Break launches Coffee Break van to boost job chances of young care leavers

The Coffee Break van is not just about serving lattesBreak

A mobile coffee van business, launched by charity Break in September 2020, is giving young care leavers the chance to gain real work experience and new skills to improve their employment prospects.

The Coffee Break project supports young people aged 18 and over after they have left the care system and are living independently. By helping them acquire new skills, it aims to boost their confidence and help them secure paid employment; enabling them to go on to live fulfilling, independent lives.  

An idea developed by Break, a leading children’s charity in East Anglia, the mobile coffee van is currently based in Norwich two days a week, serving hot and cold drinks, sweet and savoury snacks. The van is staffed and managed entirely by young care leavers with guidance from trained barista and project manager Joe Walden.

One of the young people who has been instrumental in launching and running the initiative is Jack Nicholls, 21, from King’s Lynn.

After living in care for most of his teenage years, Jack moved to his own flat in 2017 and has received ongoing support from Break’s Moving On Team. In recent times, his confidence and self-belief had suffered after a series of bad job experiences.  But after joining the Coffee Break team and with the additional support of Joe Walden Enterprise and Youth Development Lead at Break, or the ‘the coffee van man’ as he’s affectionately nicknamed, Jack has broken this cycle, discovering newfound confidence and a sense of purpose.

Joe Walden Enterprise and Youth Development Lead from Break explains; “The world of work can seem scary and daunting for any 18 year old, but for someone leaving the care system, with no family support around them, it comes with lots of extra challenges. The Coffee Break van means young care leavers can discover what they’re really capable of, by engaging them in ‘real’ work, offering training opportunities and the chance to learn new skills which they can take with them for life, all offered in a safe space. If someone is late for work, or they make a mistake, we address it and we help them learn from it without destroying their confidence. It’s all carried out in a supportive way, without the fear of potentially losing that job.”

Jack and a team of five other young people aged between 17 and 21 have kickstarted the project. Mentored by Joe, they created a business plan, sourced suppliers, created the branding, designed the layout of the van and considered all the health and safety implications of launching a mobile catering business. They have also completed barista and food hygiene training; skills and qualifications that can help them find work in the future.  

Joe adds; “The Coffee Break van is not just about serving lattes. Our young people have gained real business skills that will benefit them for life. Last summer, they joined forces with the UEA Business School to devise a business plan, assessing the project’s viability and costing it all up. They drew up a bid for funding and presented their case to the Break board of trustees and corporate supporters. In July, the funding was approved and by the end of August everything was set up and ready to go. These young people have essentially launched a business. Something many of them thought they would never achieve. And it’s all been done during a global pandemic.”

Part of its Staying Connected services, Break aims to roll out the Coffee Break project to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough too where the charity it also continues to offer support to care leavers after the age of 18, and for as long as they need it. There are also plans to start a small-scale coffee roastery in Norfolk, supplying the van as well as Break’s charity shops. 

Break’s Coffee Break van is available to hire. If you’d like to book it for your office or organisation, please contact

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