Council offers help to communities wanting to install ‘friendly benches’ in Worthing

Martin McCabe and Bob SmythermanMartin McCabe and Bob Smytherman
Martin McCabe and Bob Smytherman
A Worthing councillor was ‘chuffed to bits’ after being told the borough council would offer a helping hand to people wanting to install Friendly Benches.

The aim of the project is to tackle loneliness and social isolation by providing a community space where people can sit and talk.

Earlier this year, Lib Dem councillors Martin McCabe and Bob Smytherman proposed the town’s own version of the scheme, called chat benches.

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At a meeting of the full council on Wednesday (October 20) Mr McCabe asked Val Turner, executive member for health and wellbeing, for a progress report.

Mrs Turner had previously described the chat benches as a good idea – but there was clearly no money in the kitty for the council to fund them.

Instead she threw her support behind Friendly Benches and said the council would be ‘only too happy to help’ if anyone wanted to apply to install one.

She said: “I am very enthusiastic about it.

“Basically this is a community led offer. It is independently managed, funded and run by its own voluntary group or organisation for their own community.

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“A community group can become a member of this network and they receive free advice, support, sharing of best practice from the Friendly Bench team.

“They have funds that they receive from the National Lottery to help finance these benches.”

Mrs Turner said one advantage over the previously suggested chat benches was that people sat opposite each other on Friendly Benches rather than side by side – an important difference during the pandemic.

She added: “I am certain that, if a group came to us looking at wanting to put in one of these benches, then the council would be only too happy to help facilitate that going forward.”

Mr McCabe said this was ‘fantastic news’, adding that he was ‘absolutely chuffed to bits’.

To find out more about the Friendly Bench project, log on to

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