NatureFix – National Lottery Funding

We’re delighted to announce that Human-Nature have secured a development award of £49,500 from The National Lottery Community Fund.

.

This, our largest funding award to date, will enable Human-Nature and our team of ‘experts by experience’ to pilot our unique NatureFix (a daily dose of nature) return-to-work intervention programme – to support local individuals to transition back to work after a period of absence with mental health illness.  

Some of the Human-Nature team and participants celebrating the receipt of the award

The funding will also allow us to provide continuation of our weekly ‘health creation’ and ‘illness prevention’ outdoor activities for the wider local community – activities like our Natter in Nature, Nordic walking and nature conservation groups.

The new NatureFix intervention pilot, which will be rolled out over the next 12 months, will tap into our own experiences of drawing on the therapeutic power of nature to achieve positive wellbeing and long-term resilience.  It’s specifically targeted at helping local employees who are aiming to get back to work after common mental illnesses – like stress, depression and anxiety.  These are now commonplace issues, faced by very many people, from different walks of life and in many different careers and job roles.  However the task of transitioning back to full-time work and overcoming fears about stigma can often be daunting, even overwhelming, commonly resulting in long periods of absence, with no clearly supported route back to work.

Cheque indicating the ‘Reaching Communities’ funding award of £49,500

The new specially designed NatureFix (a daily dose of nature) return-to-work intervention will use Human-Nature’s unique combination of ‘green exercise’ and outdoor ‘arts for wellbeing’ experiences, and our innovative ‘Nature’s Ways to Wellbeing’ approach.  Drawing on the therapeutic value of local natural and cultural landscapes, including local canal-sides, woodlands and open countryside, we aim to prove that recovery can be a nurturing and even enjoyable experience – overcoming the negative barriers often associated with medicalised interventions and the ever increasing long waiting lists for talking therapies. 

Typical countryside landscape which will be used for the NatureFix intervention(with typical woodland landscape in background)

Human-Nature’s new NatureFix return-to-work approach will not only avoid the risk of employees dropping out of employment – but help local employers avoid the significant ongoing costs and disruption associated with long term absence.  According to the Government’s own instigated ‘Thriving at Work’ (2017) Report, it’s clear that not all employees are in fact ‘thriving at work’.  In fact, according to that report, some 300,000 employed individuals with a long term mental health problem lose their jobs every year, and once out of work many will not get back into employment.  The annual cost of mental health absence to employers is a staggering – some £33 billion to £42 billion a year, but when added to NHS costs, benefits costs and lost output, the overall cost to the UK economy rises to £74 billion to £99 billion per year.  Recent ‘Time to Talk’ campaigns have thankfully raised the awareness of workplace mental health.  Talking is great, but we think it’s now time to do more than talk.  We believe it’s ‘time to act’ on mental health, with clear workplace wellbeing support which allows employers to do the right thing by their employees – but also at the same time reduce their absence costs.

The pilot will engage small groups of peer individuals, facing the same challenges, but all aiming to make a successful return-to-work.  The intervention will mesh seamlessly with employer’s usual phased return-to-work process, to provide additional support, smoothing the transition back to full-time work – using outdoor activities like Human-Nature’s Nordic walking, mindful photography, greenway cycling and practical nature conservation.  All wellbeing activities will aim to bolster self-esteem and re-build confidence, whilst providing new skills and interests to ensure ongoing resilience – and a much happier work-life balance!

The funding secured will allow the project to be independently researched and analysed by academics at a local university, provide training and additional equipment, as well as cover our initial operating costs.  The aim will be to prove the value of the service, as a much more more effective and efficient way to support employees back to work after illness, but also to demonstrate to employers the cost benefits in reducing long term absence.  The programme offered will gradually revert to a chargeable service to allow continuation of the service and cover the project running costs on a ‘not for profit’ basis, helping to make the Human-Nature project a financially sustainable social enterprise, and thus avoiding the need for ongoing external funding.

It’s anticipated that the initial pilot cohorts on the programme will commence in the Autumn, and we’re now working with a number of local employers and an OH provider to promote the new service, recruiting our first participants over the coming weeks.  

We’d urge all local employers to assess their costs for long term absence associated with these types of issue.  The calculation is in fact easy, almost half of all long term absence is attributable to stress, depression and anxiety – and even worse in the public sector!  These are common problems in every workplace and a a huge cost burden organisations and our wider society (including the NHS).  So were urging all local organisations to consider how much they’d save, if they halved their absence costs!

Please use our Contact Us form to express your interest in the groundbreaking NatureFix service.

Longer term we hope to expand this service to those support employees who may be at risk of going absent, where we can help employees stay-in-work, and therefore prevent absence, as well as providing other workplace wellbeing activities to keep staff fit, well and resilient and feel valued and motivated.

We’d like to take this opportunity of thanking players of the National Lottery for the opportunity they’ve given us in developing our project, and supporting positive wellbeing within our community.  The funding will help us to continue our regular weekly activities including regular maintainance of our adopted canal section, and to further develop our long term vision of becoming a project which supports both human and environmental wellbeing – to become truly ‘human’ & ‘nature’!