More about Miss Tilley's

Miss Tilley’s CIC

Established 2016

Locations: Cardiff and Rhonda Cynon Taf – South Wales

We spoke to Directors Derek and Jo Tilley and Clare Rowthorn


Miss Tilley’s CIC is a social enterprise working alongside disabled people to access work, learning, volunteering and other opportunities through regular pop up cafes in Cardiff , a catering service for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service in Pontypridd, and a gardening project.


“We want to change peoples’ minds to see that all people are valid”

“Make sure volunteering is pleasurable.”

“Social Firms Wales have been so supportive to us – we have an understanding of what we need to do ; they are a critical friend we turn to when we need to – the advice is honest and sensitively given”.



Aim - working for equality alongside disabled people and carers

Miss Tilley’s works alongside disabled people and their families and carers by promoting disabled peoples access to equal opportunities, well-being and independent living through work, learning and other opportunities.


Friends Laura Tilley and Clare Rowthorn found that “on leaving school and college people with additional needs and disabilities find it very challenging to find employment and this can lead to them feeling undervalued and isolated”.

Laura has Downs Syndrome and following college could not find provision to suit her interests and skills including baking and cooking.

The friends asked a number of local churches with café facilities if they could provide pop up café services during quiet times. In 2016 Laura and Clare started their first cafe in Beulah Road United Reform Church café in Rhiwbina, Cardiff. A second Cardiff café followed at the Ararat Church, Whitchurch, in 2017.

In addition to the Cardiff pop up cafés at the Beulah United Reformed Church, and Ararat Baptist Church & Community Centre, Miss Tilley’s CIC currently provides a canteen service for the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) a garden project, life skills sessions and bespoke activities requested by the young people.


The Work Advocacy scheme employs staff and previous volunteers to support team members with disabilities to work in the cafes as a pathway to future employment and independence .

The enterprise developed with financial and mentoring support from a range of agencies including UnLtd.


Activities: Work, training, volunteering, learning through the café’s, catering service, garden; Activities for carers and familied.


Work with SFW – Setting up the CIC.

Social Firms Wales San Leonard and Vina Patel and worked with Miss Tilley’s to register the enterprise as a CIC – a structure the directors felt suited their vision and business model best. The process included ensuring that their governing document - the Articles - reflected their values and mission of diversity and inclusion for disabled people , and , how the directors want to the organisation to operate.


Impact and sustainability

People feeling valued, useful and included: Today Miss Tilley’s CIC provides work, training, support and volunteering opportunities for 25-30 disabled young people with 20 additional volunteering opportunities for parents/carers.

A group of people standing in a kitchen with food on the tableDescription automatically generated with low confidence“Our volunteers are creative – many belong to Hijinx Theatre and attend Rubicon Dance activities.”

Customers: Café services can get very busy – the Ararat Church Community Centre Café in Whitchurch has over 50 customers during peak service – regulars, people coming in after classes.

Parents, families and carers are also supported , for example, a recent pamper evening.


Photo: Staff and volunteers at the Whitchurch café


Planet : The gardening project creates environmental awareness and produce is used in the catering.

Pounds: The income from the cafes and catering generates funds to cover for staff and running costs.  

Premises: A core aim is to work in community based settings such as local church community centre cafes, the SWFRS kitchen.



The pandemic was very challenging for all café and catering businesses, but also led to creative solutions and a culture of resilience.

Like all organisations at the moment Miss Tilley’s are responding to the changing times. Our lively and happy cafes are still closed for now but the Miss Tilley’s spirit is very strong. Our brilliant team are developing ideas to reach out to our communities promoting equality and celebrating diversity” (Facebook post May 2020)

The cafes closed. The Rhiwbina café is open twice a week as before;  the Whitchurch café currently runs once a week. There was also a café in Pontyclun, but it did not re-open after the pandemic .

Both cafes are getting back to very busy – the Whitchurch Ararat Church Community Centre café is set back from the street - customers are mainly regulars and attendees of classes; The Rhiwbina Methodist Church café is on the main road, Beulah Rd, with passing trade & high footfall, plus  regular users.

The canteen service for the Fire Service had fewer customers during the pandemic and is taking time to build up as many people still work from home. The garden project at the Fire Services continued.  

Miss Tilley’s CIC want to return to pre- pandemic  provision – they have an open and flexible approach to trying new ventures. A new pop-up café at Windsor Place in Cardiff’s town centre was closed after for 9 months for operational reasons.

The Directors are also currently exploring initial grant funding for a Canteen Manager and the extension of their Work Advocacy scheme.

  • Transport for the volunteers remains a key issue
  • Need more and appropriate housing for disabled people
  • Many parents and carers of disabled people do not know their basic rights about accessing local authority and other statutory services
  • The reality of transition for disabled young people into to adult services is extremely challenging
  • Public services – Need to change their practice in working with disabled people.


Clare’s advice

“Stick to your beliefs – don’t get sidetracked. Remember the path you are passionate about – one of the first things we did was the mission statement to avoid mission drift”

“Work to your capacity.”

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