Case study by Paula Yassine, Director, St Mary’s Secret Garden
St Mary’s Secret Garden works predominantly with people with learning disabilities, long term health conditions and mental ill health, who are funded mostly through PIPs or by Social Services with a few with Personal Health Budgets. Our service users have a mixture of health needs, many are on the autism spectrum as well, and many have a dual diagnosis with mental health needs as well as a learning disability.
We also work with people from diverse backgrounds including young people, older people with learning disabilities, adults with mental ill health, through our specific funded projects.
We aim to bridge the gaps in services, and ensuring accessibility and inclusion – everyone can access the garden, however frail they may be considered to be.
Many of our service users go out just once or twice a week, and choose to come to the garden. They get to do some physical activity, and this is somewhere they belong, where they have ownership. People come and buy their plants, school trips and visitors come in and enjoy the garden that they have worked on. These are the pluses that come out of the evaluations.
Many have been to special schools, and are now living at home with elderly parents, and don’t have other opportunities to feel the sense of pride and ownership they feel at the garden. This is where their work is, and where their friendships are.
During the pandemic, we have been phoning all our service users regularly, and providing plants and seeds to grow at home where possible or appropriate, as most of them are shielding for either age or disability reasons.
Due to ongoing COVID-19 advice, for the safety of staff and attendees, St Mary’s Secret Garden is currently closed to all but booked appointments apart from on Tuesday mornings.
We are open for socially distanced plant sales on Tuesdays 10am – 1pm.
This is a very uncertain time for a lot of us and as a small charity it is not clear what funding will be available to us in the coming months, so if you can, please donate via our local giving page, or share this with others who may be able to help: localgiving.org/charity/secretgarden/.