Getting a place at a
This briefing paper aims to outline the main issues that need to
be considered when referring someone to a gardening project.
Every week over 24,000 people in the UK are involved in social
and therapeutic horticulture projects. These projects are set up
exclusively to work with disabled and disadvantaged people.
Their purpose is to use the medium of gardening and
horticulture to provide positive opportunities to promote health
and quality of life with a real chance to gain new skills and
Thrive knows of over 850 social and therapeutic gardening
projects throughout the UK. Given the number of projects it is
not surprising that a great variety exists between them. There is
no one central referring organisation and each project is free to
offer a range of services based on where they get their funding
from and to whom they are accountable. Projects vary in every
way: from the type of activities, size of the project, people who
attend and how they are organised. Some will be independent
charities others will be part of the local NHS trust or social
services. Some will work with disabled and vulnerable people
including those with learning difficulties, physical disabilities and
mental health needs. Others will work with older people, those
recovering from ill-health or accidents and a wide range of
groups such as young offenders, ethnic minority groups,
refugees and people recovering from alcohol or drug abuse.
This can make it complicated to find out what is available and
Given the variety of gardening projects and people attending,
the benefits of going to a project can vary enormously. On one
level, it can just be a relaxing and pleasant environment to be
enjoyed; on another it can completely change around a person’s
Benefits of attending
· Promotes mental health – the activities, team work and
environment create a very good opportunity to break down
psychological barriers and prejudice while addressing
isolation, reducing stress and promoting relaxation. It can
provide just the right level of responsibility and purpose that
someone needs to feel wanted, useful and with an important
role to perform. The nurturing of plants and being in the Thrive Briefing
natural environment are also significant tools to help people
· Promotes physical health – gardening activities promote
fitness and a general sense of wellbeing. Gardening can build
up muscle strength and stamina while also offering food for
a healthy diet. 6
· Provides education and training opportunities – both formal
(NPTC, NVQ) and informal skills acquisition including
Contacts numeracy, literacy and communication skills.
· Builds self-confidence and self-esteem – achievements and
Thrive Gardens effort are often very tangible. Projects help build the
confidence and social skills needed to support a person in
Battersea Garden Project becoming an active member of society.
Battersea Park · Enables people to feel more involved in their local community
Albert Bridge Road – projects often sell produce on and off site at farmers’
London SW11 4NJ markets and organic box schemes. Contract maintenance
T: 020 7720 2212 work and the presence of volunteers at projects also help
W: people to get to know their community better.
firstname.lastname@example.org · Provides employment opportunities – some projects focus
firmly on preparing and then supporting people to take on
Trunkwell Garden Project
Beech Hill · Restores strength and mobility – gardening offers many
Reading RG7 2AT opportunities to aid recovery, for example improving motor
T: 0118 988 4844 and sensory skills after an accident, brain injury or stroke.
email@example.com Costs and how people attend
Most projects work on a fee paying basis. The fee will vary
depending on the project, starting at £25 per day upwards. The
variation will depend on the type of activities available, what
funding the project has and the support needs of the person
interested in attending – for example whether they need constant
help or supervision during the day. This fee is usually paid by the
local authority or through a grant that the project has been given.
There are a variety of ways that people can be referred:
1. Ring the project direct – this would be the preferred option.
Each has its own method of recruiting new people. Explain
what you are looking for and they will be able to tell you
whether the project could help meet the person’s needs and
what the options are for having the person’s fee paid. Some
projects may have places paid for through donations or special
grants. It is always worth asking.
2. Contact the appropriate social services department – typically
through a social worker linked to a learning difficulties team or
to adult care and through community psychiatric services for
adults or children. These teams may have set up an agreement
with the gardening project to pay the fee for an eligible
person. If they haven’t got an agreement they may be willing
to set this up as a result of the interest and need of the person
3. Contact your local primary health care trust – typically
through a psychiatric nurse or community occupational
therapist. Again they may have links with the gardening
projects in the area and also pay fees where appropriate.
4. Contact your local Council for Voluntary Services – their
number will be in the telephone book, local library or the help
desk at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. These Contacts
services often have listed all the voluntary organisations in a
locality. There is likely to be more than one gardening project National Council for
within travelling distance. Voluntary Organisations
Frequently asked questions 8 All Saints Street
Who can attend a social and therapeutic horticulture project? London N1 9RL
Typically people attend because they are in need of support to
0800 2 798 798
promote or improve their health or for educational, training or E: firstname.lastname@example.org
employment purposes. As projects vary so much it is important to W: www.ncvo-vol.org.uk
find out what facilities each project may have. Some specialise in
catering for people with disabilities, others have a mix of people
attending together. Some may also be part of a community garden BTCV
where there is a lot more open access. Always contact the project Sedum House, Mallard
direct to find out whether the person you are thinking of could Way, Potteric Carr,
attend or consider arranging a visit with the person who may be Doncaster DN4 8DB
referred. T: 01302 388 888
Does a person need to have any specialist knowledge and or Information@btcv.org.uk
gardening skills to attend? W: www.btcv.org uk
The only thing a person needs is an interest to come to the project.
Gardening and horticultural skills are learnt on site. It is no good if
it is someone else’s idea but the truth is they really have no
interest. Gardening offers a wide variety of choices. Sometimes Lockside, 5 Scotland
just the passive enjoyment of being in the garden is a benefit. It
really depends on the person and what the project is set up to
Tel: 0121 236 8565
Does the person have to bring any specialist clothing?
Working in the garden can be a mucky business. The project staff
will talk through what a person attending a project needs to wear
which is usually something that is comfortable, appropriate for the
weather and easily washable. Lots of layers are best especially in
the winter. Most projects will provide steel capped boots or
Wellingtons where necessary and gardening gloves. A lot of work
is also done inside, be it in the greenhouse, potting shed or
Is there a set amount of time you have to be at the project?
Given the diverse range of needs, usually there is no set time to
attend. Some people come for a few hours each week, while
others come all day for five days. It will depend on the person, the
project, and the number of places and fee available.
What exactly might a person do at a gardening project?
This will depend on the circumstances and needs of the person as
much as the purpose of the project. The aim is to enable people to
carry out tasks as independently as possible. This means a lot
Are there other options if of gardening techniques and the design of the garden may have
a gardening project been adapted. Typically a person will carry out a range of
doesn’t work out? gardening activities according to the season. This will include
activities such as planting, watering, weeding, cutting grass,
Below are a few making compost, potting up plants for sale and taking cuttings.
suggestions. Please see Some projects also provide specialist skills training such as path
the contact list for further laying, fence building and willow weaving.
How would a person get to the horticulture project?
· There is always Typically people have to arrange their own transport to a
looking after your own gardening project. Some projects organise collective transport;
or someone else’s others will rely on hospital vehicles, a taxi, private car or public
garden. Thrive has
transport. It is important to clarify how and who pays for this.
some very useful
Some projects may negotiate transport to be included in the
adaptive gardening in fee. Others may not be so lucky.
How are specialist requirements catered for?
When discussing a person who would like to attend it is likely
· British Trust for
staff will want to clarify the full needs of the person interested.
Volunteers (BTCV) This will include whether a person has any physical needs i.e.
runs an extensive uses a wheelchair or has special medical conditions which may
range of conservation require additional one to one support e.g. assistance with
projects that could be injections or medication to be taken during the day. The project
suitable will need to discuss what level of support is required by the
individual. Gardens and horticultural sites have many health and
· Groundwork organise safety elements to them. Judging the correct level of support is
a whole range of essential. This could mean that a space at the project would
environmental and only be available if additional support could be found. This is
conservation activities something to think through and be sure to discuss in full. It is
important to get the balance of independence and safety right
How Thrive can help
1. Thrive can provide you with a list of projects in your area. It
will then be up to you to contact projects and discuss your
2. Thrive has two of its own garden projects. There may be
places available at one of these gardens.
3. Thrive has a series of publications and useful contacts to
enable you to find out more about social and therapeutic
horticulture projects and adaptive gardening.
4. Please look on our two websites www.thrive.org.uk and
www.carryongardening.org.uk for more information.