Social Prescribing Day 2020

   12 Mar 2020

 The second annual Social Prescribing Day takes place on March 12th 2020. In 2019, the very first Social Prescribing Day took place on March 14th. The aim of this is to Highlight the importance and significance of social prescribing within modern healthcare. Social Prescribing is a collaborative, holistic, community Approach to Health and Wellbeing.

In a growing number of locations around Ireland, health professionals now have access to Social Prescribing, a referral service that aims to reduce loneliness and social isolation by linking people with non-medical sources of support within their local community.

Social Prescribing Coordinator who is based in Tullamore, supports individuals to access interventions such as exercise classes, social groups, creative activities, volunteering opportunities, employment services and educational courses. The co-ordinator works in conjunction with health services, relieving pressure on primary care teams whilst increasing 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.

Offaly Well Connected – Social Prescribing started in Tullamore in 2017. Offaly Local Development Company, funded by the HSE delivers the Offaly Well Connected Social Prescribing project for Tullamore and employs a part-time co-ordinator (2 days per week) run the project based at the OLDC offices in Tullamore.

  • Social Prescribing is particularly beneficial for people:
  • With vague or unexplained symptoms
  • With symptoms of mild depression or anxiety or with long term and enduring mental health problems.
  • Who are frequent attendees at GP Practices.
  • With poor social supports
  • Who are disadvantaged, isolated and vulnerable
  • Who are low income lone parents, recently bereaved elderly people, people with chronic, physical illness and people newly arrived into our communities
  • People who are lonely.

Isolation impacts both the individual and our community. Isolation doesn’t discriminate; it can affect people across all age groups and backgrounds, and can have a profound effect on health and wellbeing.[1] Those experiencing it can suffer disproportionately with mental health issues, cognitive decline and hypertension, and are more likely to be admitted for residential or nursing care.[2]

People experiencing this isolation often don’t know where to go for support and so attend their GP to look for a medical solution to a social issue. The cost to the Irish health service is as yet unknown but in the UK 20% of patients attend their GP for social rather than medical reasons, costing the NHS £395m per year.[3]

The causes of loneliness and isolation can be multifaceted such as family breakdown, bereavement, leaving education early, unemployment, lone parenting, addiction, ill health, caring responsibilities or migration.

Loss is a key theme that presents time and time again, whether it’s loss of a loved one, a job, health, housing, independence or how they expected life to be. If people are not supported they can find themselves with reduced confidence, self-esteem and motivation. All of these factors can cause them to feel isolated. The role for the social prescriber is to support. In order to do this, the co-ordinator keeps up to date with the supports and services that are available locally and link people with these as smoothly as possible.

The project has met the needs of Refers and participants by creating groups to respond to needs of the community. The project also set up 3 group’s activities to date - a craft and wellbeing group, Tullamore dog walking group. Various talks and information days and training programmes were provided on pet care and health over the last 12 months. The fourth group is the Offaly well connected Ukulele group.

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.

If you would like more information on the project, please contact Amanda Caulfield, social prescribing co-ordinator. Tel: 087 7470562 / Email: acaulfield@offalyldc.ie

[1]https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/wp-content/uploads/Loneliness-Is-An-Epidemic.pdf

[2]https://lonelinesstaskforce.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/loneliness-taskforce-a-connected-island-an-ireland-free-from-loneliness.pdf

[3]https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/Global/CitizensAdvice/Public%20services%20publications/CitizensAdvice_AVeryGeneralPractice_May2015.pdf