Action Together has been delivering social prescribing in Tameside since February 2018, as part of our Community Wellbeing Programme, alongside community development and voluntary sector investment. In December 2019, we were contracted by the four Tameside Primary Care Networks to deliver their social prescribing offer as part of our existing service and we recruited four new link workers who joined our team in January this year.
Kirsty Fisher is the programme manager and shares her thoughts on some pressing questions.
What is the biggest challenge you are facing at the moment?
It was responding to the coronavirus pandemic and helping people in crisis, however, now we are moving on to supporting people to make local connections safely as lockdown eases. I’d say our biggest challenge is helping people to think differently about how they make connections and feel less isolated at this time.
As soon as lockdown was announced we began delivering our service remotely, contacting people by phone. Elemental, the digital social prescribing platform, has allowed us to adapt easily as the team can access referrals from home. As well as taking referrals from all of our partners in primary care, community health teams, adult social care and the voluntary sector, we have been working closely with the councils’ COVID support hub.
Our Social Prescribing team has taken over 1,000 referrals for people in need of extra support from the voluntary sector (at our busiest we received 136 referrals in a single day). Since the start of lockdown, we have successfully linked over 500 people to volunteer support to help with tasks such as shopping and prescription delivery. We have worked closely with partners to help meet the increased demand and have strengthened our connections across Tameside.
What’s next on your “to-do” list?
Research and community outreach to ensure that we are up to date with newly emerging local support and social offers as well as letting people know we are still here and making sure those in need continue to get connected to our service.
During Lockdown we established a new partnership with a local charity, Diversity Matters North West, to offer language support for Tameside’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community to access social prescribing. Whilst previously we used an interpreting service for this, we are now working where possible with a locally based organisation who have established knowledge of and links to our community. This is an exciting new partnership.
What are you most proud of?
My amazing team, how dedicated they are and how they all adapted so quickly to support people in crisis. It’s so great when we get feedback from respected partners too, such as this from Tameside’s health improvement service “You are all making a difference to people’s lives for the better!”
What are you learning at the moment?
We are learning as a service how to keep supporting people to make social connections at this time and that lockdown has actually brought about some some positive outcomes. We have improved partnership working across the system, Tameside’s community response has been inspiring, and we are newly identifying and supporting individuals who previously had not reached out, but whose quality of life will be improved in the long term.
Do you have an example from a service user?
Tameside Council’s COVID Support Hotline referred a man to us who is shielding, but because of his health conditions he has been almost housebound for over two years, so was very isolated but had never reached out. He chose to be connected to a group (based within a local church, streets away from his home) that do home befriending visits and have adapted their services to provide him with a weekly telephone call. They have matched him with a volunteer who will be able to visit him at home once restrictions are lifted and he hopes to attend the local church too.
What do you do to keep well and happy?
My team will tell you too many dangerous sports! Whitewater kayaking, climbing, mountain biking, outdoor swimming and cross country running. I’ll give most things a go with mixed success…
How can we find out more?
If you or someone you know would benefit from support from our team please contact:
Tameside’s Social Prescribing team on Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0161 830 6833.
Our video “Connecting in Lockdown” also gives a good overview of our work and the work we have been doing during Lockdown.