A new national programme, launched today, seeks to champion and support the vital work of voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise groups supporting communities most impacted by COVID19 in England, working alongside social prescribing link workers.

Local voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise (VCFSE) groups and organisations are providing critical support to communities impacted by COVID19, connecting people to social prescribing activities that help with their physical and mental wellbeing, such as virtual singing and befriending groups. Furthermore, throughout the pandemic, groups and organisations have rapidly responded, and continue to respond to, the needs of their community in different ways, moving their activities online and connecting people remotely.

The Thriving Communities Programme, launched by the National Academy for Social Prescribing, and supported by regional partners, Arts Council England, the Money and Pensions Service Natural England, NHS England and NHS Improvement, NHS Charities Together and Sport England will help these groups and organisations in England to build upon this activity, share their learning, gain new ideas, access funding and develop partnerships across sectors, to help ensure their continued delivery, beyond COVID19.

Thriving Communities will deliver:

  • a Thriving Communities Network and Ideas Hub, providing a platform for groups and organisations to learn from, and inspire, each other, to connect community groups and organisations regionally and nationally to share learning, and host regular webinars to support and celebrate their work
  • Learning Together, a regional support and development initiative run by National Academy for Social Prescribing Regional Leads, which brings together voluntary organisations, community and faith groups and social enterprises supporting communities through COVID19 to celebrate, support and amplify the impact of their work, and inspire innovation
  • Regional Leads who will help members of Learning Together connect with other groups and organisations to stimulate new partnerships with arts, natural environment, financial wellbeing, physical activity and health and care organisations, including social prescribing link workers
  • a £1.4m Thriving Communities Fund, to open later this month, which will be delivered by Arts Council England and will provide grants of up to £50k for partnerships led by voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise groups and organisations to increase these community activities, particularly across arts, nature, physical activity, financial wellbeing, health and care, and support for people impacted by COVID19
  • the Thriving Communities Fund will run alongside the NHS Charities Together Community Partnership Grants worth £30 million across the UK, which enables a lead NHS Charity within every Integrated Care System across England to fund community partnerships which increase support for people impacted by COVID19, maximising their potential.

The programme reflects the Academy’s ambition to work alongside existing local infrastructure agencies in helping local VCFSE groups and organisations to build stronger partnerships and connect people to community support.

Commenting, Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair, National Academy for Social Prescribing said:

“Connecting people for wellbeing is vital to citizens and the communities they live in. Local community projects provide essential services linking people to the support they need to help live fulfilling and healthy lives. As we enter another lockdown, these resources are more important than ever before – especially for those areas most impacted by COVID19.

“By working together across multiple sectors, the Thriving Communities Programme will support communities to create, extend and improve their range of local activities, to ensure they can continue and expand their invaluable work.”

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

“We know the positive impact activities such as walking football, singing to improve lung health, food growing projects and green dementia health walks can make to the lives of people, their mental and physical health. These community-based activities are vital to the wellbeing of the nation – and therefore its only right that we work together to support them.

“This programme reflects our own ambition to support and champion community groups delivering social prescribing activities, particularly for those communities most impacted by COVID19.”

Darren Henley, Chief Executive Officer, Arts Council England:

“The COVID19 pandemic has shown even more clearly how important things like creativity, nature and exercise are for both individual and wellbeing; millions of people across the country have found solace, focus and connection through the arts and culture.

Arts Council England is proud to be a partner to the Thriving Communities programme, and doubly so to be distributing the new £1.4m Thriving Communities Fund. Made possible with money from the Academy, as well as our own Arts Council resources thanks to National Lottery players, the fund will bring together local partnerships across culture, sport, nature, health and the wider community sector to directly address the wellbeing needs of those most affected by the pandemic.”

Caroline Siarkiewicz, CEO of the Money and Pensions Service said: “The physical, mental and financial wellbeing for many, in our communities across the UK, have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. It is really important for organisations to work together holistically, at every level, so we can build back better, and thrive.

“This week (9-13 November) is Talk Money Week, when we encourage people across the communities of the UK to talk about their financial situations, as that is the first step to better financial wellbeing. There is no better week to launch this programme to share ideas and learnings with others about social prescribing activities such as these, taking place in the community, that benefit the overall wellbeing of the nation.”

Marian Spain, Chief Executive, Natural England said:

“A thriving natural environment is the answer to three big challenges we are facing as a society: poor physical health and mental wellbeing; the impacts of climate change and the devastating declines in biodiversity. The evidence is clear that access to a high quality environment is a cost effective way to improve health and reduce health inequalities, with the restrictions on our lives as a result of the coronavirus pandemic highlighting even more the critical importance of nature to people’s health and wellbeing.

The pandemic has, however, placed a severe strain on community groups and voluntary organisations across the country who deliver vital services in their local communities to support those people most affected. That’s why I’m delighted to support the Thriving Communities Programme, which seeks to champion and support these local community groups who, working alongside social prescribing link workers, help people connect with nature as part of their day to day lives and do help everybody stay healthy for a lifetime.”

Nicola Gitsham, Head of Social Prescribing, Personalised Care Group, NHS England and NHS Improvement:

“We know that the impact of the pandemic has affected people’s emotional and physical wellbeing on many levels, and that social prescribing link workers have a key role to play in providing support. For social prescribing to be effective it needs a vibrant community sector, which is a tough ask given the strain on many local organisations during the pandemic. That’s why the launch of the Thriving Communities programme is so timely and so welcome.”

Ellie Orton, Chief Executive, NHS Charities Together, said:

“COVID-19 has bought with it many more health and wellbeing challenges than we ever could have anticipated back in March. Collaborative programmes like this one are vital, now more so than ever, and we’re thrilled to be a part of it”.

Tim Hollingsworth, Chief Executive Officer, Sport England said:

“Sport England is very pleased to be supporting the Thriving Communities programme, as being active has a vital role in improving people’s health. The pandemic has caused massive disruption and change to all our lives, and thanks to National Lottery players, who help raise £30 million every week for good causes, this programme will help support everyone to get more physically active through voluntary organisations, community and faith groups.”

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