Orchard Project

The Orchard Project is a land based service offering education, therapeutic horticulture, a sustainable social enterprise and a community hub. It is sited on the land owned by Tom & Sue Stuart-Smith and will pull together the best local charities and horticultural resources to offer an innovative and dynamic service to those most vulnerable.

A key partnership is that with Sunnyside Rural Trust, we will be growing a range of perennials for Tom’s landscape design contracts. We have built a working site at The Orchard Project and hope to see this thrive. We are currently growing the plant stock for the RHS Hampton Court garden design for 2020.

Stage 2 is to fund and build a multi-functioning facility that will house a number of projects including exhibitions, therapy rooms, training rooms, meeting space for local charities and more.

At a time when the therapeutic benefits of horticulture are so clear and cuts to social care are so common; this project will provide a space to heal and opportunity to develop.

The project will offer:
• On the job training and work experience to improve self-esteem, confidence, skills etc and reduce the likelihood of long term unemployment.
• To create paid employment around the perennial contract work as well as volunteer opportunities.
• It will reduce the need for people to be on benefits and hopefully through positive life choices people will lead healthy life’s and reduce to burden on health services.
• To break down barriers for disadvantaged & vulnerable young people and adults within their communities
• To break the cycle for young people by starting them on a pathway of opportunity rather than benefit and the poverty trap.

Client groups
1. Young people and adults with learning disabilities – only 6% of people with learning disabilities are currently in paid employment in the UK. The service will support people to gain skills and confidence to gain employment therefore reducing the reliance on benefits, reduce the negative health and social issues associated with long term unemployment and potentially reduce crime rates and mental health issues and promote overall physical health amongst this group.
Census has 2 LSOA, 2 of the most deprived areas in England. Whilst Hertfordshire has thriving areas it also has some of the most deprived including Hemel Hempstead where the café will be based including higher than average crime rates, high unemployment, high levels of NEET amongst younger population and poor health including high levels of obesity (61% of HH population).
2. Care leavers – 2018 total annual care leavers in Herts was 831 of which Watford and Hemel area has 318. NEET figures for over 18 year olds is 126. 61% have special education needs. CLA 16-18 NEET 25.2%, CLA 19-21 NEET 46.5%. The project would aim to support 25 individuals from this group each year to learn perennial gardening techniques.
3. Mental health issues
A recent Care Quality Commission (CQC) survey showed that 26 per cent of people who have fallen into a mental health crisis in the past year said they didn’t feel they got the help they needed from crisis care and fall into a “damaging pattern of decline”. The results of the latest annual survey of community mental healthcare also shows that a quarter of respondents reported they had not seen workers from their mental health services often enough to meet their needs in the last year – up from a fifth three years ago.
4. Young people
Whilst this is a group that fits into all the above categories it will be a particular focus. It is vital to invest in our young people. There is a worrying trend in mental health issues in this group, suicide rates and addiction issues. The project will instil a strong work ethic, open up work streams, offer a therapeutic service and build resilience.

We are working in a climate of constant and significant changes to social care services across all disciplines. It is time for the voluntary sector to develop services that generate opportunity and financial sustainability. This approach will avoid the crisis spiralling out of control and bringing independence.

The project will exist for many years to come; the work it carries out will create a legacy for the large number of people with learning disabilities and vulnerable young people Sunnyside supports.

Every community needs a place at its heart where people are nurtured, says top garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith.

Please read Tom Stuart-Smiths article on ‘Gardening can be empowering’ in the Daily Telegraph Orchard Project