'Offaly Well Connected' Tullamore Social Prescribing Project Launch

   22 May 2019

Offaly Local Development Company held an informative and successful launch of ‘Offaly Well Connected’ Tullamore Social Prescribing Project. The launch was held on the 7th of May in the Darmagh centre. In attendance were many organisations and individuals who are successful in their field of work and see on a daily basis the effects of loneliness and social isolation has on our community.

Amanda Caulfield, Social Prescriber co-ordinator for Tullamore and MC at the event, explained how social prescribing is a holistic and collaborative approach to health and wellbeing. As Social Prescribing Coordinator, she supports individuals to access community based activities and supports such as exercise classes, social groups, creative activities, volunteering opportunities, information on employment services and educational courses. As Co-ordinator she works in conjunction with health services to increase the uptake of local supports and services. In Offaly, Social Prescribing services are available free of charge to people over 18 regardless of their income or employment status.

‘While social prescribing creates important links for people to our community who may have symptoms of mild depression or anxiety, who may have poor social skills, or maybe disadvantaged, lonely or isolated. It also creates important links for people who just want to help by volunteering, who are interested in groups and activities in our community. It can integrate all members of our community and is for everyone who is interested in improving their health, wellbeing and connection to our community’

Fiona Murphy ( Head of Health and Well Being for the HSE), thanked Fergal Fox (HSE Health Promotion and Improvement Service) who has been working closely with Offaly Development Company for many years to build healthy communities across Offaly, including the development and delivery of Social Prescribing initiative in Tullamore since 2017. Fiona Murphy went on to explain that Loneliness and social isolation has been described as a silent epidemic and a major public health risk. ‘There is extensive international research that links loneliness and isolation to significant psychological and physiological difficulties. However, when we are able to seek and get support from other people and feel connected to our local community — this gives us a basis for wellbeing. This is what this social prescribing initiative is achieving here in Offaly, by giving support to those who need it’

Carmel Lalor who was in attendance with her colleague Eileen McKiver are both Occupational Therapists within the HSE Community Mental Health Team here in Tullamore. Carmel explained that Occupational Therapy is focused on increasing a person's independence in daily life. Social Prescribing mirrors a part of their role in that it assists people engaging in meaningful activities in their community. ‘We have referred many service users to both individual support and the groups that Social Prescribing have on offer. It has been a tremendous support to our service users and is another valuable resource in their recovery journey. We are witness to the fact it has enriched the lives of those who have used the service.’

Margaret Duigenan , participant of a crochet group facilitated by Offaly Well connected and funded by Healthy Ireland spoke about her experience of Social Prescribing. She gave a very powerful and emotional description of the project and how it benefits her. Margaret went on to explain that she has found new confidence and friendships and that at the launch it was the first time she has ever spoken in public. Margaret concluded that this service should be made available in every county.

Amanda concluded the day with a Thank you to all who attended, to the Darmagh centre for hosting the event. To Tullamore Community Training centre for catering the event and to the Tullamore Court Hotel for providing the tableware. Also to Gavin Woodruff who photographed the event.

For more information on Social Prescribing Project and if you think you or someone you know may benefit for it, contact Amanda Caulfield, Offaly Local Development Company on 087 7470562 or email acaulfield@offalyldc.ie