SOCIAL HOUSING AND SOCIAL PRESCRIBING – HOW HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS ARE PRESCRIBING RESIDENTS WITH ‘DANCE CLASSES, MINDFULNESS AND DEBT ADVICE’
Health inequalities are estimated to cost the NHS around £20 billion a year.
Housing associations have an opportunity to play a major role in addressing this, with people living in areas of high concentrations of social housing likely to live 11 years less than people in other areas. People living in deprived areas are also likely to spend between 20-25 fewer years in ‘good health’.
The housing sector has for some time now recognised that its role goes beyond bricks and mortar and as cuts in funding for public services continue to face increasing strain, the health and wellbeing and community services provided by housing associations are becoming increasingly vital.
Housing is a sector that is embracing the concept of social prescribing – linking local residents to sources of non-clinical support in their communities from cooking classes and exercises programmes to employment support and debt advice – as a way of supporting tenants to maintain successful tenancies, build healthy, thriving communities and reduce health inequalities across their neighbourhoods.
The most forward-thinking housing associations see themselves as playing a pivotal role in community health, with a growing movement of associations working to step up and pilot innovative new approaches that use digital technology to support, connect and measure the impact of community engagement in health and wellness.
Elemental Software has been working with housing associations to help develop new social prescribing initiatives using it’s unique and award winning digital platform which enables housing and community officers to quickly and easily refer tenants to social prescribing activities in their local areas. A key function of the platform allows organisations to track and measure the progress of residents referred to social prescribing projects which demonstrates the health and wellbeing benefits of these investments.
ForHousing in Ellesmere Port, part of the ForViva Group, has been working with Elemental to develop a pilot project to set up a social prescribing hub in the Westminster area.
Social prescribing formed a key part of the bid by ForViva to deliver housing management services in the area on behalf of Cheshire West and Chester Council, and part of the Group’s commitment to improving health, education and employment prospects across its neighbourhoods.
Using the Elemental digital platform, trained staff at ForHousing will make direct referrals tailored to the needs of individual residents to services and support in the area. The team is also working with the local GP practice to enable GPs to refer patients through to social prescribing activities and increase the numbers of residents accessing and engaging with programmes delivered by ForHousing and its partners.
Henry Terefenko, Group Director of Communities for ForHousing said: “We understand the benefits that social prescribing can bring to local communities. That’s why we’re pleased to work with like-minded partners to deliver outcomes together and ultimately achieve our vision of improved lives.”
Poplar HARCA runs a network of community centres located in each of its 12 estates which serve as vital hubs for local residents. Poplar HARCA already recognised the benefits of social prescribing and wanted to restructure its resources to put social prescribing at the forefront of its work. The housing association is now working with Elemental to enable more residents to access and engage in community programmes and services to enhance their quality of life.
Using the digital platform, social prescribers within Poplar HARCA will make direct referrals to community activities and support, as well as monitor and track the impact of the referral. Whilst residents were engaging in community based health and wellness activities, Poplar HARCA appreciated that more could be done to better connect health, social care and housing. Poplar HARCA also recognised that digital needed to play a significant role however that it couldn’t be the dominant force. The project will be piloted across a few of Poplar HARCA’s community centres, utilising both paid staff and trained volunteers.
If you’re interested in hearing more about the role of housing in social prescribing or how we can help maximise the impact of your social prescribing projects, get in touch!