The Connect Club Charity’s aims are the relief of sickness and the preservation and protection of the mental health of people suffering from mental illness, by the provision of recreational activities, therapeutic unpaid employment and limited financial support in cases of hardship.

The Connect Lunch club, set up in 1989 under the auspices of East Herts Health authority and subsequently developed by a member of the East Herts Social Services team, meets in a local church hall and provides regular recreational activities for club members, day outings and an annual holiday. Three charity shop units, staffed by club members, were later developed to provide opportunities for therapeutic unpaid employment. They comprise Wot-Nots Charity shop, which opened in December 2000, Etcetera second-hand furniture shop opened in February 2002 and Wot-Ever Scrap Store opened in September 2004. The latter unit provides office accommodation, a meeting room and workshop for training and furniture restoration.

The club achieved charitable status in August 2001, won the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award in 2003 and became independent of Social Services in May 2004.

A Board of Trustees administers the charity and a user-led committee runs the club. Two part-time staff, one a member of Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Trust, and one funded by Hertfordshire County Council Joint Commissioning Team, provide professional support to the club and provide feedback to health authorities on any concerns regarding service users’ mental health. The chairperson, committee members and duty managers are mainly service users who fulfil highly responsible roles with minimal staff input.

The Charity operates under policies and procedures, written by the Project Coordinator, which safeguard service users, volunteers and customers. Procedures cover all activities within the shops and Scrap Store and also cover the transport system for both drivers and escorts. Risk assessments have been completed for all three projects and also for outings and annual holidays.