Third Sector Awards 2016: Small Charity, Big Achiever - Winner: Growing Support

Awarded to an organisation with an income of less than £500,000 a year that has made a significant impact with its work

Growing Support helps residents improve gardens at care homes
Growing Support helps residents improve gardens at care homes

What did it do?

The Growing Support project, a community interest company, has worked to transform underused care home gardens into thriving growing spaces and lively hubs of community activity. Studies show that older people living in care are twice as likely to be affected by severe loneliness as those in the broader community and are more likely to be socially isolated. Fifty per cent of them never go outside.

Growing Support set out to tackle this by running regular, sociable and therapeutic gardening clubs in care homes.

How did it do this?

Growing Support has developed a dedicated team of specially trained community volunteers to run gardening clubs in care homes in Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Bath and North East Somerset.

Volunteers provide individual practical support and encouragement to ensure none of the challenges faced by residents get in the way of their taking part.

Garden activities are broken down into smaller, more manageable tasks, using table-tops or raised beds so no one is denied access. The older people were able to grow food for the table, look after the garden and remain socially connected.

What has is achieved?

Since it was launched in 2013 with a £3,000 grant to deliver taster sessions at local care homes, it has grown to provide gardening activities at more than 30 care homes, supporting more than 1,000 older people.

So far it has delivered 1,000 gardening activity sessions for older people and people with dementia, trained 50 community volunteers, who have contributed more than 2,000 hours of their time, and been commissioned by local public health and clinical commissioning groups.

In March 2016 it launched the Growing Support Gardening Challenge, a national competition for care homes that encouraged them to use their gardens to engage the community and get their residents gardening. Care providers supporting more than 17,500 older people have so far signed up to take part.

What did the judges say?

Chris Reed, head of UK volunteering and community engagement at Barnardo's, said: "From small beginnings, this group is clearly now having a major impact."

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