Urgent need to Future Proof the UK’s parks and green spaces

There is an urgent need to recruit young volunteers to care for and maintain UK parks if they are to meet the needs of current and future generations, according to Future Proof Parks – a partnership between Groundwork, Fields in Trust and National Youth Agency.

It says it is vital that we act now to recruit the next generation of volunteers, representative of the communities that enjoy and benefit from the UK’s parks and green spaces. A new series of free how-to guides have been published supporting friends of parks groups to recruit more young volunteers.

Across the country, volunteers work tirelessly to care for and protect their local green spaces, improving our towns and cities. As council funding becomes further stretched, more work maintaining and improving our precious parks is being picked-up by friends of parks groups. However, these volunteers are not always representative of the whole local community that use the park – and they could benefit from a wider range of volunteers to support their growing workload.

Future Proof Parks is a National Lottery Heritage Fund programme – part of the £10m ‘Kick the Dust’ initiative –which aims to get more young people involved in preserving their local park and green space heritage. Throughout the programme young people have learned about their local historic parks and have been encouraged to join their local ‘friends of’ groups, volunteering to preserve the local spaces that matter to the communities they live in.

The project is also working with friends’ groups to give them the tools, encouragement, and support to get more local young people involved in their work and benefit from cross-generational working. To support volunteers inexperienced at involving young people, a series of how-to guides has been published introducing Friends of Parks working with young people in green spaces. The in-depth how-to-guides which look at key areas including Recruiting young volunteers, safeguarding young people and how to fundraise with young people.

The wellbeing value associated with frequent use of parks and green spaces is worth £34.2 billion per year to the UK adult population and is estimated to save the NHS around £111 million per year through a reduction in GP visits.

Earlier this year, a report published by Groundwork drawing on contributions from 23 organisations recognising the need to reimagine parks for the 21st century, found major inequalities in people’s ability to access parks and other open spaces.

The ‘Out of Bounds’ report demonstrated the extent to which certain groups are not getting the benefit of regularly accessing ‘urban nature’ – citing evidence that girls and young women feel unsafe in public spaces, some disabled people feel uncomfortable in parks and young people from minority ethnic backgrounds have fewer opportunities to connect with green spaces.

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