North Leeds shop provides route into work

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A new shop has opened in north Leeds to help young people with special needs receive vital help into the world of work.

Lighthouse School has opened up its ‘Union Store’ on Otley Old Road in Cookridge for young people with special education needs to gain work experience, selling a range of goods to the public.

The school has also partnered up with Leeds City Council and another local special school, West SiLC, so students can access trained job coaches and avoid being ‘not in education, employment or training’ (NEET).

The shop sells gifts, cards and pre-owned items donated by a range of individuals and companies and also boasts a cafe selling cakes, biscuits and cold foods.

Katie Parlett, chair of governors at the school, said next year they also hope to offer art classes and yoga in the community room upstairs. 
She said: “We’ve had many locals popping in and out on a daily basis for warming cappuccinos, lattes or Yorkshire’s celebrated Filmore and Union cakes. It’s been a wonderful welcome so far.”

She added: “The vital aspect of the store, and the whole reason behind its inception, is the exceptional work experience and employment opportunities it is creating for young people with additional needs.”

Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland MP, who was at its official opening last week, said: “On my visit it was clear to see how young people can benefit from it.

“Those with special education needs deserve access to work experience opportunities just like anyone, and this store delivers that in a safe and encouraging environment.

“Well done to Lighthouse School and all its staff.”

Coun Jonathan Bentley (Lib Dem, Weetwood) said a high proportion of people with disabilities find themselves NEET, adding: “Anything that can be done to mitigate that has to be supported.”