Yorkshire Dales youth hostel to pioneer work placements for youngsters with learning difficulties

Steve Bussey and David Miller at Hawes Youth Hostel

The youth hostel at Hawes in Wensleydale has been sold for £100,000 to a head teacher who plans to widen the scope of the business to enable it to provide much-needed work placements for young people with learning disabilities.

Originally from Newcastle, David Miller, the head teacher of a special educational needs and disability (SEND) school in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, has bought the 14-room, 52-bed hostel franchise after it was put on the market by commercial property estate agent Ernest Wilson.

The youth hostel is popular with groups of walkers and mountain bikers and has provided budget accommodation as a base for exploring the Yorkshire Dales since 1972. It will reopen to guests on 17 May when Government Covid restrictions are relaxed.

Mr Miller, 57, who plans to continue in his role as a headteacher, has recruited local hospitality professional Steve Bussey to manage the hostel and intends to introduce work experience placements for young people with learning disabilities from 2022.

“I know from my work as a head teacher that workplace opportunities for young people with learning difficulties are nowhere near as widely available as they should be.

“At Hawes Youth Hostel we hope to be one of the few businesses linking up with SEND schools and colleges nationally to provide short and long-term placements for 18-25-year-olds in areas such as housekeeping, catering and grounds maintenance.  We will also be looking into the prospect of employing a full-time tutor to oversee the work experience programme,” said Mr Miller.

“This kind of opportunity can be transformational for the lives of these young people and I see this as my chance to create something really positive that can continue to make an impact long after my time, in the form of a charitable trust.”

Michael Peel, sales manager at Ernest Wilson, said: “As the new owner of Hawes Youth Hostel, David’s plans are truly inspiring and demonstrate the ingenuity and creativity that are often the hallmark of small business owners.

“When a business changes hands it’s an opportunity to open a new chapter for an organisation, and widening the scope of this successful hospitality business to help youngsters with learning difficulties is a fantastic idea. In our experience, the post-pandemic demand for businesses is outstripping supply and it will be interesting to see how business owners develop a new generation of ventures in the current economic landscape.”

Acquired by property consultant Eddisons in 2019, Ernest Wilson was founded in 1956 and specialises in buying and selling hundreds of small businesses every year, from fish and chip shops to convenience stores and hotels. It has sold businesses worth more than £22m of since the start of the pandemic.

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