Family Action provides practical, emotional and financial support to those who are experiencing poverty, disadvantage and social isolation across the country.  They support over 600,000 people each year through over 160 community-based services. Their local services reach out to those in need, build skills and resilience, strengthen families and communities, and improve the life chances of children and adults.

The ESCAPE Community Allotment Project operates from The Discovery Centre in King’s Lynn and thanks to funding support, they have been able to remain open to participants since July 2020, in line with Covid restrictions.

ESCAPE has accommodated 42 – 56 participants per week with most attending 1 – 3 sessions weekly. The project has welcomed adults experiencing a range of difficulties to come together to meet, socialise and support one another, learn new skills, improve their wellbeing and participate in community-based activities.

Participants found themselves more isolated during lockdown following the closure of statutory and voluntary service provision that they would have normally relied upon for support.

The focus of activities within the ESCAPE Community Allotment Project has been the development and maintenance of the Discovery Centre garden, based on the principles of therapeutic horticulture.

Some of the specific activities that have taken place include:

  • Completion of the outdoor kitchen including a cob oven and covered seating area
  • Building of a large banquet table, benches and chairs for hosting community cooking sessions
  • Creation of a pond and drainage system to prevent flooding around the kitchen area
  • Planting willow cuttings for a willow coppice area which will produce materials for future weaving workshops and garden structures

Participants also made use of the produce they had tended to, communally preparing meals using a range of vegetables including leeks, squash, broccoli, parsnips, carrots, lettuce, peas, cabbage, cauliflower, onions and potatoes.

A representative from Family Action said “Throughout the last twelve months, participants have regularly reported that ESCAPE has been their only social contact outside of the home and their only in person support service. For many of our adults with learning difficulties, ESCAPE was their only placement that remained open for them. Their isolation significantly increased as social restrictions were put in place, detrimentally affecting their wellbeing and physical and mental health.”

By bringing individuals together to take part in meaningful activities, Family Action have helped reduce the sense of isolation and improved both the physical and mental health of attendees.