Early this year we were excited to share with you some headline information on the Growing Care Farming project (GCF), part of the £10m Children and Nature Programme being funded by DfE, supported by Defra and managed by Natural England. This is an exciting opportunity to build the capacity and scale of the care farming sector. Social Farms & Gardens, in partnership with Thrive are delivering the Project, which will expand and transform care farming services across England through a programme of central support and advocacy, regional engagement, training and quality assurance (see below). Growing Care Farming will create more opportunities for both children and adults with a defined need, to benefit from health, social and specialist educational care services delivered on care farms. DfE, Natural England and Defra are working together to launch and oversee the programme, with Natural England responsible for overseeing delivery.
On 13th May, Natural England hosted a launch event in London to highlight the project to a number of key people within the NHS, Public Health England, Defra and the Department for Education as well as representatives from agriculture and other nature-based initiatives. We were fortunate to have the support of two Ministers - Nadhim Zahawi, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families and Thérèse Coffey, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment. The day was a great success and a summary and presentations from the event will be available here soon: https://www.farmgarden.org.uk/GCF
More Information on GCF
The Growing Care Farming project will comprise four main areas of work:
Advocacy, support and promotion – raising awareness and understanding of the benefits of care farming nationally; developing a range of supporting resources and facilitating promotion and networking regionally, to enable care farming to develop in response to specific local need.
Training: building capacity to encourage new care farmers into the sector; and supporting those currently operating through training courses, guidance and promotional materials.
Regional engagement programme: enabling networks of care farmers and other stakeholders to provide mutual support, strategic growth and to develop links with health, social care and education referral organisations, to increase the number of care farming referrals.
Quality Assurance: promoting the care farming Code of Practice, ensuring consistent quality of service provision across the country, giving commissioners, policy makers and the wider sector confidence in the care farming services provided for a range of beneficiaries.
As we explained earlier in the year, we are currently in the planning and scoping stage of Growing Care Farming and are working hard behind the scenes with Thrive (in consultation with care farmers), to develop a suite of training resources ready for September. We are also collating case studies and other promotional resources which will benefit prospective and existing care farmers and commissioners.
The regional engagement part of the project runs from September 2019 until September 2022. We have decided to pilot in Yorkshire where there is an existing active and engaged network of care farmers and also significant interest and support from commissioners and an active social prescribing scene. We will be recruiting a full-time Regional Support Officer over the summer to coordinate the regional engagement across the northern regions as we will start engagement work in the North West and North East early in the new year. Other regions will come online later next year and will benefit from a Regional Support Officer based further south.
It is important to point out that while we talk about regions ‘coming online’ at certain points, this does not mean that nothing will be happen anywhere else. Budget constraints have required a staggered approach, particularly for data collection, but resources we are developing will be shared widely as we recognise that a ‘snowball’ effect is likely to take place. Where referral pathways are unblocked, and greater recognition comes in one region, the benefits will start to be felt across others.
We will of course keep you regularly updated on GCF progress and how to get more involved as the project develops.
Rachel Bragg and Deborah Evans will be leading on the delivery of the Project and we are delighted to welcome two new members of staff to help deliver the work associated with GCF.
Katie Jefferies joins us as full-time Project Officer and is based in our head office in Bristol. Katie will be responsible for collating and overseeing data collection from the regional programme but will also act as a point of contact for the GCF project. She can be contacted by email: email@example.com
Pearl Cousins started at the beginning of May in a part-time capacity as our Code of Practice Administrator. She will be responsible for collating and processing all CoP applications, dealing with payments and liaising with the Code Assessors and will be the main point of contact for all matters related to the Code. She can be contacted by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition, the SF&G core team in Bristol are on hand to support with related membership, payment and website enquiries and we are also looking forward to welcoming a new Communications Manager in June. Staff based in the GreenHouse can be reached on 0117 923 1800.
We would like to thank you all for continuing to bear with us through what has been a period of great change. From the merger to form Social Farms & Gardens just over 12 months ago and the awarding of the Growing Care Farming project in January we recognise that there have been periods of frustration for our members and supporters. You will be getting an email shortly updating you on your membership and significant work is happening behind the scenes to the website. We are delighted that our advocacy work has been successful in getting care farmers this recognition from two government departments but staffing limitations (and a number of communication embargoes) have meant that it has been at the expense of our preferred direct grassroots contact with care farmers. In this period of public sector cuts, national change and political uncertainty it is easy to dwell on the challenges for care farming but in 10 years we have gone from being unrecognised as a valid sector to being endorsed by two Ministers with a clear message that care farming works and should be supported.
We are looking forward to the future and continuing to raise the profile of care farming on your behalf.
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