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Friday, 22 October 2021
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£1.8m fund to help communities thrive across England

LEADING organisations are to fund 37 community projects as part of the Thriving Communities Programme, up to £50,000 each, to further advance social prescribing and support communities as they recover from COVID-19.

The funding organisations: 

  • National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP)
  • Arts Council England
  • Historic England
  • Natural England
  • NHS England and Improvement
  • Sport England
  • Money and Pensions Service
  • NHS Charities Together

A range of local voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise groups will be given grants to support projects that unlock the power of social prescribing in their local areas, bringing together place-based partnerships across arts and culture, heritage, nature, physical exercise, financial wellbeing, health and care.

At a celebratory event last week to mark Social Prescribing Day, the outcome of the £1.8m Thriving Communities Fund to support projects was announced, including:

  • Nature activities – OrganicLea in London provides wellbeing activities in green spaces, including gardening, forest bathing, nature conservation, yoga, cycling lessons, green volunteering, craft making, and community meals.
  • Exercise – In Trafford, Friends of Stretford Public Hall will deliver a broad range of activities, including online and in-person exercise classes, walking groups, thai boxing, and cycling trips.
  • Singing – Sunderland Social Prescribing Partnership and Sunderland Culture will be running an extensive programme of high-quality creative social prescribing activities for carers and their families, including Singing for Lung Health, a 10-week singing programme for people with COPD and families. Led by a participatory musician to build confidence, sessions will cover breathing techniques, singing familiar harmonies and songs.
  • Empowerment – Wonder Women in Peterborough will support women to overcome the effects of the COVID-19 period, build confidence, meet with others, grow self-esteem and improve financial literacy.

These local projects will bring together place-based partnerships to improve and increase the range and reach of available social prescribing community activities – with a focus on those people most impacted by COVID-19 and health inequalities.

Local community partnerships will encourage innovation and improve the evidence base for social prescribing. Projects include football to support mental health, art for dementia, heritage trails and walks, improving green spaces, and singing to improve recovery from COVID-19.

This funding is delivered in a unique partnership between the National Academy for Social Prescribing, Arts Council England, Historic England and Natural England, NHS England and Improvement, Sport England, the Money and Pensions Service, and NHS Charities Together, and is part of the Thriving Communities Programme. The budget was increased to support a high level of strong applicants.

The Fund is part of the Thriving Communities Programme, which works alongside existing local infrastructure agencies in helping local VCFSE groups and organisations to help them build stronger partnerships and connect people to community support. It aims to help these groups share learning, gain new ideas, access funding and develop partnerships across sectors.

James Sanderson, Chief Executive of the National Academy for Social Prescribing, said:

“The last year has shown how important social prescribing is in helping people to stay connected, feel supported and maintain their wellbeing. We began our ambitious agenda to support people to live the best life they can by accessing support in their local communities based on what matters to them. We are so pleased to support and encourage these projects through the Thriving Communities Fund to scale and spread social prescribing even further and help our communities to thrive.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the National Academy for Social Prescribing, said:

“At its heart, the Thriving Communities Fund aims to support our communities to address many issues they face as the result of COVID-19 through innovative social prescribing. I know that the chosen projects will see huge benefits, which will ripple out into the wider society. We look forward to working with them, as they unlock the power of social prescribing in their local areas, helping those people who really need it most.”

Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England, commented:

“There’s growing evidence that taking part in cultural and creative activities, getting enough exercise and connecting with nature can really improve people’s physical and mental health. As we deal with the challenges of the pandemic, this has never been more important. Working with the National Academy for Social Prescribing and other partners – and thanks to National Lottery players – we’re making this investment to support 37 projects and partnerships that aim to help more than 8,000 people across England lead happier, healthier lives.”

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said:

“Historic England is a proud partner of the Thriving Communities Fund, which uses the power of culture and heritage alongside nature, sport, health and financial support to benefit the communities most affected by the pandemic. Heritage is all around us – it shapes the character of the places we live and work in and gives us a sense of belonging and identity. We believe that the award winners will be great advocates for these values, and we will continue to work with the National Academy for Social Prescribing to support the successful projects and partnerships in achieving this.”

Caroline Siarkiewicz, CEO of the Money and Pensions Service, said:

“The National Academy for Social Prescribing and Thriving Communities initiatives represent important examples of how different organisations can work together towards unified public service goals. We know that a truly thriving community needs support in physical, mental and financial health. As the organisation responsible for developing and coordinating the UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing, we support social prescribing as an important way to ensure people presenting with complex health problems have access to the widest possible range of services that can best support their needs.”

Ellie Orton, CEO of NHS Charities Together, said:

“We’re proud to be part of this partnership which promotes the role of communities in improving health and wellbeing. Social prescribing through networks and local partnerships is playing a vital and increasing role in delivering health care at the local level, and our latest grants programme is focused on investing in community projects through our 241 member charities across the UK.”

Nicola Gitsham, Head of Social Prescribing, NHS England and Improvement, said:

“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of communities coming together to support each other. Social prescribing link workers help people whose emotional and physical wellbeing has been badly affected by social and practical issues, so it’s great to work with NASP on this partnership programme which means that there will be more opportunities to connect people with local activities that can help them live healthier happier lives.”

Rachel Spencer from Reading Voluntary Action, who will be delivering the Wild Being project encompassing arts, culture, nature, physical activity and life advice, said:

“There is already a vibrant social prescribing network in Reading, which involves over 80 organisations providing holistic social, physical and cultural activities to improve wellbeing and support diverse communities. This project will enable 300 participants from Reading to benefit from a programme of activities to boost their mental health, skills, and relationships. We’re thrilled to get the funding and are excited to able to offer this diverse range of activities for people as they emerge from lockdown and the impact of COVID-19.”

Tim Hollingsworth, Chief Executive Officer, Sport England, commented:

“Our partnership with the National Academy for Social Prescribing is an important and growing one. As we emerge from the pandemic, it has never been more important to focus on our individual health and wellbeing and the reconnecting of our communities with the activities and sport they most enjoy. The opportunity to engage people in how being active can have a transformational impact on their mental and physical health is a core part of our future strategic ambition, and we look forward to our continued collaboration to maximise those links.”

Rebecca Ball, Creative Director, Sunderland Culture, who will use the funding to create an inspiring range of high-quality creative social prescribing activities for carers and their families in Sunderland, commented:

“We are immensely grateful to have been awarded funding from the Thriving Communities Fund. We will work in partnership to develop and deliver social prescribing activities for carers and their families, many of whom have been hit hard by the impact of the pandemic. Our programme includes singing for lung health, activities for young carers and for people with dementia, a Men’s Shed project, and doorstep creative activities. This critical support, at a crucial moment, will enable us to respond to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of carers, support our city’s recovery and develop a partnership that can drive forward vital initiatives for the wellbeing of our communities in Sunderland.”

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