New Horizons for disabled people

Horizon group based at the Unitarian Church, Horsham. Photo by Derek Martin
Horizon group based at the Unitarian Church, Horsham. Photo by Derek Martin

Whether it is making hanging baskets on the Arun Valley railway line or ordering a drink in a town coffee shop, West Sussex County Council’s Horizons is providing new opportunities for people with learning difficulties.

Over the past few years the Government has laid out a new agenda called Valuing People to help integrate people with disabilities and learning difficulties into the community as appropriate.

WSCC had been giving people opportunities in the community outside day care centres for some years now, but more recently groups held at different sites around Horsham, officially became known as Horizons.

Each group focuses on a different skill set, such as communication, life skills and creativity, depending on what the person needs or wants to develop. The County Times visited one based at the Horsham’s Unitarian Church in Worthing Road.

Community connector Sam Gray said: “Since Horizons has developed all of our guys have gained their confidence. People have moved into independent living. Nick hadn’t stayed away from home before and he stayed overnight in the Isle of Wight. Working in the Horizon group has given him a lot more confidence.”

Support worker Karen Sparshott said: “If you asked Camilla about herself, she would pass you her book, but now she tells you.

“I think it’s a combination of this group and others.”

The groups also go out into the community to practice life skills, such as ordering drinks from a menu - something some of them have never had the confidence to do before.

Train passengers in the district may have seen one of the groups working on station platforms.

The Southern train company has an agreement with them that they get free travel in return for maintaining the hanging baskets. Another works in Horsham Park tending the garden and yet another in Horsham Cricket Club maintaining the cricket ground.