We are delighted to be supporting the cross-Governmental ‘Preventing and tackling mental ill health through green social prescribing’ project.

Green social prescribing is the practice of supporting people to engage in nature-based activities to improve their mental health. Social prescribing link workers, or other professionals, connect people to community groups and agencies for practical and emotional support, based on a ‘what matters to you’ conversation.

Green social prescribing includes both green and blue activities. These could include local walking schemes, community gardening projects, conservation volunteering, green gyms, open water swimming or arts and cultural activities which take place outdoors. These activities may be ‘prescribed’ by link workers alongside other forms of support – for example, referrals to support for housing or finances – based on the needs and circumstances of each individual.

The COVID-19 restrictions highlighted the role that connecting to nature can play in improving mental health – and there is a strong and growing evidence base to back this up. For example, Natural England’s People & Nature Survey data recorded that in January 2022, 90 per cent of adults in England reported they view green and natural spaces as good places for mental health and wellbeing.

The cross-Governmental Green Social Prescribing Project is testing how to embed green social prescribing into communities in order to:

  • improve mental health outcomes.
  • reduce health inequalities.
  • reduce demand on the health and social care system.
  • develop best practice in making green social activities more resilient and accessible.

The £5.77 million project is supported by a range of partners, including NHS England, DEFRA, the Department for Health and Social Care, Natural England, Sport England, The National Lottery, the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the National Academy for Social Prescribing. Together, we have developed seven ‘test and learn’ pilot sites across England. These are exploring the impact of nature-based activities on mental health, what is required to connect people to these activities and how they can be scaled up to ensure they are accessible to people in England who need them.

A national evaluation is being undertaken to assess processes, outcomes and value-for-money, in order to inform implementation and future policy and practice.

The project is also delivering national research, which will explore some of the barriers to implementing green social prescribing and test the scalability of green social prescribing national level.

Find out more about green social prescribing.