CRNS Reuse Consortium

So CRNS is an independent charity and a company
registered in Scotland. We have over 120 member organisations who all pay a membership fee.
Some of our members are support organisations aswell – so local authorities for example
– and they pay a membership fee as support organisations. We also draw some core funding
from Zero Waste Scotland for CRNS overall. This partnership – the CRNS Reuse Consortium
– is also at the moment funded from Zero Waste Scotland Circular Economy Investment Fund
which is hugely helpful in terms of starting off a partnership like this, it’s dealing
with zero waste issues. We’re open to anybody – anybody’s welcome at Castle we’re a mental
health furniture charity and we support the charity through the sale of reused furniture.
So we have five vans out on a daily basis all throughout Fife collecting furniture and
placing our two showrooms – we have a showroom in Cupar and one in Glenrothes – where people
come in and buy at low cost. There was a gap really in the market for providing reused
furniture to local authorities through a framework contract so local authorities had always had
the opportunity to purchase new furniture through a framework contract with Scotland
Excel but there was no opportunity to purchase reused furniture. We – along with our members
– thought it would be a good thing to be able to fill this gap. On their own, individual
community reuse organisations would struggle to be in a framework contract with Scotland
Excel – it’s a national contract, the demands are quite stringent, the requirements for
being on the contract are quite stringent, and we needed to be able to cover a fair number
of the local authorities in Scotland which one organisation on their own couldn’t do.
So we worked together in 2016 to bring together a consortium of 16 reuse organisations who
are all members of CRNS and CRNS did all of the administrative work to support that and
bring it together and put together the tender for the framework contract and were successful
in November 2016 in securing a framework contract with Scotland Excel, which has now enabled
the consortium, enabled the partnership to provide reuse furniture to local authorities
around Scotland. Fife is split into two areas and the orders are split by postcode, so half
the orders will go to Furniture Plus and half the orders come to Castle. They just come
in by email via the CRNS. This has been a fantastic income stream for third sector organisations
like us. Previously there was no Gumtree – people are looking for money now they’re looking
to sell and get money for unwanted furniture items and it tends to come here now as a last
resort so the quality’s not as good as it used to be and it’s hard to be sustainable
relying on the general public so this partnership has brought us a significant income stream.
We’ve been able to offer several job opportunities, our staff are all trained to a very high standard
– an example of that is 17th edition cooker installation, we’ve employed an electrician,
we’ve employed two people in our white goods department, so it’s allowed us to provide
that vital opportunities and work experience for people. I’ve been here just over two years
now. Basically with the contract Castle got they needed an electrician, I applied, got
the job, and ever since then it’s been brilliant. Day to day, we come in, get the jobs for the
day, sort out everything that needs to be loaded onto the van, what’s going where, and
then we take them out to the customer’s houses and the vulnerable people’s houses and we
install them, make sure everything’s done to a good standard. We do get a lot of volunteers
in, we get different faces all the time and we like to take them out in the van and show
them the ropes, train new people who come in and really help anyone that comes through
our doors. I suppose the reality is that we couldn’t be doing this, we couldn’t be offering
reused furniture at this scale, through a national framework contract if we didn’t operate
as a partnership. The benefits ultimately if a local authority such as Fife Council
are purchasing reused furniture for their Scottish Welfare Fund clients, we like to
think there’s what we call the ‘4 P’s’ that are the benefits. So it provides support for
People – because it means that more people can be supported in their homes it means that
the consortium members that’s providing the items can support people in employment and
training. It provides support for Places – the communities we operate in benefit because
the social enterprises like Castle and Furniture Plus that operate in Fife are embedded in
their communities and they can support more people in their communities and their places.
Clearly it provides benefits for the Planet – it diverts from landfill, it diverts huge
tonnages of furniture that would otherwise end up in landfill and puts them back into
use again. As you can see around here, the furniture that we provide is top quality – all
quality assured, we work to quality assurance and safety standards – so everything’s really
really good quality and that’s what we provide to the local authorities. The final ‘P’, the
fourth ‘P’ is Pounds – so it saves local authorities a huge amount in their budgets by purchasing
reused – it’s a great deal more economical to buy reused than to buy new. It provides
pounds, it provides income for local charities and social enterprises such as Castle Furniture
here, which is a really important income stream for them- it means they’re not just dependent
on grants it means they’re not just dependent on the income that they can get from selling
locally, they’ve got a contract with a local authority which is really sustainable for
them. The majority of the orders that come in include white goods, so these orders were
coming in fast and furious and we had two days to get the orders ready and delivered,
working on a 48 hour timescale. So there were washing machines and cookers. We got into
partnership working with Glenochil Prison where all our washing machines are serviced,
repaired and cleaned at Glenochil Prison. Obviously there’s prisoners involved in that
project and trained to a high standard. When those prisoners then go to the open estate
they can then come here on a day release basis. There was one lad in particular – Kibby – who
was here on day release basis for approximately eight months before liberation. I saw something
in him right from the start, he thought his future after being in prison would be working
in his uncle’s shop, and being involved in this project gave him a career. He was out
of Castle Huntly on the Friday and straight into employment on the Monday with the help
of Michael Hollinger from SCVO who gave Kibby funding for a year which was life changing
– absolutely life changing. In fact this month he is on a cooker course and he’s away doing
a City and Guild two-day PAT test course in November so we really are upskilling him and
giving hima career. Changed his life. I’m actually an ex-offender, I was in HMP Glenochil
and through there we had a work party for white goods and Castle were actually providing
Glenochil with the washing machines and then we started doing the repairs on them. I was
in that work party for about eight months until I got moved to Castle Huntly open estate
in Dundee and then from then on the staff at Glenochil had a partnership with Gail aswell
and then came together and we ended up getting a placement for myself. So I did my placement
for ten months here, and when I got released I was told I’m going to get a full time contract
so I was really happy. When most people get released from the prison they don’t always
go onto full time employment, they’re always waiting about because they’ve got a criminal
record noone’s going to hire them and I was just lucky enough to be in the position that
I was then and also now. In the prison we actually done the washing machines but when
I got here we started training more on the refrigeration side of things so that’s what
I do on a daily basis. I’ve been trained by the other engineer Dougie – he’s been teaching
me everything I need to know and I’ve got a cooker installation course coming up soon
and a PAT test course coming up next month aswell. Doing this work as a consortium as
a partnership of our members coming together and working really closely together – the
benefits are phenomenal for them as individual organisations because they’re getting the
benefit of working with other organisations doing similar things but in different places
around the country that they wouldn’t have had that relationship with – they wouldn’t
have learned from them or collaborate with them. There are other spin-offs other bits
of work that have nothing to do with the consortium work because of those relationships that have
been set up. For me, partnership working is definitely the way forward. The partnership
that this has brought for Castle – it’s working with Furniture Plus, it’s working with the
consortium, it’s the partnership with Glenochil prison, the partnership with Fife Council,
and it’s definitely the way forward for third sector organisations. I think you have to
be on the button all the time you can’t just rest and think ‘that’s it we’ve sorted the
partnership we can just leave it now and it’ll still be there next year’ – you have to keep
working onit you have to keep supporting it and seeing where it needs support. My top
tip is go for it! Definitely go for it – we want to be here in ten years time people need
us – funding is more difficult to come by these days so partnership is the way forward.

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