A ground-breaking scheme of £4.27m has launched to help the mental wellbeing of communities hardest hit by Covid-19.
The project will look at how to scale-up green social prescribing services in England to help advance mental health outcomes, reduce health inequalities and lessen demand on the health and social care system.
The fund, previously announced in July by Environment Secretary, George Eustice, is now officially open for funding applications from potential delivery partners.
Partnerships of local health, care and environment leads are encouraged to apply to become a ‘test and learn’ site for this pioneering social prescribing project.
Social prescribing aims to connect people to community groups and agencies for practical and emotional support and to improve health and wellbeing.
Evidence including from Natural England shows that the NHS could save over £2 billion in treatment costs if everyone in England had equal access to good quality green space.
Green prescribing could include support for walking and cycling groups, green gyms, and practical habitat management conservation tasks such as tree planting.
For more vulnerable groups, it could include supported visits to local green space, activities such as gardening, and other outdoor activities to reduce isolation and loneliness.
Applications will need to:
- Be led by an Integrated Care System working with partner organisations, including organisations from the environment sector.
- Provide a clear explanation of how the project will help to address health inequalities and support coronavirus affected populations.
- Provide evidence of a whole system and partnership approach to project implementation.
- Demonstrate relevant experience and ability to deliver.
Four sites will be chosen from a range of locations across England which have been the hardest hit by coronavirus, focusing on areas with the greatest need and potential for impact, including to support recovery from coronavirus.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “We know that connecting with nature is good for us, and the pandemic has given us an even greater awareness of the link between our own health, and that of our environment.
“I am delighted to open funding for these trailblazing projects which will test how we can increase use of green social prescribing services to improve the nation’s mental health and reduce demand on our health system.”