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Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH) can deliver improved physical and mental health, social and educational benefits, reducing the burdens on our public services.

At Thrive, our vision is that many more people can have positive outcomes through Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH) – this needs STH programmes to be available wherever you live.

As part of our strategic review (2021) we created a theory of change to help us to understand what the impacts of achieving that would deliver and what the barriers are to making it a reality.

It was clear that this is not something that Thrive can achieve alone – it requires system change involving the health & social care sectors, providers and the public/beneficiaries. Thrive is therefore committed to playing a lead role and to acting as a catalyst for that system-wide change.

  • An increasing number of people are living with defined health, social care or educational needs; the covid pandemic has exacerbated these needs and added to the numbers
  • Our public services are under enormous strain - backlogs in the health services, historic under funding of social care, exhausted and disillusioned workforces; lost school time and a crisis in young people’s mental health
  • An increased interest in and demand for nature-based interventions that reliably deliver benefits for people living with defined needs
  • NHS requirements for ‘scaling up’ green social prescribing to offer more choice and control for individuals and users of the health system, and to deliver significant savings by reducing demand on health services and reducing health inequalities
  • Recognition that community-based providers need funding and support to be able to offer sustainable green social prescribing services
  • Awareness: lack of easily accessible information about what it is, why it is beneficial, how to access services; this isn’t helped by use of jargon and confusing / inconsistent terminology (Language) plus a wide range of activities being provided by a large number of provider organisations (many small scale), ranging from light-touch facilitated access to nature through to structured & guided interventions led by trained practitioners (Complexity)
  • Quality: lack of a recognised standard framework against which to assess quality of provision
  • Standards: lack of a recognised/agreed competency framework and qualification standard for practitioners
  • Impact: lack of a recognised standard framework to assess the benefits of provision for the participant (clients/patients) (M&E frameworks)
  • Funding: lack of available and consistent funds for purchase of services
  • Support: lack of (funded) resources to support growth/development of provision

Thrive has played a leading role in the Green Care Coalition since its formation in 2016. It was established to promote the commissioning and use of Green Care services, and is a voluntary collaboration of organisations who have come together to share knowledge and resources.

Social and Therapeutic Horticulture is a form of Green Care which is defined as “structured therapy or treatment programmes that take place in natural surroundings and recognise the instinctive connection between nature and health.”

Thrive’s CEO Kathryn Rossiter has been the chair of the Coalition since 2016 which has provided opportunities to take a leadership role on behalf of the wider Nature, Health & Wellbeing sector.

Thrive worked collaboratively with Coalition members Social Farms & Gardens to deliver the successful Growing Care Farming Project (May 2019 - March 2022) - part of the Government’s Children & Nature programme.

The Coalition supported Social Farms & Gardens to develop the Green Care Quality Mark which is now freely available for commissioners and providers of nature-based interventions to use to demonstrate the safe running of green care services. This evolved from the Care Farming Code under the Growing Care Farming project and now offers a self-assessment tool and an accreditation service.

Thrive is also working in partnership with Coalition member Trellis Scotland to create the UK Association for Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH). Practitioners across the sector have been calling for a professional body dedicated to STH. In 2021, Trellis began running a Professional Development Forum, meeting quarterly and more recently invited Thrive to partner with them in this work.

Further information about this work can be found on the Trellis website where you can also register your interest to get involved in the consultative forums.

The Therapeutic Horticulture Stakeholder Group (THSG) was established by Natural England in March 22 with support from The National Academy of Social Prescribing (NASP), to explore how to grow the Therapeutic Horticulture offer and to support the scaling up of Green Social Prescribing. The Group is currently chaired and convened by Thrive with support from Natural England.

Click here to learn more about the Therapeutic Horticulture Stakeholder Group.

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