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Waltham Forest awarded £400,000 grant to extend social prescribing

Waltham Forest’s social prescribing service is to receive a three-year grant totalling £400,000 to extend the range of advice, support and activities it provides to local people.

The grant from the Health and Wellbeing Fund will enable extra support to be provided to people with disabilities or low level mental health issues, carers and the over-50s.

Originally set up as a pilot in June 2016, the borough's social prescribing service is part of the Managed Network of Care and Support developed by partners through the Better Care Together Programme.

Health or social care professionals, including local GPs, can suggest to a person that they might benefit from social prescribing – which includes a range of non-clinical services and support. If they agree, a social prescriber will make contact to discuss the options available.

The activities and services that people are referred to in Waltham Forest are generally delivered by the voluntary and community services sector, which is a key local partner.

Some of the social prescribing connections that are made for people include:
• Benefits and debt advice
• Opportunities to become more active or increase healthy eating
• Access to local groups such as art classes or gardening sessions
• Connections with local befriending or volunteering schemes
• Training to help build confidence or move into work
• Assistance with a cold home or other housing issues.

The grant, which is £250,000 in the first year, reduces over the three-year period and will be replaced by local funding as the programme’s prevention and early intervention pathways mature.

A formal launch of the extended social prescribing programme is due to take place in the autumn.

Suna Panayiotou, Chief Executive at Citizens Advice Waltham Forest, which is the lead partner for the extended programme, said:
“We are very excited at the opportunity this funding brings and especially pleased to be working with other partners from the local community. All partners are already providing key help and support to local residents and we will draw on this expertise. This funding will ensure that we are helping more people and will enable us to assess the impact of our work.”

Dr Anwar Khan, a local GP and Chair of Waltham Forest CCG said:
“The social prescribing service gives GPs a single referral point where residents can get help with non-medical issues and get the support they need. It prevents the ‘medicalisation’ of social issues and allows patients to access the right services for their needs. The programme helps improve health and wellbeing and reduces demand on core NHS services in Waltham Forest.”

Cllr Naheed Asghar, Chair of the Waltham Forest Health and Wellbeing Board, added:
"The council is excited about the opportunities this new funding provides to extend our successful social prescribing scheme. We look forward to working with voluntary and community sector colleagues over the next three years."