My Five Key Takeaways from Advancing Social Prescribing in Ireland
A GUEST POST FROM rORY KEHOE, pARTNERSHIPS eXECUTIVE, eLEMENTAL
Social prescribing is beginning to gather pace throughout Ireland. This was clearly demonstrated via the turn out at the Advancing Social Prescribing in Ireland event in Waterford last week, and growth is also seen in the expansion of social prescribing projects taking place throughout Ireland in the past 18 months. There are now 17 known social prescribing projects happening in Ireland, an impressive 142% increase.
I always love the atmosphere at social prescribing conferences, our very nature and investment in social prescribing at Elemental means we are people who naturally want to connect, support and partner to make change and improve people’s lives.
I arrived the evening before after a long journey from Derry (Bus, Tram, Train and Taxi) with Elemental Co Founder, Jennifer Neff, and we had a lovely networking dinner in the conference venue hotel. There was great energy in the room and everyone was really excited about the following day.
I could tell instantly that this was a conference with a difference. The agenda was action packed and equally split to touch on patient experience and policy, what I see as the perfect combination for change. There were lots of opportunities for networking and table discussion, and there was even an artist there who was able to capture the key points through a process called Graphic Harvesting which I though was a really interesting way to summarise the day. So what are the key messages that I took from the conference?
Social prescribing has got the attention of policy makers - but we need to do more to get the buy-in needed to help make social prescribing part of everyday practice
Having not just one but three Elected Representatives at the conference demonstrates the commitment from Government for social prescribing. The key message from Minister Jim Daly (Minister for Mental Health & Older People) was that ‘The solution to loneliness is connectedness, the sense of belonging and being part of a community and he believes that ‘Social Prescribing is the way forward. He said ‘I have a real and vested interest in the success of social prescribing’.
The power of the patient experience is critical to helping get the message across about social prescribing
Margaret Duigenan has been benefiting from being a participant of the Offaly Well Connected Social Prescribing project. She shared her incredible journey over the past year, detailing the progress she has made with Amanda Caulfield, who she describes as her ‘saint’ link worker.
The movement is growing
From an initial 6-7 known projects 18 months ago, the movement has grown to 17 active social prescribing projects. Every project is different however all are centred around a Link Worker or Community Worker being the linchpin of each project, supporting citizens to access the programmes and services around them.
We don’t all need to be conducting Randomised Control Trials however we do need to be consistent in how we demonstrate the impact of social prescribing
S3 Solutions and Elemental are leading on a project, funded by The HSE (Health & Wellbeing & National Office of Suicide Prevention) and Department of Health to help build capacity for the evaluation of social prescribing in Ireland.
Eamonn Seydak and Jennifer Neff presented the findings to date at the conference with an overview of current social prescribing programmes in Ireland and an assessment of the evaluability of social prescribing in Ireland as well as discussing some of the enablers and barriers of collecting data to support evaluation.
They presented an Evaluation Maturity Index that showed various ways, methods and approaches to demonstrate the uptake and impact of social prescribing projects. The outcome of this project will be a minimum Data Outcomes Framework to support evaluation of social prescribing projects in Ireland.
It is effective partnerships that will help mainstream social prescribing
Anne Sheridan, the Chair of the conference who kept us all to time, made a closing statement that really stood out for me – ‘Social prescribing can only happen on a partnership basis – we need to strengthen and extend these partnerships – the potential for social prescribing is incredible’.
The social prescribing movement is growing rapidly throughout Ireland and I for one can’t wait to watch it scale over the coming weeks and months and to witness the positive benefits for communities all over Ireland. I’m particularly delighted about having the opportunity to be part of shaping the strategy alongside Elemental. If you’d like to talk more about social prescribing in Ireland, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rory Kehoe, Partnerships Executive Team, Elemental
Rory is part of the Partnership Team at Elemental, and is responsible for delivering innovative social prescribing solutions to organisations in health, housing, VCSE and Local Government in the UK and ROI. Rory has strong roots within his local community in particular within the local football scene, facilitating football for young people from the ages of 5-19 each week.