Social Farms & Gardens have launched a £1.4 million project which aims to significantly increase the number of care farm places available each year.
Natural England hosted the launch of the Growing Care Farming project at the Royal Over-Seas League in London on 13th May 2019. Growing Care Farming is part of the Government Programme for Children & Nature which is supported by Defra, funded by the Department for Education and managed by Natural England. The project is being delivered by Social Farms & Gardens in partnership with charity Thrive.
Care farming means the therapeutic use of farming practices and is sometimes called social farming. Care farming sits amongst other nature-based therapies that are collectively called 'green care'. Green care means structured nature programmes for people with a defined need to benefit health, social care or education outcomes.
Health and social care professionals (such as GPs, community mental mealth workers, social prescribing link workers or local social care workers) and education professionals can commission a wide range of care farming services for adults and children with needs including learning disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorders, dementia, drug or alcohol addiction and ex-service personnel with post traumatic stress disorder or children with emotional needs excluded from school.
The project has the potential to support a significant and much needed step change in the scale of the care farming sector, enabling critical mental health services for both children and adults to become more readily available across England, especially in rural areas. It is hoped that the project will increase the number of care farm places available each year by nearly 1 million, up to 1.3 million. The Growing Care Farming project aims to expand and transform care farming services across England through training, support and resources, regional networking and quality assurance.
Natural England Chief Executive Marian Spain, said: "The project has the potential to support a significant and much needed step change in the scale of the care farming sector, enabling critical mental health services for both children and adults to become more readily available across England, especially in rural areas.
"We have a large and growing mental health issue in England and this initiative rises to that challenge. What a fantastic contribution to help tackle such an important social need.
"To achieve this scale of change is a serious challenge that will take innovation and determination by those in both the environment and health sectors. In particular, we in the natural environment sector must build stronger working relationships with health and social care commissioners to help streamline the referral mechanisms and pathways to nature-based therapeutic interventions such as care farm services, but this can be done."
James Sanderson, Director of Personalised Care at NHS England, said: “The NHS is committed to giving people more choice and control over their care, and to support people who may be struggling with their physical and mental health to connect with their local communities.
"The expansion of social prescribing link workers, which was promised in the NHS Long Term Plan, will mean that people will be supported to get involved with the activities that are right for them. In particular we know that the use of the natural environment can make a real difference to people’s wellbeing and the Care Farming Project is a practical, and inspiring, way of providing opportunities for more people to get involved.”
Minister for the Environment, Therese Coffey, said: “Care farming provides health and social care and specialist education providers with innovative and effective care options. It benefits society as a whole by reducing the strain on statutory services and the NHS, and it also helps farmers who have an alternative way to use their farm, to provide health, social and educational care services in addition to or instead of commercial production.”
Speakers at the launch included:
Therese Coffey, Minister for the Environment, Defra
Nadim Zahawi, Minister for Children and Families at the Department for Education - Watch address