What is Social Prescribing?
Since beginning in the 1990s with the NHS in the UK, the meaning of Social Prescribing has evolved, as new models were developed, trialled and adopted. Some models focus on enabling primary care professionals (GPs and nurses) to directly refer people to local, non-clinical services for health, wellbeing and social support. Other models engage a link worker, who receives the referrals from primary care professionals, and then supports people to connect with activities and services.
The following video, created by Transformation Partners in Health and Care (UK), succinctly outlines what social prescribing can be:
History of Social Prescribing in Mount Alexander Shire
In late 2020 officers from Mount Alexander Shire Council (Mel), Chirp Community Health (Kathryn) and Castlemaine Community House (Kez) converged around the concept of Social Prescribing and how it could significantly benefit our community.
Working in the areas of community and health, and as residents of the Shire, these workers were acutely aware of issues impacting Mount Alexander Shire residents, and the resultant “symptoms”:
- Increasingly limited access to GPs and appointments
- Social isolation
- Mental ill-health and suicide
- Limited access to services for medical and mental health support
The Social Prescribing in Mount Alexander Team (Mel, Kathryn and Kez) gathered information, increased their knowledge, learnt about model designs and spoke with many experts. In August 2021, they organised a Social Prescribing Forum at the Castlemaine Town Hall. The aim of the forum was to:
- raise awareness of Social Prescribing in general,
- explore how it could benefit our community,
- Gather support for the design and implementation of Social Prescribing in Mount Alexander Shire.
The forum included presentations from:
- Jo Grzelinska Larter Consulting about “What is Social Prescribing”,
- Dr Shelley Brown from Health Futures Australia, and Jane Grimwood from Central Highlands Association of Neighbourhood Houses, about a pilot in Victoria
- Matilda Henley-Johnston, Link Worker at the City of Greater Bendigo council
The forum was attended by almost 100 people, a broad cross section of representation of our local services, organisations, businesses and community.
The overall response was endorsement of Social Prescribing to be brought to our Shire, and organisations/individuals prepared to support it. This led to the creation of the Mount Alexander Shire Social Prescribing Reference Group.
Skip to 2022 – meetings, meetings, meetings, grant application, not successful, sigh, meetings, meetings – and the arrival of two key individuals who put their hand up to volunteer their time and energy to get Social Prescribing happening in Mount Alexander! Isis and Isaac injected the Reference Group with renewed enthusiasm for what could be possible as an unfunded pilot project.
During 2022, a Social Prescribing model for was co-designed by the Reference Group, which was launched in March 2023, as our pilot program: Get Connected Mount Alexander.
The key points for the Get Connected pilot model are:
- Target group is people aged 65 years and older
- Working with the Goldfields Medical Group ( Lyttleton Street Medical Clinic), whose GPs will refer relevant patients to our Community Connectors.
- Community Connectors, (Isis and Mary) as volunteers, will work 2 days a week, connecting with 2 to 3 people each day, aiming for about 30 people for the life of the pilot
- Community Connectors will support referred people in identifying appropriate activities / supports / connections and assist them to engage with them, through warm welcomes.
It will run from March until August 2023. The pilot aims to test the model, whilst also gathering evidence and support for a fully funded Social Prescribing model to be established in Mount Alexander Shire.