HOUSING IS ONE OF THE GREATEST SOCIAL DETERMINANTS OF HEALTH. IT IS ESTIMATED THAT POOR HOUSING CONDITIONS COST THE NHS AT LEAST £600 MILLION PER YEAR AND RESEARCH SUGGESTS THAT POOR HOUSING IS ASSOCIATED WITH INCREASED RISK OF CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASES, RESPIRATORY DISEASES AND DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY.
As a result, it is no surprise as to why housing associations have a hugely important role in improving health and wellbeing.
MORE THAN BRICKS AND MORTAR
East Hampshire based housing provider Radian, recognise housing is about far more than four walls and a roof. It is about the recreational space we use and the community around us, and importantly it’s about having the support people need to have the best chance at life.
By taking a preventative approach to the health and wellbeing of their residents and supporting them to stay healthy through social prescribing services, Radian closes the gap between health and housing, whilst also reducing long-term costs for the NHS.
Since launching a digital social prescribing partnership with us last year, Radian regularly receives instant social prescription referrals from GP practices, community nurses and primary care professionals, with plans for their housing officers to make referrals in the future.
RESEARCH AND REFLECTION
Reflecting on the past eight months, Kate Dench, Community Development Officer identifies key lessons Radian has learnt in the development of their social prescribing strategy.
“A large amount of research went into preparing the programme which has allowed us to tailor our approach to best meet the needs of the community. We were aware of existing initiatives in the area and wanted to understand how we could build upon their work by raising the number of people who were referred, while also ensuring that those people were able to access their prescribed activities.”
LENDING A HAND TO RESIDENTS
For Radian, they found that individuals were more likely to engage in social prescribing programmes and services if their Link Worker had a ‘hands on approach’. As a result, it was important to set up an initial meeting to get to know the individual, explore the options available to them and identify if they needed any extra support such as transportation
“The work that went into researching and developing the scheme also highlighted another important consideration; many people in the area look for purposeful activities to take part in on a regular basis, not just an activity to fill their time every now and then.
Many of the initiatives that we link patients with do just this, such as voluntary work at a local nature reserve or an initiative producing handmade furniture for people in need. I have witnessed first-hand the dramatic effect that participation has had on people facing a number of challenges including anxiety and agoraphobia.”
CLOSING THE GAP BETWEEN HEALTH AND HOUSING
Although the pilot is still processing the feedback from residents, Kate says the feedback so far gives an early and welcome indication of the positive impact that the scheme has had, with individuals now feeling confident enough to attend their social prescribing activities without the direct support of a Link Worker.
Kate added “One thing that has taken us by surprise has been a large number of referrals for low-intensity mental health problems such as anxiety and loneliness.
Having initially expected patients with a broad range of needs to access the service, these cases have represented the majority of our referrals. Many of these people are not isolated in the traditional sense, they have a family and a network of friends around them, yet their feeling of isolation extends beyond this; highlighting social isolation as a significant contemporary challenge for communities across the country.”
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Now the next stage of Radian’s pilot will look at further developing partnerships to draw in a wider range of support services, which will include working with new partners to close a gap for elderly friendship services in the area.
The housing provider will also be looking to develop partnerships with NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in the area who are increasingly looking towards social prescribing to improve the health and wellbeing of some of their patients.
Not only has the pilot has proved to be an important learning exercise for Radian but it has also helped to further develop the services that they can offer to the residents and the communities that they work in.
HOW ELEMENTAL ARE HELPING
Situated in one of the UK’s ‘Healthy Towns’, Radian is using Elemental’s social prescribing platform to connect residents to community based programmes and services such as nature reserves which are helping with loneliness and isolation, as well as Men’s Sheds, foraging workshops and breakfast clubs.
Our award-winning platform also allows Radian to:
- Facilitate more tenants and residents to access community programmes and services that enhance their health and general quality of life
- Create personalised social prescribing programmes that suit the needs of their tenants
- Boost staff capacity and strengthen relationships with other key partners
- Report on the health and social value of the role that Radian plays in alleviating the need for clinical treatments
FIND OUT MORE
To find out more about how we can work in partnership with you to improve the lives of your residents, demonstrate the impact that your community services are making, and connect all stakeholders in your community, get in touch or request a demo.