Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, we all spent more time at home than ever before. For many, this meant being able to explore their local area and appreciate the nature around them. For others, this led to increased anxiety and loneliness.
Health, care, voluntary and community organisations across our region’s Integrated Care System are working together to encourage more time outdoors and are supporting people who don’t feel they have access or the opportunity to appreciate the positive effects of the natural world around them.
Spending time in and connecting with nature is shown to improve people’s mood, anxiety levels and physical health, and £400k national and local funding is available to support local community organisations in Bassetlaw, Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield in improving people’s mental and physical health through blue and green social prescribing.
Professor Des Breen, Medical Director for the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System, said: “Medicine is not always the best way to improve mental and physical health – green social prescribing supports people to engage in nature-based activities, connecting with the world around them, support groups and members of their community and has been shown to help people with a range of mental and physical health concerns.
“Activities could be anything from local walking groups, community garden projects, kayaking, talking and exercise therapies. Having national support for this scheme means we are able to invest in our local voluntary and community sector organisations towards a common goal.
“We are fortunate to have access to some world-renowned green and blue spaces in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw and we want to come together, improve mental and physical health and work with our voluntary and community partners to ensure everyone has equal access to nature-based therapies and activities.”
As of Monday 4 October, £400,000 of grants funding is available for voluntary and community organisations who can demonstrate that they can support the programme through existing activities to:
- Provide green or blue activities, eg linked to canals and waterways, fishing groups or local reservoir walks
- Support people with mental ill health
- Improve access to green social prescribing for those most impacted by Covid-19; Black and Ethnic Minority Communities, young people, people who are “Clinically Extremely Vulnerable” (people who were asked to shield during the pandemic) and people living in areas of deprivation
Community and voluntary sector organisations across the region are already instrumental in the project. Cathy Slater, Head of Development at the Sheffield Wildlife Trust, said: “Talking to organisations, groups and communities across South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw has helped build our understanding of the importance of greenspaces and nature close to where people live and the breadth of activities that we can enjoy outdoors.
“Spending time outside in nature is good for all of us and we're delighted that these grants will help more people access activities to connect them to nature and help improve their health and wellbeing through green social prescribing.”
The total funding will be allocated across each of the five areas in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw and there are three sizes of grants to apply for by Monday 25 October 2021.
Ruth Willis, Chief Executive of the South Yorkshire Community Foundation, said: “The benefits of utilising outdoor spaces for improved physical and mental health are plentiful and I am sure community groups will show their passion and innovation in delivering impactful projects in our communities. We hope the differing grant options will give opportunities for groups to put forward projects big and small and look forward to hearing about them.”
The South Yorkshire Community Foundation is supporting the grants process on behalf of the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System. To find out more and to see if you are eligible to apply.