£5 million for social prescribing to tackle the impact of COVID-19

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The National Academy for Social Prescribing has been awarded £5 million in funding to support people to stay connected and maintain their health and well-being following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working with partners, including the Arts Council England, Natural England, Money and Pensions Service, NHS Charities Together, Sport England and NHS England, the academy will support a range of local community activities.

Minister for Health Jo Churchill commented on the announcement: “This new funding is hugely important, as it will allow us to build on the merits of social prescribing and encourage innovation in local projects, as well as supporting people to remain connected with their local community, reduce loneliness and improve their well-being.

“GPs and social prescribing link workers have been working incredibly hard to support their patients through this challenging time.

“As we begin to support the move out of lockdown, social prescribing will be key to tackling health inequalities and helping people recover and rebuild their lives.”

The funding will connect people to initiatives in their local communities to improve their mental health and well-being in response to the impact of COVID-19, including improved green spaces, singing and physical activities as well as access to tailored debt advice.

  • improved green spaces: link workers refer and connect people to their local wildlife and wider activities including food growing, healthy cooking, wildlife gardening, environmental art and crafts, music workshops, and beekeeping
  • football: Newcastle United Foundation ‘Be a Game Changer’ programme and ‘12th Man’ programme which work to support men with mental health issues
  • Art by Post: created under lockdown, the Southbank Centre sends free creative activity booklets to people across the UK who are living with dementia and other chronic health conditions
  • singing: English National Opera (ENO) have partnered with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust to devise an integrated 6-week pilot programme of singing, breathing and well-being aimed at supporting and enhancing the recovery of COVID-19 survivors
  • money advice: the Money and Pensions Service and Mental Health UK have created a Money Support Pack for people who need support with their mental health as a result of COVID-19

The funding will also be used to help people to benefit from green spaces.

Working with Natural England, link workers will be able to refer and connect people to their local wildlife and wider activities.

For example, Grozone in Northwich, Cheshire is a two-acre community garden, wildlife and horticultural therapy project that delivers a wide variety of well-being and learning opportunities to people of all ages, abilities and disabilities.

The welcoming, supportive and tranquil natural space has benefited over 1,500 people with activities include food growing, healthy cooking, wildlife gardening, environmental art and crafts, music workshops, and beekeeping.

Marian Spain, CEO Natural England, added: “COVID-19 has highlighted the importance for people to have easy access to high-quality green space close to where they live for their mental health and well-being.

“We are seeing more or more evidence of the good that does for us all.

“We’ve seen a resurgence in the use of urban parks, beaches and nature reserves by people of all ages and backgrounds who we should welcome and embrace.

“So, I’m absolutely delighted that Natural England are working with the National Academy to help people connect with nature and to make sure that everybody can access the outdoors, wherever they live, as part of a truly green recovery.”