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More than £350,000 of grant funding has been awarded to community organisations across South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw to support projects which use nature-based interventions to improve people’s mental and physical health.

The South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System (SYB ICS) Grants Programme for ‘green social prescribing’ awarded the funding to 39 different projects across the region.

‘Green social prescribing’ enables GPs, other health and care practitioners, and local agencies to refer people to nature-based interventions and activities, such as walking for health schemes, gardening and food-growing projects.

There is growing evidence that connecting people with green space can deliver positive health outcomes. A 2019 study involving almost 20,000 participants in England concluded that at least 120 minutes a week of recreational nature contact was associated with good health or well-being, and in its recent ‘Thriving with Nature’ report, the Mental Health Foundation draws on multiple studies which link access to green space with a reduced risk of mental health problems, improved mood, increased life satisfaction, reduced stress, increased physical activity, and better physical health.

Working in partnership with SYB ICS, South Yorkshire’s Community Foundation has administered the grants to a variety of projects, including wilderness activities like bushcraft, camping and orienteering in the Peak District, care farming and conservation in Doncaster, a creative recovery charity in Barnsley, and a multi-award-winning community park in Worksop – a site which was recognised by the Social Prescribing Awards in 2019 and 2020.

Professor Des Breen, SYB ICS Medical Director, said: “Green social prescribing is all about improving people’s access to and engagement with the natural world. Connecting with nature and green spaces, in a variety of ways, helps to improve people’s mental and physical health and reduce demand on our healthcare system. Moreover, it is about reducing inequalities in access to nature, which have been highlighted by the pandemic.

“Each project is inspiring in its own way, and we are thrilled to be able to give them a boost – particularly during these difficult times.

“This funding enables the projects to support more people than ever before, and they cover a real mix of ages, abilities and backgrounds. In particular, many of them support people who are socially isolated or from areas of deprivation.

“From eco-therapy and mental health swims, through to care farming and horticulture conservation, green social prescribing is becoming more popular, and we’re excited to be leading the way as a test site in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw.”

South Yorkshire’s Community Foundation Chief Executive Ruth Willis said: “The grants distributed to community groups across South Yorkshire show a strong passion for green social prescribing and the variation of those activities should deliver real positive benefits to people’s physical and mental health.”

In July 2020, Environment Secretary George Eustice announced a £4 million investment for a cross-government project aimed at preventing and tackling mental ill health through green social prescribing.

This fund has since been increased with additional contributions from NHS England and NHS Improvement, Sport England and the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP), taking the total to £5.77 million.

South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System is one of seven sites testing the ways in which connecting people with nature can improve mental wellbeing have been awarded a share of the £5.77 million pot.

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