What is Social Prescribing?
Social prescribing began as a community-led movement to address the challenges of social isolation, fear and loneliness, often associated with a lack of community connection and a support network. These challenges often negatively affect overall health and wellbeing and can particularly impact older age groups, those with chronic health problems, people with mental health difficulties and psychosocial needs, carers, single parents, migrant and immigrant and minority ethnic groups.
Service users are referred to a Social Prescriber/Link Worker and through which the service user can learn about possibilities and design their personalised solutions (i.e. 'co-produce' their 'social prescription'). This helps people with social, emotional or practical needs be empowered to find solutions to improve their health and wellbeing. Social prescribing works holistically, using the many assets and supports already available within communities.
When a person has lost the confidence to socialise or engage with services, social prescribing has a vital role in helping improve quality of life, health and wellbeing.
Who can refer a service user to a Social Prescribing Service?
GPs and healthcare professionals, social workers and community development workers, family and friends can refer a person to a social prescribing link worker within the community. Anyone can self-refer to a social prescribing service.
Through this referral, the service user will meet with a link worker who will listen and identify the needs of the individual, focussing on them as a person rather than one specific issue. The link work then efficiently supports a person to get the right support; this may be joining a local community group, taking up physically active, or connecting with other support organisations.
What are the key components of Social Prescribing:
While many different models of Social Prescribing exist across Ireland, there are commonalities to all social prescribing services.
A Social Prescriber / Link Worker
A referral pathway either from or between a primary care professional.
A self-referral pathway to the Social Prescriber/ Link Worker.
Several guided conversations between the service user and a Social Prescriber / Link Worker to assess the service users' needs, provide encouragement and co-produce solutions to work towards improving the service users' health and wellbeing.
Connections to local voluntary, community and social organisations or services and, in some cases, to a health and wellbeing service.
A means to measure the uptake and impact of Social Prescribing on the overall health and wellbeing of the service user and, ideally, the wider community and the health service.
A means to record barriers service users face when implementing their social prescribing plan and the gaps in available local services, activities and supports.
Coalition Conversations webinar on Social Prescribing and Mental Health, Mental Health Reform launched a briefing document entitled “Social Prescribing and the Voluntary and Community Mental Health Sector“.