The bakery and cafe in Kettering that helps women back to work

Jane Houston (left), with two women from Good Loaf's back to work course, Charlene (middle), 26, and AnnaJo, 37
Jane Houston (left), with two women from Good Loaf's back to work course, Charlene (middle), 26, and AnnaJo, 37

A new bakery, cafe and catering business in Kettering is helping to turn women's lives around through a six week back-to-work course - but it needs more customers to keep their programme running.

Jane Houston, 57, runs The Good Loaf at East Lodge, which is just inside the crematorium gates in Rothwell Road.

Good Loaf's cafe is bright and welcoming, with plenty of space

Good Loaf's cafe is bright and welcoming, with plenty of space

When I visited the cafe, Jane kept having to jump up to serve customers coming in for tea and coffee and others coming into buy bread from the bakery.

She said: "It's what we need, it's definitely what we need.

"We opened the cafe just after Easter and ran our first work programme for the ladies in February.

"The Ministry of Justice granted us some funding to set up in Kettering but that funding is due to run out in March, so we have got to get busier in the cafe."

You can order in the bread you'd like and collect it from the cafe

You can order in the bread you'd like and collect it from the cafe

Jane said the Ministry of Justice funded the cafe after they recognised the success of The Good Loaf's courses to support ladies into work in their Northampton sites.

The Good Loaf in Overstone Road opened in 2015 and there is a second site in All Saints Church, George Row, followed by the new third cafe in Kettering.

The Good Loaf's six week back-to-work course is free for women referred by a partner agency, like through probation, the police, jobcentre, mental health agencies and it is also free to women who self-refer if they are receiving benefits.

Jane said: "They all come with different needs.

The cafe offers a range of tea, coffee and homemade baked goods

The cafe offers a range of tea, coffee and homemade baked goods

"They may have really struggled with unemployment, they might have had a bad experience in work and it's knocked them. It might be they left school really young or had a family early.

"We build their confidence, skills and a relationship with them."

Jane said she has seen some extraordinary transformations in women who have been terrified of working at the front of the cafe with customers but grow in confidence and gain employment after completing the course.

She said: "For us here, the whole reason we exist is to get women back into work.

There is training space upstairs for Good Loaf's courses

There is training space upstairs for Good Loaf's courses

"The cafe part of it...gives them a real experience of working in a professional environment."

The six week programme includes professional qualifications, volunteering in the cafe and other classes to support women in other areas of their lives.

Women complete a level two food safety and hygiene course, a level one award in employability that develops skills in communications, teamwork, CV writing, interviews and customer service and a level one award in volunteering.

Ladies on the course also take classes in money management, confidence building, healthy eating and bread and cake making.

The whole course is designed to help women build the skills and experience to start stable work and break the cycle of poverty, unemployment or offending.

Jane has seen the success of the course.

Good Loaf's six week course offers women professional qualifications and personal support

Good Loaf's six week course offers women professional qualifications and personal support

AnnaJo, known as AJ, was on the first course in Kettering that started in February and is still working in the cafe but is about to start working on a mentoring scheme in the criminal justice system around Northamptonshire.

Jane said: "If we are able to, we like to employ them for six months to a year but then we like to get them out into the workplace."

The relationship Jane builds with the women is what she says makes a difference, as the women are supported to develop professionally but Jane and other involved agencies are aware of what else might be going on in their lives.

The Good Loaf has supportive customers and Jane said this is really important.

The women who volunteer in the cafe give their availability and are added to a rota and get involved in every aspect of running the cafe.

By joining the rota, Jane said: "They are committing to it, if someone doesn't turn up, it puts pressure on us and it can be a real issue."

The Good Loaf's cafe offers tea and locally roasted coffee from Bella Barista served with milk from Newlands Dairy just eight miles away. There are homemade cakes and scones and bread delivered from the Overstone Road Good Loaf.

You can order in bread to collect, and a few people dropped in to pick up a fresh loaf. The bread is proving so popular that there were only two loaves left by the time I left the cafe and the shelves had been full when I arrived.

Jane hopes the cafe, bakery and catering service will become better known and gain more business.

She said: "We can do things for the services [at the crematorium]. If they have lost a loved one, we can cater for 24 people in here.

"They [attendees] are already here, so they don't need to find another venue.

"We can also do catering for delivery. We can do a range of options."

Jane added: "For us to be able to sustain past March, we need to bring in more of an income.

"Anyone that supports us in anyway is supporting the ladies, it's all helping to sustain the cafe."

You can find out more about Good Loaf on their website. The cafe is open from 9.30am to 3.30pm on weekdays and can be found just inside the crematorium gates at East Lodge, Rothwell Road, NN16 8XE.