Home‎ > ‎Full Report‎ > ‎Projects‎ > ‎

Horsham Matters

Origins of Horsham Matters

Horsham is a district in West Sussex. The District Council Chief Executive approached Churches Together in Horsham because he wanted the Council to work more closely with the churches, but it could not work separately with the 29 different churches. Churches Together decided to appoint a development worker. He spotted that three churches had furniture projects which, if combined, could be more effective. This gave birth to Horsham Matters, which is a social enterprise. The original aim was to continue to supply furniture and other household items to people unable to afford them. Selling items to the wider public provides the income to fund our services. Horsham is a generally well-to-do area and an expensive place to live, but we were aware of pockets of deprivation around the town that tend to be hidden by the affluence. We knew from what the churches had already been doing that there was a need for this type of service.

One of the churches that already had a furniture project had also set up a charitable company limited by guarantee, so this was taken over by Horsham Matters in November 2008 and the project started early in 2009.


All items are donated and we have been astounded by the generosity of local residents. We can supply anything anyone might need for setting up home, from crockery, cutlery and knick-knacks to beds, suites and white goods. At first, the goods were stored in 5 lock-up garages. An early task was to look for premises large enough to use for both the storage and the retail sides of the business. In October 2009, we secured a car showroom/repair centre that was no longer in use, which provided a marvellous amount of space though it was completely filled within six months and we had to get more. To some extent we have been more successful in getting donations and selling goods than in giving them away. A charge is always made if people can afford it and even for the items that are given away, a delivery charge is made.

A condition of the early CUF grant was that there should be some provision for training young people. This has been done through taking on two trainees with no formal qualifications and building a programme for them with the local Further Education College. They volunteer for two months, then are taken on with an informal contract and then more formally for 6 months (possibly soon rising to 8 months) when they are paid the minimum wage and given training. They are linked up with mentors with a view to getting them into permanent jobs and Horsham Matters has also been building relationships with local businesses that might subsequently employ them.

The organisation

Horsham Matters is managed by a Board of trustees/directors from Churches Together and we attempt to make representation as broad as possible. There is a staff team of eight, though no-one is full-time and some work very few hours. As well as the Chief Executive, there is a Youth Services Manager, a Service Development Manager, a Community Relations Manager, a Shop Manager and Warehouse Manager. In addition, we have two young people on work experience.


Initially, Horsham Matters received two grants of £5,000. One was used to meet set-up costs, for example, for computers. The other grant was used later for warehouse racks. Apart from these grants, we have survived on the basis of donated stock and sales income, with a few small cash donations. We are financially secure for about a year.

We had the premises free of charge for eighteen months, which made a real difference because it would have been difficult to afford a lease at the beginning. Early in 2011, a new landlord took over the premises, which meant we had to start paying. He is also splitting the premises so that we will lose some space and have had to find another warehouse for which we are paying the commercial rate.

We quickly found volunteers. A number come the churches, but many do not. One of the trustees had previously run a charity shop and she and another former charity shop manager joined and brought other volunteers with them. There are now about ten volunteers each day: 6 or 7 in the shop who each work 4.5 hours per day and 3-4 in the warehouse who work about 6 hours per day. Calculated on the basis of £6 per hour, this amounts to voluntary service worth over £200 per day.

Developing new services

Horsham Matters has started to run other services beyond its core business:

ð Horsham Matters Young Persons’ Advocacy aims to provide free and confidential independent advocacy in Sussex for young people between the ages of 11 and 25, who need support to speak up about specific issues affecting them. We deal with short term, task-focused issues. Our advocates support a young person to speak up about issues that are affecting them or speak on their behalf; represent a young person’s interests and feelings; listen to a young person and make sure that others listen too; value a young person’s opinions; safeguard young people’s rights and wishes. The service is open to anyone between 11 - 25 years old living in and around Horsham. Advocates are matched with young people normally referred by another service, for example, a school, a youth club or Information Shop. Young people can also request an advocate by telephone or email.

ð Horsham Children Can Do is a grants scheme that gives money to groups of children aged between 5 and 13 who want to do something positive in their community. Up to £1,500 is available for each group and should be spent on things that children decide would make most difference to them. To be eligible to apply, all community and voluntary groups must come from Horsham and have a group of children aged 5 to 13 who live in the Horsham area. Throughout the funding process, children are involved in who gets the money and how much. The initiative aims to empower children to plan their own projects and play a central role in the fund application process. Training is given both to the young people administering the grants and those applying for them. The aim is to provide funding for a range of activities and experiences for groups of children who have greater needs and fewer chances. Horsham Children Can Do is a partnership initiative involving Horsham District Council, Novas Scarman, West Sussex Council for Voluntary Youth Services (WSCVYS), Saxon Weald, West Sussex Youth Service and Horsham Matters.

ð Youth Support Team: These are local volunteers who go into parks in early evenings in summer to work with 13-18 year olds, in part acting as detached youth workers but also being similar to the Street Pastors’ approach in having uniforms and working closely with the Police. Horsham Matters is the management organisation for this activity, vetting volunteers, arranging training, etc. The District Council provides training free of charge.

ð Eliv8 started as a management training course. It has been adapted for 15 year olds at risk of exclusion from school and Horsham Matters is now participating in a partnership of local charities running it locally.

ð Horsham Matters Community Fund distributes sums of between £500 and £10,000 for community projects anywhere within the Horsham District. Projects funded must be for the benefit of vulnerable people, must come from a charitable body/not-for-profit organisation and must fill a gap in local services. The focus is on projects that can demonstrate how they will work in partnership with other organisations and projects; ones that provide education and or training that leads to an improved life; ones that are short term/high impact and will involve the wider community and boost community cohesion.

Extra support

We have very recently joined the Furniture Re-use Network to get the benefit of their networking and information.

Locally, we would like a wider pool of trustees and to get each of the Churches Together in Horsham to become more actively involved. Although some are very active at present, the support of others is very passive.


Horsham Matters works very closely with the District and County Councils, the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, the YMCA and with registered social landlords.


The main aim of the project is being fulfilled, which is helping people with furniture, ranging from single mums coming out of refuges to low income families to older people struggling on minimal pensions. It is hard to quantify the benefits this is bringing. Other positive outcomes include:

· employment for young people;
· work experience for volunteers who have gone on to employment;
· the outcomes of the youth work projects;
· the environmental benefits of the reduction in stuff going to landfill and the increase in recycling.

In addition, Horsham Matters can be said to be successful because we are doing all these things and still covering our costs.

Key success factors

Critical to the way of working is the collaborative approach with other organisations, including local authorities, voluntary organisations and businesses. This entails reading the context in which we are working and ensuring that we fit into it. Sometimes working in this way can be seen to slow things down, but it is more effective in the long run.

A barrier is our ability to grow at the same time as staying integrated.

Challenges and opportunities for the future

A main challenge is to give more of our goods away, which means ensuring that the message about the service is sufficiently well known.

There are various ways in which there is potential to extend the main business, for example:

· Helping to counter fuel poverty through loft clearance for older people who have the opportunity to have their loft insulated free of charge, but are inhibited because they have so much stored there.
· Bidding to the District Council for the contract for bulky refuse collection.
· Working with a registered social landlord looking at the feasibility of having a volunteer-led service for their older tenants living in homes far too large for their current needs but who are anxious about moving to a smaller property. We would help them consider their options and, if appropriate, assist them through the process of moving.
· In addition, the local churches are becoming more concerned about homelessness and considering a possible response.

David Sheldon