Wales: Social Prescribing Link Workers Conference
COVID 19 Experiences, Impact Current Issues and Future Proofing
The National Association of Link Workers held a virtual conference for Wales Link Workers on the 8th of December 2020. The conference was one of 12 annual UK social prescribing link worker roadshows held virtually by the National Association of Link Workers.
The role of social prescribing link workers as key players in the fight against Covid 19 has not only raised the profile of their role but identified that they offer a crucial service that enables health care services to provide a holistic service to the local population.
The Conference held discussions relating to embedding social prescribing, strengthening it, and the impact of the work done by social prescribing link workers during the pandemic.
Speakers at the conference included:
- Christiana Melam – Chief Executive, National Association of Link Workers
- Nicole Wanell – Independent Living Services Link Coordinator
- Dr Karen Pardy – Community Director, Cardiff SW Cluster
- Ceri George – Project Manager Mind Cymru
- Mia Gilles – Community Connector
- Gwyneth Jones – Connected Communities Project Manager, Pembrokeshire Association of Voluntary Services
- Link workers have been involved in a range of successful projects including the Grow Well Project, and the Accelerated Cluster Transformation Project.
- Mind Cymru has run projects aimed to develop social prescribing for people with mental health problems.
- The link workers showed adaptability and flexibility by ensuring their work was not disrupted by Covid19, they worked remotely, and they maximised the support available to patients.
- Nicola Warnell spoke of working in partnership with the Crisis Home Resolution Team and the Primary Care Mental Health Team. Due to an increase in referrals to social prescribing link workers, additional funding has been secured to appoint a third full time social prescriber.
- The role of social prescribing link workers is wide ranging, from confidence-building, and offering emotional and practical support to signposting to a menu of support options.
- Social prescribing link workers have had to adapt to working within Covid 19 social distancing rules.
- There is a need to ensure that post Covid 19, social prescribing link workers continue to work alongside other services to offer holistic health and wellbeing services to support with health inequalities exacerbated by covid19.
- Community hubs have been a successful way for social prescribing link workers to continue to offer their services and support to patients.
- Gwyneth Jones shared that social prescribing link workers have worked innovatively, securing funding from GP practices to ensure they could facilitate digital working into their role.
- Long-term funding is a key issue, so it is important to be able to show the role played by social prescribing link workers, to define its scope, and to keep raising awareness.
- Working through the pandemic can be isolating, and with not enough support for link workers, they need to ensure they reach out to the National Association of Link Workers for assurance and security.
The link workers showed adaptability and flexibility by ensuring their work was not disrupted by Covid19, they worked remotely, and they maximised the support available to patients.
Tips for future proofing include:
- Sustainable funding
- Joint and collaborative working with mental health professionals
- Investment in community services
- Committed and trained social prescribing link workers
- Continued focus on offering person centred support
- Continual feedback, reflection, and evaluation
- With some funding streams coming to an end on the 31st of March there needs to be impetus for driving change and increased recruitment of social prescribing link workers in Wales.
- We need to think of better ways of ensuring there are digital inclusion and connectivity.
- More digital training for all members of the team so they can successfully upskill.
- Details of training sessions to be shared across the network.
- Report to be prepared showing evidence-base supporting the work of social prescribing link workers.
- Collate the evidence of the impact of the role played by link workers and standardise minimum data collection.
- Link workers need to ensure they are looking after their own self-care and employers need to ensure they feel supported and are supervised.
- Reflection and building resilience is a key component of the social prescribing link worker’s role.
With some funding streams coming to an end on the 31st of March there needs to be impetus for driving change and increased recruitment of social prescribing link workers in Wales.