Why social prescribing is the key to tackling the social care challenge
In the aftermath of an historic election dominated by Brexit which saw the Conservative party win a landslide victory, Jennifer Neff, Co-founder and Co CEO of Elemental, takes a look at what the future holds for social care and calls for social prescribing to be an essential part of the sector’s future.
Now that the aftershock of the election has passed and we know what the political landscape is going to look like for the next four years at least, it is vital that the Government maintains the momentum that has been building in social prescribing over the last 12 months as a key part of the future of healthcare, and extends its reach into the social care sector.
Addressing the challenge of social care
The Government has pledged that within its first 100 days it will begin cross party talks to find an enduring solution to the challenge of social care, with a commitment to producing a plan to solve the social care crisis within the next 12 months.
This is a welcome move following its pledge in its manifesto to review the care system to make sure that all care placements and settings are providing children and young adults with the support they need.
However, it is now more crucial than ever to recognise that social prescribing is a key component as plans are shaped and debated.
It is already being widely reported that the additional £1 billion investment in social care services for both adults and children is not enough to meet the rising demand for social care.
In addition, with the social care rescue plan being discussed planned to be five years away from implementation, it is time for wider recognition that social prescribing can bring about the change needed much faster.
Adding value through social prescribing
This is why at Elemental, we believe social prescribing can add real value in supporting health and wellbeing for people needing to access social care, and has the potential to, like in other areas of the healthcare system, dramatically reduce the demand on the health service.
Through our social prescribing work, we have seen first-hand that the important contribution that social care professionals make to communities.
While they may not specifically use the term social prescribing, many already help people in an informal way, signposting them to support services to meet their needs, researching what is available and offering a helping hand.
This is why we believe that social prescribing for social care is crucial in supporting communities to support themselves and promote community wellbeing.
Digital is key
As with all areas of healthcare, developing social prescribing as a tool for social care must have a digital approach at the centre.
Embedding digital into social prescribing services in any sector is a proven and effective way to connect people and services and enable health care professionals to easily source suitable social prescribing programmes and services based on the needs of individuals. What’s really important to point out is how digital can also allow accurate reporting on the impact and uptake of social prescribing services in social care, identify trends and gaps, evidence ROI and provide a range of analytics across various data points to support funding applications and allow transparency around the entire success of your social prescribing programmes.
Digital is increasingly becoming a significant focus for healthcare, and social care must be not different, not least because the need for social care continues to grow for children and young adults, who are growing up in a digital world and need to be able to access services, information and support online.
Raising awareness and promoting social prescribing benefits
At Elemental, we are working with social care organisations in the UK to raise awareness of the importance of their role in social prescribing to support the wellbeing of the communities they support.
Our unique platform is making a real difference in being that crucial bridge to enable practitioners to identify the social prescribing programmes and services that can support the wellbeing journey of their clients and help them make valuable connections with community providers and facilitators.
Crucially, it allows them to keep up to date with an individual’s social prescribing activities, track their progress and provide insight into how these activities are improving their wellbeing, as part of their overall programme of support needs.
Time to act
In my opinion, the time after a general election is a time to move from rhetoric to action.
Investment in health was one of the government’s promises in its campaign, and while it is widely acknowledged that investment and plans for social care don’t go far enough, what the consultation promised in the first 100 days is a real opportunity to show a commitment to tackling the social care challenge and put real measures in place to enable this vital sector to deliver its aims and support those most in need.
Social prescribing must be a part of this and at Elemental, we’ll be doing everything we can to enable the sector to show the real impact this personal, and empowering form of support can bring to the whole of the healthcare sector.
About the author - JENNIFER NEFF, CO FOUNDER OF ELEMENTAL SOFTWARE
Jennifer has more than 16 years’ experience in managing public/ private and voluntary, community and social enterprise sector partnerships. She led the delivery of community programmes across employability, digital skills and Active City, Age Friendly and Early Intervention.
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