14/11/2022 How to hire a Social Prescribing Advice Worker

We publish a how to guide for Primary Care Networks who want to hire aSocial Prescribing Advice Worker

Today – in partnership with the Money and Pensions Service and as part of Talk Money Week – we are publishing a new guide for Primary Care Networks (PCNs) on how to include money guidance or social welfare legal advice within their social prescribing offer.

The guide lays out the benefits of using the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme, to either hire a Social Prescribing Advice Link Worker or use the services of an organisation like Citizen’s Advice. Social Prescribing Advice Link Workers differ from Social Prescribing Link Workers, as they can actually offer financial advice, rather than signposting to other services.

To understand a bit more about how it works, we spoke to three people already working in the field.

Shahanaz Miah is an Advice Link Worker at the Bromley-by-Bow health centre, one of the places where social prescribing was pioneered. As someone with a qualified background in social welfare, trained as a social prescriber, she is able to give people benefits, debt and housing advice and guidance, instead of signposting to another organisation.

In Bromley, Shahanaz is one of several Social Prescribing Link Workers employed by the health centre, whereas in Liverpool, this service is contracted out to Citizen’s Advice Liverpool. In 2017, Citizens Advice Liverpool were approached by NHS England to superimpose a wellbeing link worker model on top of the social welfare offer, providing every GP with link worker support.

Debbie Nolan is the Health Programme Manager and Sandra Doyle is a Link Worker Coordinator at Citizen Advice Liverpool.

How does it work for PCNs?

“Every single PCN in Liverpool has a social welfare offer from Citizens Advice Liverpool. Where we don’t provide link worker support, GPs either refer directly to Citizens Advice for welfare support or they refer to us via their link workers,” explains Debbie. The service also takes referrals for wellbeing from all secondary care providers including mental health providers, , midwives, and health visitors.

“It works well,” Debbie said. “Everything depends on relationships. We need to have solid working relationships that put the patient at the centre.”

In Liverpool, PCNs are able to refer people to tailored services outside of the network but in Bromley, they have kept their financial wellbeing offering internal, by training their existing link workers.

Shahanaz said: “It is challenging to work with people in crisis, which may involve domestic violence, destitution, immigration issues and homelessness.  However, being part of the wider social prescribing team at the Centre means I get excellent supervision and peer support and have a good relationship with healthcare professionals who value and refer in to the service.  We make a difference to people’s lives and I am passionate about supporting clients.”

How does it work for patients?

“Being a link worker means being able to connect people, reduce loneliness and isolation, get people access to talking therapies and improve their mental health,” says Sandra. “Link work is quite holistic, you can help someone with their wellbeing as well as sort out the practical issues, like getting someone out of debt. Seeing the difference link work can make to people’s lives is massive.”

Shahanaz agrees. She gave an example of a recent success story: “A person who suffers with mental ill health came to us recently without resources, recently homeless and couldn’t see a reason to go on living.  This is sadly all too common but, together, we were able ensure he was awarded benefits he was entitled to, medical priority for housing and continued support from community mental health services to rebuild his life. He is now in full-time employment and here is a snippet from a note he sent:

‘Thank you for the support you gave me during the darkest time of my life.  So many of us get ‘lost’ in the system when we are unwell and I couldn’t have got where I am without your help.  We need more people like you and your team!’”


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