12/05/2021 A boost in funding will help communities with their physical and mental health

Wild Being is a project led by Reading Voluntary Action, with varied partners coming together to deliver a holistic structure of support in the region, covering the social prescribing pillars of arts and culture, nature, physical activity, and life advice. The funding from Thriving Communities will enable them to extend their social prescribing offering.  

Two middle aged men stand and pose for a photo at an allotment
Beetbox Harvest as part of the Wild Being project
‚ÄúThere is already a vibrant social prescribing network in Reading, which involves over 80 organisations providing holistic social, physical and cultural activities to improve wellbeing and support diverse communities,‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúThis project will enable 300 participants from Reading to benefit from a programme of activities to boost their mental health, skills, and relationships. We‚Äôre thrilled to get the funding, and excited to able to offer this diverse range of activities for people‚ÄĚ
Rachel Spencer
Reading Voluntary Action

Weekly physical activity sessions will be tailored to people experiencing mental illness, with a core focus on those with severe and enduring conditions. Over 350 one-hour sessions will be offered to adults of all ages, genders and fitness levels, including football, table tennis, cricket, yoga, tai chi and walking.  

Additionally, there will be accessible,¬†friendly¬†and hyper-local pop-up sessions, offering¬†a mix of gardening and nature-based activities, throughout the growing season, carried out on a drop-in basis in a variety of locations. One such innovative course is¬†‚ÄėGrowing Healthy Conversations‚Äô which¬†provides¬†opportunities to¬†practise¬†English outside a classroom setting, whilst meeting new people, participating in gentle exercise,¬†and growing food.¬†

With partners including Age UK Berkshire, Museum of English Rural Life(NPO), Alliance for Cohesion and Racial Equality, up to 300 participants from Reading will connect with the programme of activities that make best use of skills, experience, assets and relationships. The final programme will reflect needs and interests of participants with input from the Lived Experience Group. Social prescribers will connect each client with a volunteer buddy to accompany them to the first one or two sessions, to build confidence.  

Running in parallel, will be arts and culture activities through the Museums Partnership Reading (MERL). At MERL participants will be able to explore creative interests through experiences such as Memory Making, Hands on Heritage and Dance for Health. Garden, cafe and gallery spaces will be used to offer opportunities for reflection, refreshment and enjoyment.  

Employability programmes will include access to Higher Education and career development, with a range of workshops aimed at young people, as well as an offer of advice and financial wellbeing. 

Reading ranked 4th in the UK for economic inequality in 2019; with a 10- year gap in life expectancy between the most and least deprived areas. In recent years this has become more apparent, with health inequalities and mental health concerns being increasingly present for all our disadvantaged communities. 

The project will prioritise adults and young people aged 16+ with a mental health concern; people with Long Covid or with health conditions that have been impacted; individuals struggling financially through job loss or in-work poverty; people impacted by bereavement; vulnerable women at risk of domestic violence; and carers. 

The aim is that more participants will be able to design their own recovery through personal budgets. Isolated people will have improved their mental and physical health, increased their confidence and developed a support network. More people will be engaged in social action, peer support and volunteering. People will experience holistic support that meets their personal cultural, access and communication needs. 

In addition to the personal impact, there will be a structural one. A sustainable network will see stakeholders, commissioners and funders invest in the programme and work better together to make best use of resources. New peer support and community initiatives will be developed to help address health and economic inequalities in the region.  

And social prescribing will have the opportunity support individuals.


Rachel Spencer is the Chief Executive at Reading Voluntary Action.

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