Voluntary sector and primary care networks – responding to coronavirus in Tameside
We have been delivering Social Prescribing as part of our Community Wellbeing Programme (social prescribing alongside asset-based community development and voluntary sector investment) commissioned by Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust since February 2018.
In December 2019 we were contracted by the four Tameside PCNs to deliver their social prescribing offer as part of our existing service and we recruited four new link workers who joined our team in January this year.
Adapting to the pandemic
As soon as lockdown was announced we began delivering our service remotely and the Elemental social prescribing platform has allowed us to adapt easily as the team can access referrals from home.
We anticipate that many people who have contacted us for support at this time, we will continue to work with after lockdown, when people may need guidance to re-connect with their community. Many of these are people who would have benefitted from Social Prescribing before Lockdown but had never previously reached out.
As well as taking referrals from all of our partners in primary care, community health teams, adult social care and the voluntary sector, we have been working closely with the councils’ newly established Covid support hub. Our Social Prescribing team has taken over 1000 referrals for people in need of extra support from the voluntary sector at this time.
While our primary focus remains supporting people to look after their wellbeing and find new ways to remain socially connected to their local community, we have also been connecting people to volunteers to help with tasks such as shopping and prescription delivery. Since the start of lock-down we have successfully linked over 500 people to volunteer support.
Our referrals have increased from around 100 a month, to 1000 in less than 2 months. At our busiest we received 136 referrals in a single day. We have worked closely with partners to help meet the demand.
We have a newly established partnership with a local charity, Diversity Matters Northwest, to offer language support for Tameside’s BAME community to access social prescribing. Whilst previously we used an interpreting service for this, we are now working with a locally based organisation who have established knowledge of and links to our community. This is an exciting new partnership for our Social Prescribing team.
We enlisted the help of staff from Tameside’s health improvement service who have been working as part of our team. We were able to give them temporary access to Elemental so that after a brief induction they could work remotely and help to deliver Social Prescribing. One of the team gave us this feedback:
“I would just like to say a thank you to you and your team. I have worked on many events in the community over the last 21 months for Be Well Tameside and chatted briefly to Action Together staff. I now know a lot more about what you do, which will help me in my role in the future. I realise what a difficult job you all do and much needed. You are all making a difference to people’s lives for the better!”
Action Together have been working closely with Tameside’s voluntary sector groups and we are working as normal to link people to the most appropriate voluntary sector support, such as for wellbeing phone calls from Tameside’s Community Buddy Service (a local voluntary sector partnership) Age UK, Mind, The Alzheimer’s Society, or People First to name just a few. We are also working directly with the council and local volunteers who have signed up to help on the Action Together Website, to ensure people who are a little more vulnerable can still get the help they need.
We are engaged in ongoing research and community outreach to make sure that we are up to date with newly emerging local support and social offers.
Lockdown positive outcomes
- Improved partnership working across the system.
- Newly identifying and supporting individuals who previously had not reached out, but who have benefitted now and whose quality of life will be improved in the long term.
- Tameside’s community response has been inspiring, with over 400 people registering as volunteers to help out via the Action Together website and an additional 1744 volunteers in Tameside and Glossop becoming NHS Volunteer Responders. This is in addition to the amazing way in which our pre-existing community and voluntary groups have adapted what they do to continue to support the people of Tameside. Without this, Social Prescribing could not continue to happen.