City of Trees is one of five nature-based projects to receive a funding boost to improve community mental health and wellbeing

18 March

The successful bids will build on Greater Manchester’s already well-established social prescribing offer to provide much needed help and support in local communities, whilst sharing learning across the city region and nationally. This comes as welcome news ahead of Social Prescribing Day (18 March).

Following a rigorous application process, the successful ‘green social prescribing projects’ were selected by a panel led by Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership. The projects will be rooted in the community – being run and staffed by volunteers and used by local people. They will see local partners working together with activity being led by a voluntary sector organisation.

  • Sow the City: piloting food growing schemes with the most deprived communities in Manchester, providing both social activity and access to free healthy food.
  • Petrus: providing opportunities such as nature activity kits, cycling, walks, outdoor exercise and education in Rochdale and breaking down barriers.
  • Lancashire Wildlife Trust: testing what kind of activities best attract those most in need in Bury, as well as providing volunteering opportunities for the community.
  • Salford CVS: identifying and filling gaps in therapy and treatment in natural surroundings, such as creating growing spaces, drop-in sessions and conservation training.
  • City of Trees: Greater Manchester-wide initiatives to identify and engage disinterested and excluded people by developing training for workers, a digital and physical resource exchange and stakeholder group.

Greater Manchester was selected as one of seven government ‘Green Social Prescribing Test and Learn’ sites and awarded £500,000 to fund two-year pilot nature-based pilot projects. The aim is

to engage with individuals most at risk of developing poor mental health and create the activities and support they need, whilst making the most of the natural environment.

Social prescribing schemes in the region have continued to expand at pace during the Covid-19 outbreak and become an essential part of the emergency response effort.

  • A social prescribing referral now happens every five minutes of the working day
  • 8 in 10 GPs are referring to social prescribing schemes
  • 26,000 people have been supported through social prescribing over the past year
  • 200 social prescribing link workers are helping people to make valuable community connections.

Since the start of the pandemic, social prescribing schemes across the city region have seen large increases in referrals, with estimates that 75% of referrals are for mental health support (Greater Manchester Local Survey of Social Prescribing Providers, October 2020).

Sophie Glinka, lead for social prescribing, Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership said:

The pandemic has really challenged us all over the past year. It has exacerbated mental illness and inequalities and we know far too many people are currently feeling anxious, unhappy and not satisfied with life. We also know that many of us find green space hugely important to our health and wellbeing.”

“This green social prescribing work will help us connect many more people with nature-based activities, building on the assets in our communities and the strengths, hopes and personal interests people have, by offering support that is more personalised around what people want and need to support their health and wellbeing.”

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester said:

“The last year has shown just how important it is for people to have access to the natural environment.

“We have seen more and more people enjoying the amazing green spaces and parks that Greater Manchester has to offer. We’ve also seen big increases in walking and cycling as we build the UK’s largest joined-up cycling and walking network.”

“But we know there’s much to more to do. This funding will help our voluntary, community and social enterprise sector to continue to deliver diverse and inclusive nature-based activity and it will support our thriving social prescribing system to reach even more of our population.”

“Greater Manchester’s ambition is not only to build back better after COVID-19, but to build back greener.”

Stewart Lucas, Mind’s strategic lead in Greater Manchester and co-lead of the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Mental Health leadership Group, said:

“It is a given that being outdoors and being active is good for your mental health. It helps maintain it and it is a fundamental tool in recovery from a mental health illness.”

“The breadth and diversity of the projects we have managed to fund as part of the green social prescribing initiative is simply stunning. I feel proud we are working to ensure that opportunities are available across Greater Manchester for people to become involved in, and inspired by, their local green spaces.”

 Jessica Thompson, director, City of Trees said:

 “City of Trees is delighted to be working with partner organisations to drive forward the green social prescribing offer across Greater Manchester.  This collaboration will bring together organisations and expertise, provide training and join up ways of working, all with the aim of creating pathways to recovery and wellness for people, especially for those in greatest need.  This project is a huge step forward in providing the ways and means for people to improve their mental health, physical health and their wellbeing using our natural environment.”