Tuesday, 17 May 2022
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Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Social Prescribing – improving wellbeing at the heart of our communities

Rosemary Macdonald, CEO, UK Community Foundations writes:

March is often seen as a month of new beginnings, longer days and new opportunities. It’s also the month chosen by the National Academy for Social Prescribing for their annual celebration of social prescribing, recognising the local community groups and projects that support and enhance good health and wellbeing across the UK. 

In the Academy’s own words, social prescribing ‘connects people to practical and emotional community support, through social prescribing link workers, who are based in GP practices and take referrals from all local agencies. Link workers have time to build trusting relationships, start with what matters to the person, create a shared plan and introduce people to community support.’

Even before the pandemic, there were concerns about the ability of GP practices to meet the rising demand for their services. A survey published by the Royal College of General Practitioners in 2018 found that workload in general practice increased by at least 16% between 2007 and 2014. With the growing UK population and more patients presenting with multiple, chronic conditions, the volume and complexity of work for GPs and their teams was set to increase further. Recognising that GPs often identify non-medical needs, such as loneliness and isolation, the same research found that 59% of GPs  think social prescribing can help reduce their workload.  

As place-based funders, community foundations are natural partners in this vital work. They know and support a wide range of local charities and voluntary organisations that deliver volunteering, art activities, group learning, gardening, befriending, cookery, healthy eating advice and a range of sports. These are also the activities essential to an effective social prescribing programme 

UK Community Foundations has recently partnered with Primary Health Properties (PHP) plc to deliver their new Community Impact Fund which supports health and wellbeing initiatives in the communities served by its medical practices. Foundation Scotland and Lincolnshire Community Foundation have been the first UKCF members to deliver this scheme across their respective areas. They have recently awarded grants totalling £150,000 to twenty different organisations.

These include services to support young people’s mental health and social inclusion, art therapy for children with long-term chronic conditions, gardening activities to promote wellbeing and equine-assisted learning and therapy sessions. Funding was also granted to organisations that co-ordinate information about wellbeing to help people find the information they require so they can access the help they need.

Many of our community foundations are working in this space. Three recent examples are:

  • GiveBradford, which is managed by Leeds Community Foundation, came together with Power to Change to create a community-led health offer in Keighley to improve health outcomes. They did this by supporting community groups and community businesses to enable them to meet the health and wellbeing needs of people in their local area. 
  • Cheshire Community Foundation manages the Assura Community Fund on behalf of Assura plc which supports health-improving projects which are reducing isolation, improving mental and physical health, supporting young people, expanding access to local community services and helping people with education, employability and skills.  
  • The South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Green Social Prescribing Grants Programme was launched last year by South Yorkshire Community Foundation. This programme aims to encourage more time outdoors and supports people who don’t feel they have access to or the opportunity to appreciate the positive effects of the natural world around them. This in turn improves people’s mental and physical health.

As we emerge from the pandemic, it’s clear that there’s now a greater need than ever to connect people to activities that will help to reduce loneliness and isolation, cope with long-term health challenges and provide support with mental health. Community foundations are proud to be at the forefront of funding and facilitating this essential work.

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