A PIONEERING Blackburn scheme which helps young deaf people find employment is celebrating after receiving a £60,000 lottery grant.

The Courthouse restaurant in King Street has been given the money through the People’s Million Project, which was created to mark the celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee next year.

The restaurant is owned by the East Lancashire Deaf Society, which is now hoping to turn the V Fresh cafe, next door, into a training centre for young deaf people, focusing on catering and hospitality.

It currently has two apprentices and is hoping to increase this number to six within the next couple of months.

The Courthouse restaurant and the V Fresh cafe are both run as normal businesses, with all the profits going to the charity.

They are also run with the aim of giving deaf people a chance to train, and participate and integrate into society.

Doug Alker, chief executive of ELDS said the ventures brought in a secure income for ELDS while also giving young deaf people a chance to train.

He added the social enterprise was one of the first to be set up by a charity.

Mr Alker said: “The deaf community feel let down by the education system so this project is a good way of helping them develop skills and providing employment opportunities amongst deaf young people.”

“This project is a subtle way of changing the attitudes of people. It will help the inclusion of deaf people within society to become the norm.”

The current unemployment rate amongst deaf people is three times greater than that of people who can hear.

*The restaurant is based in one of Blackburn’s most historic buildings.

Constructed in 1804 as the Blackburn Assembly Rooms it was also later used as a courthouse King George III celebrated his birthday there with a grand banquet on 6 June, 1804 and it was used to host a party celebrating Admiral Lord Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

In 1815 the street on which the building stands, then known as Sudell Street, became King Street following a party at the Assembly Rooms to mark the Battle of Waterloo and George III’s victory.

The building became the first Town Hall of Blackburn in 1851 and was used to house Council meetings until 1856 .