New framework to mainstream social prescribing launched

New framework to mainstream social prescribing launched

A framework to mainstream social prescribing in Ireland has been officially launched.

This scheme has been drafted with reference to the HSE in collaboration with the community and voluntary sector.

It has been created to support the development of social prescribing, outline its key elements and provide guidance to enhance partnerships with the community and voluntary sector in order to best meet the needs of service users.

The problems of social isolation, fear and loneliness and often associated inactivity, have negative consequences for health and can particularly impact older age groups, those with chronic health problems, people with mental health difficulties and psychosocial needs, carers, single parents, migrant and immigrant and minority ethnic groups.

The impact of Covid-19 has heightened the experience of isolation, loneliness and fear for people of all ages especially those already experiencing difficulties in their lives.

Social prescribing began as a community-led movement that seeks to address these challenges in a holistic way using the many assets and supports in communities by empowering participants to improve their health and wellbeing.

Social prescribing is a means of enabling healthcare professionals and other professionals to refer a person to a Social Prescribing Link Worker who supports people to avail of a range of local services, primarily provided by the community and voluntary sector.

Examples include volunteering, arts activities, gardening, dog walking, cookery and a range of sports.

They may also link people back into HSE programmes and services for example diabetes support courses, living well programme, stress prevention programmes or smoking cessation services.

Minister Frank Feighan, who officially launched the framework, said: ‘’This is a very significant milestone in the development of social prescribing in Ireland and is proof that it is possible to influence national Government policy from ‘the ground up’ building on the evidence and learning from local initiatives.”

The development of social prescribing in Ireland has primarily been driven by the Community and Voluntary Sector, in partnership with health services. Social prescribing services are now being delivered in 30 locations around the country by community-based organisations such as Local Development Companies and Family Resource Centres, supported by the HSE, Sláintecare, and Healthy Ireland.

Dr. Philip Crowley, National Director of Strategy and Research, HSE said that ‘’social prescribing is one of the key initiatives which is part of the newly established Healthy Communities Programme. This area-based approach to community health and wellbeing is targeting areas of disadvantage commencing this year in 19 communities across the country and will expand further over the next two years. The Social Prescribing Framework is part of a key commitment within the health service to partner with Community and Voluntary organisations in developing healthy communities.”

According to Anne Sheridan, Programme Manager Mental Health & Wellbeing, “Social prescribing can be the catalyst that helps a person take that first step in regaining control to help them get back into the driving seat of their life. Once they have embarked on that journey other opportunities become possible that can have a profound positive impact on their health and wellbeing.”

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