Survey reveals inequality in children spending time outside during pandemic

Natural England’s ‘People and Nature Survey (children)’ has revealed clear inequalities for children engaging with nature, with 71% of children from ethnic minority backgrounds reporting spending less time outside since coronavirus compared with 57% of white children.

In addition, almost three-quarters (73%) of children from households with a total annual income below £17,000 spent less time outdoors, compared with 57% from households with an annual income above £17,000.

The survey also reveals six in ten children reported they have spent less time outdoors since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with concern about catching or spreading coronavirus the biggest barrier stopping them going out more.

The positive role of nature in supporting well-being has also been revealed, with eight in ten children agreeing that being in nature made them very happy, while 70% said that they want to spend more time outdoors with friends post-pandemic.

These findings build on Natural England’s latest People and Nature Survey, which reveal that the nation’s gardens, parks, woodlands and rivers have played a huge part in helping with their mental health during the coronavirus pandemic, with almost nine in ten of adults in England reporting that being in nature makes them very happy.

The joint DfE, Natural England and Defra ‘Children and Nature programme’ is already working with children from disadvantaged backgrounds to have better access to natural environments to support their mental health and wellbeing and engagement with school. Three independent projects are providing greener grounds and pupil visits to green spaces for schools with the highest proportion of disadvantaged pupils, scaling-up care farming services (the therapeutic use of farming practices) for children and adults facing disadvantage or social exclusion and expanding community forest and woodland outreach activities being delivered to school children, particularly those in disadvantaged areas.

The Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan has set out how all parts of society should be connected with green spaces to improve health and wellbeing. Natural England is working with Defra and other partners to deliver the plan’s commitment for more good quality green space that provides benefits for health, nature, climate and prosperity, in particular for disadvantaged urban communities, and to help the country recover from coronavirus by ensuring green space is available to all.

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