries from across East Sussex.

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In February 2018 the JPK opened the Community Training Centre, Palm Court Tea Room and Daisy Chain Gift Shop, to the public for three days a week with volunteers to establish a customer base.

This proved very successful and, through word of mouth, the centre has become a popular venue for morning teas and coffees, home produced light lunches and afternoon teas and a welcoming community hub.

As word has spread, many groups now book tables for their outings.

Mrs Parker says this success is down to the charity’s wonderful band of volunteers.

In March 2019 the JPK were able to appoint six members of staff to manage the training centre and, most importantly, be able to start training students with a learning disability in hospitality – covering topics such as catering, bakery, retail, food hygiene and health and safety.

Following staff induction, students started their training in April 2019 with increased opening hours to five days a week, Tuesday to Saturday.

There are now ten students who have commenced their training programs.

Mrs Parker said, “Many more students applied, with the support of their parent carers, keyworkers or social workers but were unable to obtain personal budget funding for their placements.

“However, the JPK is working closely with East Sussex County Council to remedy this situation.”

Last week two students successfully completed their first goal towards their module of training in hospitality which includes meeting and greeting, escorting customers to a table, presenting a menu and special boards before taking an order and presenting it to the service counter or chef. To enable the student to pass this first goal they have to achieve without any support on at least four occasions and at different intervals.

All the students are also successfully working as a team, helping each other and aiming for their first goals.

Mrs Parker added, “We are pleased to announce that Natalie Carr, has successfully completed her first goal and Andrew Rae has been presented with his Certificate of Achievement by Stephen Lloyd MP who was visiting the JPK for lunch.” (see page 35)

Kim Aspindale, Andrew Rae’s support worker, said, “The JPK training centre has taught him a variety of customer service skills which has had a significant and profound positive impact on his life.

“The JPK is well organised for his needs, well managed and goal orientated.

“It has meant that he is now motivated, has an increased sense of self-worth which has become apparent within the last three months and which has an ongoing benefit to other activities he undertakes. I cannot speak more highly of the JPK Project.

“It will change people’s lives for the better and help make people who are disadvantaged so often, into more positive and useful members of the community, enabling them to enter the job market, if they desire, with skills and experience.

“In my opinion this sort of initiative should receive the maximum amount of funding possible, as it changes lives for the better.”

The JPK is now raising money for the first eight flats for supported living, communal rooms, and training classroom.

Fifty percent of the £1.2m has been raised and grant applications are being made.

Mrs Parker added, “I thank everyone for their continuing support to help us help those who, through no fault of their own, cannot help themselves”.