One of the key goals of our Land Strategy is to provide a Natural Health Service on the Estate. This goal recognises the impact of outdoor space on physical and mental health, and involves a commitment to sharing this place with those who can benefit most, through a series of projects and initiatives.
In April 2021, we joined forces with award-winning employment charity and social enterprise Aspire Oxfordshire, to run a six-week pilot scheme of social prescribing, as part of this commitment.
Social prescribing involves helping people improve their health, wellbeing and social welfare by connecting them to community services which are usually run by local councils or local charities. Working with Aspire has allowed us to share Blenheim Estate with groups of vulnerable people. We want to ensure we are having a positive, long-term effect on the wellbeing of as many people in our local community as possible.
Aspire helps vulnerable people facing homelessness, poverty and disadvantage to find employment and change their lives, for good.
Established in 2001, Aspire has been tackling the most complex social issues in Oxfordshire for 20 years. A large part of their work is supporting vulnerable local people who are facing disadvantage to raise their aspirations, improve their lives and make their first positive steps into education, training and employment.
Aspire needed space to deliver sports and leisure activities including orienteering, yoga, rounders, wellbeing walks and fishing for small groups of people - and with thousands of acres of parkland, we saw the Blenheim Estate as the perfect venue.
Aspire's aim was to open up opportunities for the people they’re supporting to be able to have fun, socialise and get active. This is critical in helping vulnerable people to build up their confidence and self-esteem so that they can make longer term changes to their lives. Working with Blenheim Estate to offer these opportunities enables Aspire to reach their objectives far faster.
We worked with Aspire to run a series of sport and activity social inclusion programmes in the Park. The pilot programme involved weekly two-hour walks and mindfulness activities in the Park and Gardens. Blenheim Palace guides helped bring the experience to life with insightful stories.
The aim was to increase each participant's wellbeing by engaging them in social activities connected to nature and the great outdoors. In partnership with The University of Oxford, we used activity trackers to monitor their progress and questionnaires were also gathered to assess its effectiveness.
The pilot was a resounding success with some extremely positive results, including a 20% increase in life satisfaction for participants, a 19% reduction in anxiety, and a 12% increase in step count.
We have since worked with a second group of participants and secured funding to run the project for another year.
Find out more about Aspire and their work by visiting their website.