We believe that being able to connect and strengthen relationships between people and their communities is more important than ever right now.
People have a myriad of individual gifts that can sometimes go unnoticed by services if the focus is purely on what’s wrong. While some people have the innate skills, knowledge and confidence to connect, seek out solutions, and change their circumstances to live a healthy life, the reality is that for many, the barriers faced due to the social determinants of health and other societal challenges prevent this.
The evidence shows that at least one in five GP appointments are taken up by someone whose needs are not able to be addressed by medical solutions, and many GPs report that this figure is much greater and on the rise. Additionally, we are increasingly seeing the health impacts created by a lack of physical exercise or due to social isolation and loneliness, which evidence suggests are as damaging to health as regular smoking.
Social prescribing helps build relationships, unlock individual strengths, increase choice and control, and support positive connections within the communities where people live.
It starts with individual strengths rather than focusing on deficits – building confidence and de-medicalising the solutions available. Moving away from the notion of a ‘pill for every ill’. It enables people to discover or rediscover the joy in life, try something new, build on a hidden or long forgotten talent, or find help with the things that are challenging in life.
It is already thriving in many areas across the country following the efforts of a number of brilliant pioneers. We want to support social prescribing to grow further, creating a vibrant, innovative and ambitious movement, connecting communities, and mobilising hundreds of thousands of people and organisations with a shared commitment to transforming lives.
An ambitious programme
We have listened carefully to our partners and people and communities across the country about the support they need to deliver social prescribing successfully. The need to build cross-sector relationships and new connections, and develop improved funding mechanisms to support local programmes being the most pressing issues, alongside the need to promote social prescribing more widely and improve the knowledge of what works.
Our initial plans will see the introduction of a brand new £1 million grant programme for local VCSE (voluntary, community and social enterprise) organisations who want to join us in looking at ways to spread social prescribing successfully.
We will also be partnering with the Arts Council who have generously committed £250k to support groups engaged in arts and cultural social prescribing activities.
Our Social Prescribing Partners Programme will enable individuals and organisations to connect with NASP around a common set of values, and later this year a new academic partnership, backed by a £500k research fund will help improve the evidence base to support decisions on future investment.
We have an extremely busy year ahead as we build the infrastructure required for NASP at the same time as rolling out our ambitious programme. We are energised and confident due to the amazing partners who have supported our work so far that we will be able to achieve great things together.
Please take some time to read our strategy and join us in delivering a new and exciting revolution in wellbeing.
Helen Stokes-Lampard is Chair and James Sanderson is CEO of NASP.