Dr Desi Gradinarova, Senior Policy Adviser for Wellbeing and Inclusion at Historic England and National Lead on historic environment at the National Academy for Social Prescribing, invites us to reconnect with our local heritage. In her final blog of a series of three, she talks about the opportunities to release the potential of the historic environment through social prescribing.

In my role as the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP)’s national lead for the historic environment, I am currently working with the team to find the best ways to utilise the power of heritage for wellbeing through social prescribing.

This builds on Historic England’s work to incorporate wellbeing into existing projects. For example, Our Heritage Action Zones (HAZ) scheme works in partnership with local authorities, local people and other partners, and aims to restore and renovate historic places that are rich in heritage and full of potential – making them more useful and attractive to residents, businesses, tourists and investors. The High Street Heritage Action Zones benefited from a £95 million government fund, which is delivered by Historic England to renovate, repurpose and revitalise our high streets in target areas. These programmes have the potential to incorporate social prescribing in them by linking people interested in resurrecting the character of their local areas and making them flourish again through participating in the community engagement projects of these HAZs.

On top of this, the Government’s £1.57 billion Cultural Recovery Fund will help to tackle the impact of the pandemic on our most loved arts organisations and heritage sites and breathe new life into historic high streets across the country, fuelling economic, social and cultural recovery. It will enable the High Street Heritage Action Zones to deliver cultural programmes which will give even more opportunities for connecting people and places – there will be a plethora of local events and initiatives, driven by the needs and interests of the people living in those areas. We are working on creating practical partnerships between the local link workers, NASP’s and Historic England’s regional teams so that individuals and communities can become part of these programmes on a social prescription.

At NASP, we are building on this momentum through the Thriving Communities programme.

Historic England are also part of the partnership supporting the Thriving Communities Fund, which gave us the opportunity see so many creative, innovative and strong applications. We are very proud to support the winners of the Thriving Communities Fund awards in realising their impressive projects in the next 12 months, bringing the powers of art, heritage, nature, sport and financial advice together. All partner organisations at NASP are extending their support to all participants in the programme and everyone interested in social prescribing through the recently launched Thriving Communities Network and the Thriving Communities Ideas Hub. Community and voluntary groups can use those to ask questions, discuss what activities can support social prescribing, to learn and share their ideas. Come and explore for yourself, share you views and needs, tell us about your work, learn from the webinars and use the free resources. Help us build the social prescribing network that we all need – one day, it may well be another part of our nation’s heritage!

Think about what they all mean to us, our community and our lives in that place. Find out more on Historic England’s website – Heritage & Wellbeing.

Dr Desi Gradinarova, Senior Policy Adviser for Wellbeing and Inclusion at Historic England and National Lead for the Historic Environment at National Academy for Social Prescribing

Read Desi’s earlier blogs in this series.