A CHARITY set up with the ambition of supporting care leavers as they transition to life on their own has officially opened its first UK cafe – in Redditch.
The Rees Cafe in Church Road is the first of what its founder Jan Rees hopes will be a series across the country.
Jan, a long time foster carer who received the OBE for her services to children, is the driving force behind the Rees Foundation, a national charity which supports anyone leaving foster or residential care.
“In this country we just seem to forget about young people when they leave care,” said former Redditch resident Jan.
“When you are in foster care you are first taken from your own family and when you leave foster care you do not have that family support system around you, because as well all know, the need doesn’t stop when someone reaches the age of 18.
“I started the Rees Foundation four years ago supporting young people in crisis and then I suddenly had this idea that a new community cafe might be a way forward,” said Jan.
“The need has never been greater – homelessness is a massive problem.”
Jan firmly believes this lack of support can lead to care leavers ending up in the penal system.
“My ambition is to empty the prisons of care leavers,” she said.
The cafe is run by Jan’s granddaughter Polly Jones who said: “We have a clothes bank here and a young lad came in who had just been evicted and we managed to get him kitted out with some things.” said Polly.
“Another was just out of prison and all he had were the clothes he was standing in and we gave him some clothes and bedding.”
The official opening was performed by borough Mayor Councillor Juliet Brunner, who said: “I was amazed at the work the Rees Foundation does to support our young care leavers and adults from advice and assistance to grants and activities.”