£5.7m funding on examining how nature can be used to improve mental health and well-being announced

Photo by Noémi Macavei-Katócz on Unsplash

Seven sites which will test the ways in which connecting people with nature can improve mental well-being have been awarded a share of a £5.77 million pot, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow has announced.

The new test and learn sites, which are based across England, aim to focus on communities hardest hit by coronavirus. This could include those living in deprived areas, people with mental health conditions or BAME communities.

The Environment Minister commented on the announcement: “Many of us have seen first-hand during this difficult time the benefit that connecting with nature can have on our health and mental well-being, and I am delighted to announce the first sites for this inspiring scheme which will improve people’s access to and engagement with nature and green spaces.

“As we build back better and greener from the pandemic, we are looking forward to working closely with these sites to deliver an enhanced green social prescribing offer which will deliver real benefits for individuals across the country.”

The announced sites will each explore and bring together opportunities for communities to get involved in their natural environment, which could include activities such as walking, cycling, community gardening and food-growing projects, and practical conservation tasks such as tree planting.

The successful projects are:

  • Humber Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership
  • South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System
  • Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Integrated Care System
  • Joined Up Care Derbyshire Sustainability and Transformation Partnership
  • Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership
  • Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnership
  • Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Sustainability and Transformation Partnership

This will support the Green Social Prescribing programme, which is the practice of supporting patients to engage in nature-based activities, and play an important role in the nation’s recovery as we build back better and greener. If successful, the test and learn sites could be rolled out across the country.

In July, Environment Secretary George Eustice, unveiled an investment of a further £4m in a two-year pilot to bring green prescribing to four urban and rural areas that have been hit the hardest by coronavirus.

A further £1.5 million has been confirmed, boosting the total to £5.77 million and supporting more sites across the country.

This project is supported by a cross-governmental partnership of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Department of Health and Social Care, Natural England, NHS England, Public Health England, and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, as well as two partners, Sport England and the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP).

In September, Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, declared that universal access to a healthy natural environment could save the NHS billions of pounds a year in treatment costs.