How Social Prescribing Link Workers are reducing social inequalities in the response to Covid-19


How Social Prescribing Link Workers are reducing social inequalities in the response to Covid-19

On the 30th March 2021 the National Association of Link Workers (NALW) hosted a #LinkWorkerChat on Twitter to facilitate discussions relating to the role of social prescribing link workers (SPLWs), and the impact of their work during Covid-19.  The discussion identified the critical role of SPLW’s during the pandemic, particularly in reducing social inequality and the value they bring to the health care system.

Below we showcase some of the questions raised and answered during the Twitter chat, and what needs to be done to ensure that SPLWs can continue to support vulnerable and marginalised groups as we look at recovering from Covid-19.

What role do Link Workers play in response to Covid-19?

SPLWs have provided invaluable support to GP practices and communities, providing valuable resources and adapting their ways of working to ensure that they reach those communities that need support.

SPLWs have not only worked with shielding individuals, they have facilitated access to food parcels, prescriptions, zoom groups, chair yoga, social chats, and more.  They became a key link between the healthcare system and the community, ensuring that vulnerable people were still able to access care and support during the pandemic.

SPLW are uniquely placed to work proactively with vulnerable patients and were able to respond to the needs of the community during the pandemic quicker than statutory establishments.  For some marginalised communities, SPLWs have been more critical than ever in ensuring continuity of care and support.

 

Can you share examples of inclusive responses to COVID-19?

SPLWs have mobilised and adapted quickly to the needs of communities.  Support has been provided remotely, and also in socially distanced ways.  SPLWs have adapted remarkably and organised themselves so they can continue to support people via zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and phone/email.

Aside from virtual consults, SPLWs have also taken part in socially distanced garden visits and walks. Support for those shielding has been of crucial importance and SPLW’s have been instrumental in ensuring shielders are not forgotten, and gaps in local statutory services are plugged.

The NALW showcases the role of SPLW and its importance in reducing social inequality, facilitating access to care, and reducing pressure on NHS services.  SPLWs are essential for any COVID-19 recovery plan, particularly as Covid has massively affected marginalised communities.  If social inequalities are to be redressed then more SPLWs need to be trained, recruited, and utilised in the fight against inequality.  SPLWs provide social, emotional, and practical solutions which ensure that social inequality is minimised.

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How are Link Workers helping to connect marginalised groups within the local community?

SPLW’s success lies in their knowledge and affinity to the communities they serve.  They truly know and understand the demographic and specific needs of their communities.  Working with external partners, SPLW’s are in a key position to identify needs, provide assistance and empower communities to take control of their wellbeing.

Having embedded themselves in communities, SPLWs have utilised the power of communication to engage communities and empower them.  

Maintaining a presence at a time when many services have been closed has been a vital element of the SPLWs service. 

Can you share examples of how your work is making a difference?

The work of SPLWs cannot be underestimated, they have worked across the care spectrum working with the homeless, bereaved, victims of domestic violence, supported people with entry into education and employment.

SPLWs work holistically, linking people with services especially those hard-to-reach residents.  They use personalised care approaches to support people identify their barriers to health and support them and communities to set up and sustain their own solutions.

How can Link Workers help reduce social inequalities during COVID-19 recovery?

The essence of being a SPLW is helping to tackle social inequalities, and during Covid-19 SPLWs have offered personalised care to ensure barriers to care are identified and minimised.  Going forward, SPLWs are ideally placed to reach those marginalised communities who may have been forgotten during Covid-19.  SPLWs make the time to talk to people and can see first-hand where social inequalities lie and how best to tackle them.

SPLWs also ensure that patients/clients have the right support-system and strategies they need for better wellbeing.  They are the link between individuals and healthcare organisations. 

SPLWs are essential for any COVID-19 recovery plan, particularly as Covid has massively affected marginalised communities.  If social inequalities are to be redressed then more SPLWs need to be trained, recruited, and utilised in the fight against inequality.  SPLWs provide social, emotional, and practical solutions which ensure that social inequality is minimised.

Funding for SPLWs needs to be increased for long-term recruitment to ensure that SPLWs can help the NHS deal with the Covid-19 recovery.

The essence of being a SPLW is helping to tackle social inequalities, and during Covid-19 SPLWs have offered personalised care to ensure barriers to care are identified and minimised.  Going forward, SPLWs are ideally placed to reach those marginalised communities who may have been forgotten during Covid-19. 

For more information, view the 30th March 2021 #LinkWorkerChat here

Have comments? Share your thoughts and connect with us and our champions on Twitter @splwchampions @nalwuk 

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There is an ever-increasing evidence base for the success of social prescribing and its impact on reducing social inequality. More and more NHS and statutory bodies are embracing social prescribing and committing resources to it, that is why Christiana believes that those who are passionate about social change should join the social prescribing movement.
Not only will they be able to champion social causes, but they will be able to channel their energy and talent into achieving better health outcomes for others.

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