In the last four years, since NASP’s inception, social prescribing has become more readily available across the UK. According to the latest NHS figures, there are now more than 3,400 Social Prescribing Link Workers across England, with even more working in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
We know that, without Social Prescribing Link Workers’ time and expertise, it would be impossible to understand the complexity of each person’s situation and the exact non-medical advice or activities that would best help them.
However, in order for social prescribing to work, the voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise sector is crucial. Voluntary organisations and local groups provide a huge range of support – from dementia choirs to advice centres to community gardening projects, among others – often with limited funding.
In order for social prescribing to be sustainable, we need to look at ways to ensure longer term funding for organisations providing socially prescribed support, matched to local health priorities.
Not only would this improve investment, but it would also help community groups and organisations to build stronger links with social prescribing services, allowing them to more easily collaborate and share insights. The result would be a more strategically funded, stable range of services, better designed for the people who need them most - whether that’s setting up new befriending services, drop-in sessions at community gardens or mental health walks.
Over the coming months, we will work with a wide range of partners to explore models for these funds – with the aim of delivering pilot funds next year. The project will build on existing work, including the pioneering Community Chests model developed in London by Transformation Partners in Health and Care.
It will also build on our previous grant-making programmes. The Thriving Communities fund relied on the expertise of local charities, national organisations and those with lived experience to ensure that funding reached those who needed it most in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. It brought together investment from a range of partners with the joint aim of supporting local social prescribing partnerships, reaching more than 10,000 people.