“Health inequalities are estimated to cost the NHS around £20 billion a year. Cuts in funding mean that public services continue to face increasing strain, leading to the health and well-being and community services provided by housing associations to become increasingly vital.”

Elemental, Social Prescribing

Through our Localities approach, we’re reframing our relationship with customers to focus on skills and aspirations. Our Neighbourhood Coaches are working with customers who need help in order to set goals which are inspiring and challenging as well as specific, measurable and achievable in a realistic time-frame. The emphasis is on customer ownership, doing with rather than doing for. Whether it be putting people in touch with their local gardening club or toddler group or finding other people in the community who share common interests such as baking or football coaching, the relationships that the Neighbourhood Coach is able to broker build a network of mutual support that becomes freestanding and sustainable.

Our belief in the power of social activity to build stronger communities and achieve better well-being outcomes for customers is in tune with NHS England who recently included ‘social prescribing’ as one of 10 High Impact Actions. Social prescribing or community referral is a means of enabling GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services in the community that have the power to increase well-being and independence.

The WMCA recently announced social prescribing technology startup, Elemental, as winners of the Urban Challenge Well-being Award. The aim of the award is to make the West Midlands a better place to live and work by understanding more about:

  • How digital technology can improve health and well-being outcomes
  • How people can be supported through better connectivity, personalisation and self-directed support methods
  • How digital platforms can be used to support better mental health and wellbeing outcomes across the region

Yesterday we had a great meeting with the guys from Elemental in order to set the wheels in motion for a proof of concept which will see us working in partnership to test social prescribing with Vicky Green the Head of Locality for the Black Country and her team of Coaches - feeding back the learning to the WMCA Urban Challenge group. 

The challenge for social prescribing remains engaging those most at risk. The current model has been largely based on GP’s writing social prescriptions and relies on people engaging with their GP in the first place. Our Neighbourhood Coaches are ideally placed to pick up on physical and mental health indicators and either work with those referred by GP’s or even make the referrals themselves. The belief we share with Elemental is that involving customers in creating their own health and wellbeing plan is key to empowering them towards better health and wellbeing outcomes; an approach which fits well with our existing coaching model.

We’re really excited about working with Elemental as part of the WMCA Urban Challenge and are currently drafting a 12-week test plan which will enable us to learn more about how social prescribing and neighbourhood coaching can work together to improve customer well-being and build more resilient communities by connecting up the health and wellbeing ecosystem.

We will be blogging about our work as it progresses, so watch this space for updates coming soon.