The voluntary sector is at the heart of the current social prescribing system. It supports people and communities with a wide range of activities; some to support people with specific conditions, others with a focus on prevention.
In July, Welsh Government launched its draft National Framework for Social Prescribing, designed ‘to set a common set of standards and ensure consistent delivery.’ Given how important that this could be to the way in which social prescribing is delivered, WCVA drew the voluntary sector together across two events, speaking to practitioners, policy officials, and chief executives. Working with Hugh Irwin Consultancy, we drew together a report to make clear to Welsh Government the views of the sector as a whole.
The report is available and the key themes and we have drawn a number of key themes out from it
A COMMUNITY-BASED MODEL WITH PREVENTION AT ITS CORE
Community referrals are inherently reliant on which asset are available in a community, and therefore any programme needs to be community-led. There were significant questions about how a national framework would affect work on a local level. Consensus was that the model needed to be a community-based model, which took account of the services, assets, and needs of Wales’ many communities.
Often our contributors felt that social prescribers were only considered in relation to recovery, despite significant evidence that it can be a preventative service, reducing the likelihood of need acute services in the future. This is, to many of the people we spoke to, where the greatest potential for social prescribing to improve wellbeing lies. This includes a considering how referral pathways will be open to people prior to a formal medical appointment.
Both of these point reflect a sense that the model should not be overly-medicalised.
We found a sense of frustration from many that the current approach to funding social prescribing activity had been haphazard, with short-term activity often failing to lead to longer-term programmes even though the value of social prescribing had been proven. This led to intermittent support for service users, and financial instability for organisations. Although this consultation is on a National Framework, there was significant support for funding social prescribing as core activity, not as an add-on. Until it is seen as a long-term, core service, we will continue to see disrupted activity and challenges with recruiting and retaining social prescribers.
Social prescribing is a community service and should be available to all. Children’s groups, for example, told us that they felt this was a missed opportunity to extend this framework to younger people.
The sector feels strongly that these services need to be available to everyone in the community, and that some groups often miss out. Most notably this includes people from ethnic minority backgrounds as well as people with physical and learning difficulties.
We strongly recommend that social prescribing services monitor the demographic data of the people they work with the assess equity of uptake and impact.
GREEN SOCIAL PRESCRIBING
Green social prescribing – where people are prescribed time or activity outdoors – is a critical element of social prescribing which can be forgotten about. It is not mentioned explicitly within the framework, in contrast to a cross-departmental initiative in England which seeks to develop this specifically. We note that the proposed National Nature Service is a potential route for this in Wales.
TRANSPORT AND ACCESSIBILITY
Transport was a key theme from our respondents. One social prescriber told us ‘you can make 20 referrals but if they can’t get out of the door to the activity, you haven’t really made any.’ This was especially prominent from prescribers in rural areas, but for people with mobility or anxiety issues, the length of the journey was not the barrier – any journey at all was. We are clear this needs to be addressed in any framework.
Please get in touch with our health infrastructure project if you want to have your say on social prescribing, or find out more about our work on health, social care and wellbeing. Our e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.