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Award for Surrey project which uses the power of nature to benefit mental health

A Surrey project which connects people to nature to improve their health and wellbeing has earned national recognition.

Surrey County Council and the wider Surrey Heartlands partnership won an award for collaborative work to develop green social prescribing – linking people with outdoor activities such as community gardening and guided walks to support their mental health.

The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT) gave the honour at its recent annual President’s Awards. The scheme won in the Shaping Places for People category, which celebrates collaborations benefiting residents’ health and wellbeing.

The green social prescribing programme aims to help communities recover from the pandemic and overcome health inequalities. The county council joined forces with local health organisations to secure a £500,000 national grant for the Surrey Heartlands health and care partnership to “test and learn” green prescribing in Surrey.

More than 130 organisations, representing health, care, district and borough councils, the environment sector and voluntary, community and faith groups, are now involved in a partnership to drive the programme forward. A Green Health and Wellbeing Network has been set up to share insights and further develop the project.

The programme is aimed at supporting communities and parts of the county hardest hit by coronavirus, including people with mental health needs, those with dementia and their carers and people with learning disabilities.  

A range of community groups and schemes have been awarded funding from the programme to explore ways of improving health and wellbeing through nature-based activities, including wild swimming and outdoor mindfulness courses.

The ADEPT judges said it was “refreshing to see the links to health” and that the programme demonstrated “good collaboration”.

Marisa Heath, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for the Environment, said: “Congratulations to all involved in this programme which shows how working together with partners across a range of sectors can benefit our residents. It’s great to see Surrey’s natural environment being harnessed in this way as a source of support for physical and mental wellbeing.”

Sinead Mooney, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health, said: “It’s fantastic this work is being recognised nationally. We know the pandemic took a toll on people’s mental health but schemes like this are helping to change lives for the better, so that no one is left behind.”  

Outgoing ADEPT President, Paula Hewitt, commended the “breadth and quality” of entries.

She added: “The last two years have thrown unprecedented challenges our way but these awards demonstrate how local authorities have continued to use innovation and collaboration to find new ways of supporting their communities.” 

Visit the Healthy Surrey website to find out more about green social prescribing.

ENDS

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