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Posted on: 5th February 2014

Access to Nature

University of Essex report demonstrates that this service highly benefits service users in their rehabilitation and cements the positive impact on helping people on their road to recovery.

The University of Essex has recently undertaken a research project named ‘Green care: Enjoying the Countryside in Tendering’. The research was commissioned by Open Road to analyse the impact and outcomes the Access to Nature project has on service users.

This project focuses on giving service users a chance to build their own self-supporting recovery community and improve on skills such as communication, wood carving and bush craft skills with the help of their peers, staff and volunteers.

The university looked at topics surrounding nature and its connection to health and wellbeing to aid them in their findings. They also used a mixed method methodology, interviewing staff and volunteers and holding focus groups with service users involved in the Access to Nature project, alongside statistical analysis of ‘Outcome Star’. After analysing the Outcome Star assessments from 28 service users, the research report found a significant, positive difference in the change in the attitudes and how the service users were feeling, concerning motivation, drug use and physical health to name a few,  both before and after the Access to Nature project. Although the increased percentages showed a wide range, the overall trend was positive after the service users had got involved in the Access to Nature Project, which is a great indication of its success.

From the focus groups, the service users expressed that the Access to Nature project was in fact a central part of their recovery and rehabilitation, ‘It gets you out of your comfort zone… It breaks the routine of drink and drugs’. Communication and social skills also showed a significant improvement within the findings of the research report. This in turn, reflected positive changes in mental health, confidence and self-worth, ‘learning valuable skills on the project has given me a sense of achievement … now I feel worth something’. 

This was also reflected when interviewing staff members who were involved in the project,  as staff found the whole project acted as a ‘self-therapy’, with those interacting gaining increasing confidence,  ‘people gain a respect for themselves… they gain confidence’. Physical fitness and general stamina was also an area that both staff and service users noted had greatly improved and service users commented that they now feel more focused and really appreciate the benefits of nature.

We fully support Access to Nature in being something that highly benefits service users in their rehabilitation, and this report from the University of Essex has really cemented the positive impact of the project and how much it is valued at Open Road. Not only did this allow us to see the evidence from statistical analysis, but feedback from staff and service users on how this was personally helping them on their road to recovery.

Open Road is currently looking at ways to keep this project funded into the foreseeable future, if you would like to find out more about how you could support this valuable project or volunteer your services, please let us know.