Dorset ecotherapy may receive boost

Ecotherapy centres in Dorset could receive a boost, after the government has pledged an extra £1 billion to help treat mental health conditions in the UK by 2021.

The outdoor activity based treatment programmes seek to improve mental and physical wellbeing, as well as building confidence, developing social skills and strengthening the connection of individuals with nature. The health benefits of outdoor pursuits are well known but with the promise of new funding, ecotherapy makes a strong case to be allocated a portion of this fund.

The government already has in place a reserve fund for students with learning difficulties or disabilities, known as Individual Specialist Provision, which can pay for students to go to a specific location if the move would be particularly beneficial. Not all centres qualify for this provision however, with geographical location limiting where people with mental disorders can receive help.

Feeding the chickens at Holtwood Community Farm
Feeding the chickens at Holtwood Community Farm

Nigel Pritchard of Holtwood Community farm in Wimborne said “at the moment we receive about a £40 to£45 daily subsidy for each person we have to the farm, which can make it difficult to do more with the site than we currently do. We wouldn’t change our staff to farm-goer ratio to cut costs, because the benefits of that level of intense care are too great.”

Denise Abrahall of Longmead Community Farm in Milborne St Andrew said: “lack of funding means we rely heavily on volunteers. We work intensively with families so that everyone gets the attention they deserve, and that delivers the best results.”

According to charity Mind, the previous Ecominds scheme in 2013, helped 254 people to find full-time employment with approximately £1.46 million saved and contributed to the State as a result. They also found that by helping just five people with mental health problems join an ecotherapy project saved more than £35,000 each year. That figure was derived from lower costs for medication, Jobseeker’s Allowance or additional healthcare.

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