Research by Social Farms and Gardens (SF&G) shows there are now 402 care farms/Green Care providers, a 34 per cent increase on the year before. Their ranks could be swelled by another 220 prospective care farms.
Dr Rachel Bragg, from SF&G, described the trend as ‘good news’ and said worries that coronavirus might seriously damage the sector and its ability to help people had not been realised.
‘I’m pleased that nothing seems to be able to keep our sector down,’ said Dr Bragg. ‘More people now understand how nature can help them.’
SF&G’s state of the sector survey revealed that care farms and Green Care providers are providing an estimated 734,140 places for people each year in the UK.
Other findings included:
Just under a third of care farms saw an increase in referrals during the pandemic, and 37 per cent saw a rise in inquiries, with 28 per cent seeing no change.
The ways people are referred to care farms and Green Care is complex and varies enormously, said Dr Bragg.
The typical care farm could have at least four referral agencies, but social care and education seem more successful routes than health in terms of associated funding for referrals.
The most frequent sources of referrals for adults are:
Typically, members of the sector will be funded by five different sources including charities/grants, donations and their own fundraising.
On average, the charge for services per person is £68 a day or £210 (for a group of 6-10).
Funding and operating costs remain the biggest challenges facing the sector, followed by securing contracts and referrals.
Other notable issues include recruiting suitable trained staff and expanding capacity to meet demand for services.