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What we do

Since Growing Well was founded in 2004 we have helped hundreds of people rebuild their confidence, resilience and hope for the future, gaining practical and transferable skills, learning how to manage their own mental health, and making friends. For many, it has been a crucial step to going back into employment or education, trying something new, or making other positive changes in their life.

We work with adults in Cumbria and North Lancashire who are experiencing mental ill health. Individuals attend our service on our six-acre organic vegetable farm near Kendal or our new kitchen garden at Tebay Services on one day per week (9am-4pm). The usual length of stay with us is between 6 months and 12 months.

We offer activity as a powerful alternative (or accompaniment) to talking therapy. Where sometimes there just aren’t the words, our activities provide a unique context for discovering, understanding and communicating personal needs, and strengths. In our occupationally focused approach, the activity IS the therapy.

We offer a range of supported, meaningful activity and training, all based around participatory work on the field and in our kitchens. When working with our volunteers (our beneficiaries), we focus on three, vital objectives:

  • Building emotional resilience
  • Developing life skills
  • Supporting healthier, more active living

See How We Help for more details on the activities and support we offer, and what a day at Growing Well looks like for our Volunteers.

What we stand for

We want everyone to recognise that meaningful mental and physical activity are vital components of good mental health. We want every individual to feel that they have and can fulfil a purpose in this world.

Our Volunteers (beneficiaries) are actively involved and included in our charity.
Our values:

  • Non-judgemental: we realise that mental ill health can touch anyone. We are respectful of every individual, no matter what their circumstances are.
  • Meaningful: the context of our work is in nature and in enterprise. Our products and our people have purpose and value.
  • Community-minded: we take a holistic, participatory approach to mental health recovery, recognising that “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts”. We work with each other and external networks to support our volunteers’ recovery.
  • Fair: we support [health] equality for all. We set people up to succeed and we support everyone’s right to choice, and release from stigma.

How we’re run

Growing Well is a registered charity in England and Wales (No 1182018) governed by a Board of Trustees. The board:

  • Ensures that we are effective by working towards our vision
  • Is accountable for the rigorous governance required in running a registered charity
  • Promotes a culture of clarity, quality, rigour and respect in all of our work
  • The executive team is responsible for the day-to-day running of the charity and our work with volunteers.

Lived Experience

The volunteer voice and their Lived Experience of living with mental health challenges is at the heart of our work and changes to our service delivery in 2021 and our recent (2022-3) Theory Of Change Work was driven and articulated by those who interact with our service.

We actively empower people to feel valued and allow them to participate meaningfully in our activities and decision making in the following ways:

  • Person-centred approach where volunteers set their own goals for recovery and choose their own pathways
  • 11am daily whole team meeting of all people on site to share news and share a social space where all voices are valued
  • Six-weekly one-to-one support and goal-setting meetings for all Volunteers
  • Transparency and openness about personal data and the Volunteer database. Beneficiaries will review charts of their individual goals progress, changes in measures of wellbeing, and horticultural skills attainment as part of their one-to-ones.
  • Quarterly consultation and feedback from Volunteers, via anonymous online and written surveys and focus groups. We support Volunteers to participate in feedback opportunities in the way they are most comfortable, actively encourage honest constructive feedback about our service and the way we are run, and guard against consciously or unconsciously signalling that positive feedback is good for funding.
  • All Volunteers sign a Code of Conduct, giving everyone the protection from bullying, harassment or discrimination by fellow Volunteers or staff, and access to a complaints procedure.
  • A staff Code of Conduct, Staff Handbook and Employment Contract set out staff expectations in relation to each other and to volunteers.

In addition, we survey staff, Senior Leadership Team and Trustees to compile anonymous aggregate data of the proportion of each group with direct Lived Experience of mental ill health, and the proportion with Lived Experience of mental ill health of a close family member.

Growing Well is also a founder member of the Cumbria Lived Experience Voice group of charities and organisations which are Lived Experience Recovery Organisations or which put Lived Experience at the heart of what they do.

History and legal structure

Growing Well has been established as a not-for-profit organisation since 2004 and will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2024. We operated as an Industrial and Provident Society and then a Charitable Community Benefit Society registered with the FCA under the registration number 29680R until July 2018.

We then embarked on a S112 conversion process to become a Charitable Company Limited by Guarantee (Growing Well Ltd company registration number 11446092) and registered with the Charity Commission in England and Wales. This process concluded in February 2019 when we were awarded our charity registration number in England and Wales 1182018.

In 2022 “Growing Well” registered as a Trademark in the UK in the field of therapeutic horticulture, social and care farming, and wellbeing, and of life skills and training. In 2012 the Growing Well logo was registered as a Trademark.

In January 2023 Growing Well opened up its first ‘replication’ site at Tebay Services on the M6, in partnership Westmorland Family and supported by the National Lottery Community Fund.

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