Unabridged version: Breathing Spaces Project, Bradford

The Breathing Spaces Project, Bradford


Delivery organisation

Prism Youth Project Breathing Spaces at Prism City farm


Big Lottery Fund (BIG) programme (Ecominds), programme value £147,790

The big idea

The Breathing Spaces project is based in a city farm. The project targets young people aged 12 to 21 years and provides opportunities to engage in horticultural and other activities. The city farm encourages young people to volunteer, particularly young people with mental health conditions or young people that have struggled with mainstream schooling.

Setting up the project

The project provides an opportunity for the young people to work with animals on the farm. The main aim of the project is to support young people to improve their mental health and wellbeing by giving young people access to ecotherapy - promoting better mental health through horticulture and green based activities.

The project is run by a volunteer coordinator and a specialist mental health worker who offer one-to-one support, supervision and feedback sessions, group work activities, and training opportunities.

Young people can self-refer or are referred from other services, such as CAMHs. The project serves a diverse group of young people, with varying degrees of need. Though the needs of the group are diverse, the volunteer coordinator believes that they work together quite well and have a shared understanding of the issues that they all face.

Volunteers have been involved in building a chicken run, a duck pond, fences and have cared for the farm animals.

Impact of the project

The project has had different levels of success for different people. The project caters for people with severe mental health conditions, who are supported to join the group as well as helped onto other activities. Young people with less severe mental health condition, who need help to develop their self esteem and to bolster their confidence, also benefit from the contact with animals.

The young people gain from working with the physical environment and from working together as a team. They grow fruit and vegetables and discuss ideas around healthy eating. The group has also produced a cookbook.

The volunteer coordinator noted that the young people have changed the way they treat the physical environment and are less likely to litter.

Lessons learned

The main challenge for this project was getting other agencies to share the personal information on the young people. The volunteer coordinator invested time in developing personal contact with other agencies, visiting people in their office and going along to their team meetings. The project also invited agencies to visit the farm which helped to build trust between agencies.

Most of the work is outside and young people were less inclined to participate in poor weather conditions. The project had to devise new ways of engaging the young people during the bad winter.

Top tips replicate this project in your locality

Develop good face-to-face relationships with partner agencies such as CAMHS, mental health nurses, school nurses. Be prepared to chase your clients when they fail to attend your project, follow it up as this shows them that someone cares.

Don't underestimate what the young people are capable of achieving - a lot of young people that attend the programme are diagnosed with mental health and learning difficulties. Nonetheless, the young people have developed new skills over a short space of time, though mistakes can be made.

Where next?

The funding for this project ends in January 2012. Breathing Spaces are looking for funding to continue the project. If unsuccessful, the project will continue to be funded from the core costs, albeit at a reduce scale, and will still take referrals from other services and support young people in learning new skills.

15 September 2011

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