I originally set up a legacy to my daughter Isabelle Hopkins, (The Surrey Comet ran a story about her for ‘Genes for Genes day’.) she has since passed away.

And so, without Hannah Engall, an incredibly inspirational girl we have working with, I would not have been able to continue the scheme, offering work experience, training and employment to our local disabled community.

When opening Langley's it was agreed from the beginning that we would serve the community in every aspect, not only as a restaurant and wine bar, but also by trying to realise a dream that all members of society are fully integrated regardless of their backgrounds, ability or disability.

From post-nineteen there is little to no support for disabled young people to go on to meaningful work, and we want to change that statistic. 

Hannah Engall came to us as a disabled young person three years ago, determined to find work experience, with the ultimate goal of reaching a paid position. 

Hannah has cerebral palsy, learning difficulties, visual impairment, short term memory issues, epilepsy and right-sided hemiplegia, along with other health problems. This means she is unable to drive, but has, for the past three years, made the four hour round journey to Langley's catching three buses in order for her to work.

By sheer determination, and the support of the amazing staff at the restaurant, she has been able to overcome many of her disabilities that have caused barriers to employment in the past, and is now an integral part of the Langley's team, working sixteen to twenty hours a week.

Over the last three years Hannah, alongside the team at Balance, have voluntarily coached young people from Dysart and Philip’s special needs schools, along with pupils from Kingston College Life skills centre. Hannah has been recently appointed by Balance Employability team to job-coach other disabled people so they can follow in her footsteps, and gain meaningful work in the community.

This has meant that a quarter of our staff who now work for us have overcome difficulties that come with down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, anxiety and depression. Some are unable to communicate verbally, so the staff use pictorial timetables for them, some need the equipment adapting. 

The restaurant's private allotment has also played an important part, and provided a great way to serve the community, not only with fresh ingredients available for the kitchen, but with our ever-growing group of disabled young people on the Langley's team. They are able to see, from start to finish, the full process of how food gets to our customers plates, and have a fully rounded view on the inner workings of a busy restaurant, and the catering industry.

We are incredibly proud of what Hannah has achieved, along with the rest of the staff. Hannah says about her work, 'I know I can do it, and other people think that I can't. If people just give us a chance we'll show them that we can'. She is truly an inspirational young woman who has proven, it is not where you can fit disabled people into society, but how disabled people can find their own place.

I think it would be great if this news could be imparted to the local community, so people know about scheme and that more businesses may come forward to take part.

Article supplied by Miranda Hoogewerf