Tower Hamlets Social Prescribing Champions

Have you heard of social prescribing?

Many people are unaware of what social prescribing is and how to access it. If you haven’t heard of it, social prescribing is an approach that connects people to activities, groups, and services in their community to meet the practical, social, and emotional needs that affect their health and wellbeing.  Most people access the service through their GP or ‘link worker’. You can read a full description from NHS England here.

Social prescribing  is a fantastic opportunity for faith-based organisations to become more closely linked with their local health and care services. We know that our members often offer support that can make a real difference to people’s health and wellbeing, but that challenges can be faced in linking up with statutory partners.  FaithAction are a member of the VCSE Health & Wellbeing Alliance and social prescribing is a key component of our work within it.

Following on from our earlier reports on social prescribing—Right Up Your Street and Extending Our Reach in Tackling Loneliness—in 2022, we set out to uncover best practice in the inclusion of faith- and community-based centres in the roll-out of social prescribing and loneliness services. We launched the findings of our focus groups and interviews in our report, Inclusive Social Prescribing, and made recommendations including that local social prescribing schemes are relatable and approachable for communities experiencing inequalities and that language surrounding social prescribing should be reframed so that it is accessible for communities.

Our current work on social prescribing follows on from these learnings and we are pleased to currently be working with faith groups in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets on an innovative pilot project, with the working title of Tower Hamlets Social Prescribing Champions.

The project aims to raise awareness of social prescribing and to highlight the important role of using trusted voices and places to cascade health messaging and signposting to other agencies.  This work aligns with similar community initiatives in other areas such as Brighton and Hove.

Our Champions will be going to into their communities, finding out if people have heard of social prescribing, telling people what social prescribing is, and how they can self-refer to local link workers.

We worked with Tower Hamlets GP Care Group, the social prescribing provider in the borough, to run a training session for these Champions to equip them with the knowledge required to pass on to their communities.  We will also be holding a workshop on reframing the language around social prescribing to make it more accessible—hence the working title for the project.

As the pilot gets underway, we will be providing support to the faith settings involved and gathering data that will help make the case for funding faith settings to do similar work. We look forward to seeing how the project progresses—look out for the project evaluation in Spring 2024!