GreenSPring for system change

What is green social prescribing?

The name GreenSPring comes from the term green social prescribing:

Green social prescribing is the practice of supporting people to engage in nature-based activities to improve their mental health and wellbeing. This can be done through a social prescribing link worker, or other trusted professional (or many other members of communities), who connect people to community groups, organisations and agencies for practical and emotional support, based on a ‘what matters to you’ conversation. Examples of activities and interventions include walking, cycling, community gardening and food-growing projects, as well as practical conservation tasks such as tree planting.

Connecting to nature delivers proven benefits for mental health and wellbeing, such as reduced stress and improved mood. The importance of getting outdoors and connecting with nature was highlighted during the Covid-19 pandemic, with millions of people accessing local green spaces to cope during lockdowns, but green social prescribing is not new, and has been carried out in communities for many years.

Through delivering intentionally structured nature-related activity, delivered as a form of, and alternative to, ‘treatment’ or ‘therapy’, green social prescribing ensures that more and more people experience nature as an effective way of improving mental resilience and supporting mental health.

Introducing GreenSPring

GreenSPring covers Derbyshire and Derby City, and was selected as a ‘test and learn’ site for a cross-governmental pilot project looking ‘preventing and tackling mental ill health through green social prescribing’.

The project is running from April 2021 through to April 2023 and is being delivered nationally by the Department of Health and Social Care, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Natural England, NHS England, Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, Sport England, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the National Academy for Social Prescribing.

GreenSPring is building a Derbyshire-wide collaborative framework to bring existing and new partners together to create a sustainable scaled-up model that better connects social prescribers and activity providers. This model will improve connections and expand the impact of green social prescribing, so that more people can be helped to access local green spaces and nature-related activities.

The project aims to influence policy change at a national level. It will help to change how the wider ‘system’ works in the future, aiming to become more efficient so that funding can be better targeted. This is a great opportunity to investigate how health, social care, and communities can work better together in the future (through new local Integrated Care Systems) for the benefit of all.

It’s important to note that this approach doesn’t mean that green social prescribing does not already occur all around Derby and Derbyshire. This work aims to complement and learn from all the good practice already in existence and establish what is needed to support organisations across all sectors to realise the potential of GSP.

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