Member Spotlight – Monica Boulton
Meet Monica, Social Prescribing Lead at Red Zebra Community Solutions.
Please summarise your role responsibilities
Most importantly, I am an advocate for social prescribing and strive to make it as accessible as possible, and work alongside organisations to really make a difference in our communities, reducing health inequalities and encouraging people to take greater control of their health by using the resources available to them, to in turn reduce the burden on our health service.
I do this through supporting, managing and leading our team of Social Prescriber’s at Red Zebra Community Solutions. Coordinating the management and upkeep of our online database. Coordinating our volunteering programme to support out SP service. Reporting and analysing data collected through our work, as well as localised data, to report to funders as well as help shape and develop our service for the future. Presenting to and training organisations, GPs and other groups in the community to support the collective community approach towards social prescribing being embedded amongst all of us and grow the service.
What is your most significant accomplishment in your role?
I was the first social prescriber to introduce social prescribing to the Herne Bay area in Kent, it was certainly challenging working from a blank canvas but was very rewarding to see the continued impact SP has on the community. This has led to us being successful in PCN contracts, and we now have two SPLWs covering the area, continuing to make a difference.
What is the biggest challenge you are currently facing?
As we come out of lockdown, hopefully for the last time, we are moving on from “holding onto people’s hopes” to “managing people’s expectations”. As social prescriber’s we focus on what we CAN do, and this is going to look different for everyone as they make choices moving forward. We have a database that outlines services and activities in the local area, this is going to be changing rapidly over the next 12 months. We have a fantastic volunteer programme which supports this, but I see this as a big challenge moving forward.
Health inequalities have also been very much exposed during the pandemic, and Social Prescribers have a responsibility to help tackle this, this will take time, and will be a challenge for all of us in the future.
Do you have any words of wisdom for Social Prescribing Link Workers and/or Social Prescribing Programmes?
To have these 3 things as your focus, enablement, empowerment and community.
Amongst our staff team, we often talk about the outcome with a client not necessarily being focussed around a noticed positive improvement, but that they now have the tools and confidence to make positive changes to their wellbeing. Sometimes, our role is to simply “sew a seed”.
Taking the time to build relationships with community assets is also vital, Social Prescribing wouldn’t exist without them and they have a core part to play.
Finally, making time to talk about cases and support our workforce. It’s key to identify your best way of switching off. We can’t pour from an empty cup, we must look after ourselves too!
What do you do for fun when not working?
I play the piano, cello and love to sing. Music has huge benefits for my own mental health, and helps me to switch off from a difficult day. I love to be creative, and am often finding things to paint/upcycle as well as getting stuck into a cross stitch. I also love to cook and try new recipes, my partner certainly doesn’t complain! It’s always nice to come home to a meal in the slow cooker after a long walk in the countryside.
How does National Association of Link Workers add value to Social Prescribing and Link Workers?
NALW provides fantastic resources and events that help us to shape our role as SPLWs and ensure we are staying true to the definition of Social Prescribing, but more importantly than that, it gives us a space to network, support one another and learn from experience. It really has been invaluable to my own personal development as well as that of my team.
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