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Can Social Prescribing Tackle Loneliness?

KateJoplingKateJopling Posts: 1Member Connected

I’m Kate and I work as a consultant with organisations in the voluntary sector on a range of issues including ageing, health and care. In recent years I’ve done a lot of work on loneliness like working as Director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, writing the final report of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness and recently assessing progress on the Government’s Loneliness Strategy on behalf of the Loneliness Action Group.

Loneliness and Social Prescribing

One of the flagship announcements in the Government’s Loneliness Strategy last October was the roll out of social prescribing services across England – with funding from NHS England by 2021 every Primary Care Network (PCN) will have a Link Worker to help people to access support and activities in the community.

This is good news. There is limited evidence around what works in tackling loneliness overall, but what there is suggests that offering individuals who are experiencing or at risk of chronic loneliness one-to-one support is a good way of reducing loneliness. With chronic loneliness being defined as feeling lonely often, it is this support that allows them to reconnect with people in their communities

So why am I worried about the roll out of social prescribing?


Making sure Social Prescribing works for Loneliness

Firstly, ‘social prescribing’ is a very stretchy term and, while diversity of provision is good, we need to ensure that the models that roll out are the ones that work. In good social prescribing services, Link Workers spend time getting to know individuals, giving them time and space to talk about the issues. They recognise that usually there is a complex web of practical and emotional barriers that is getting in the way of social connections – not just a lack of information. They also understand loneliness deeply.

Knowing that loneliness can be surrounded by stigma means you appreciate that asking people if they are lonely won’t always elicit a true response. You also want a Link Worker to understand that people who have been lonely for a long-time struggle more in social situations, so people need support to step out. Link Workers need to recognise the personal nature of loneliness and that different people find meaningful connections in different ways, so our offer must be flexible. For one person a community choir may be the answer, another may need support in plucking up the courage to reach out to an old friend.


By contrast there are ‘social prescribing’ services which I’m pretty certain would be no help to someone who was deeply lonely – where support is strictly time-limited, conversations are driven by check lists, and the ‘offer’ consists of a narrow menu of formal services.

Secondly, it’s not yet clear who will fund the community services and activities to which Link Workers will need to refer people. NHS England are only funding the Link Workers themselves. In some areas there are lots of services and activities available already, and so the biggest challenge for Link Workers will be staying up-to-date with what’s available, but in other areas there are gaps. In these areas Link Workers will inevitably identify demands that cannot be met. In some existing services Link Workers play a community development role, helping people develop their own community responses to need. However, it’s not yet clear whether Link Workers will have capacity to do this if they are also trying to meet needs across a PCN population of 50,000.

Finally, there are real risks of unintended consequences in this programme. Work on loneliness isn’t new, and nor are social-prescribing-type services: community navigators and connectors, mentors, and Local Area Coordinators all work in similar ways – as was demonstrated by the programme of shared learning we undertook with the British Red Cross and Co-op partnership. It’s really important that PCNs build upon existing expertise in their communities, but in the rush we risk existing services being decommissioned in favour of new ones. Communities can’t afford to lose that knowledge.

What needs to happen next

The roll out of social prescribing services could be really good news, but if we want it to work for loneliness then we need to build services with loneliness in mind. At the national level we need to keep focused on the issue providing the guidance and support PCNs need to understand loneliness and how to tackle it. We also need to measure the impact of new schemes on loneliness, otherwise we’ll never know if they’re working.

In communities up and down the country local organisations who are already involved in working with lonely and isolated people need to make their voices heard – especially by their local PCNs and other health leaders as they decide what to do. As we set out in this report, the time to act on this is now. 

What are your thoughts on social prescribing? Have health authorities in your area started consulting on new services? Do you believe this sort of community work could benefit you? Let us know in the comments below!

Replies

  • dolfrogdolfrog Posts: 344Member Pioneering
    Hi  @KateJopling
    I have a communication disability, which means that anyone trying to help me work around my communication disability to overcome my loneliness has to be trained regarding the complex nature of my disability, and especially the verbal communication problems i have everyday.
    I have Auditory Processing Disorder, my brain having problesm processing and understanding the sounds my ears hear, which includes speech. Currently in the UK the main problem is the professional negligence of most UK Audiologists who fail to even understand the audiology of Auditory Processing Disorders let alone explain these complex issues to any multi discipline support medical professionals or support workers.
    So you would have to have the 3 UK audiology professional bodies radically improve the minimum qualification requirements to include all aspects of audiology including the 4 types of Auditory Processing Disorder.
    I am house bound as I need to avoid the lack of awareness of my communication disability causes by this professional negligence by UK audiologists, and the recommended multi discipline support team which should include psychologists, and speech and language therapists. They the major cause of the loneliness pure disability discrimination. 
  • April2018momApril2018mom Posts: 2,255Member - under moderation Disability Gamechanger
    My local community gym has classes for disabled people. There is no one single approach. If it helps, I found some guidance on how to end social isolation. https://www.hee.nhs.uk/sites/default/files/documents/Social%20Prescribing%20at%20a%20glance.pdf
  • kami24kami24 Posts: 288Member Pioneering
    There are no groups in my area so I feel. Isolated
  • Snowflake56Snowflake56 Posts: 16Member Courageous
    I am lonely everyday I just wait for my husband to get home,I dont see a soul or rarely a message off anyone,that includes my adult children.Since I stopped working it's like I dont exist with anyone anymore.Ive recently moved and what friends I did have dont keep in touch or visit. I go to bed with dread and sometimes wish I wasnt here,I'm depressed and so lonely its affecting my mental health.
  • newbornnewborn Posts: 304Member Pioneering
    Assuming there is no such thing as physical  disability  seems routine. "Go for a brisk daily walk ". Hmmm

    Go to your g.p. is just as out of the question.
  • AilsAils Posts: 1,076Community champion Disability Gamechanger
    Hi @Snowflake56, just wanted to say that I am sorry to hear you are struggling at the moment.  I can relate to feeling isolated when I first stopped work too and can appreciate how upsetting this is, especially if you don't see anyone all day.  We live in a village and my friends and family are over an hour away from us, so I am thankful for getting out and about at times here, although sometimes pain keeps me indoors.  Just wanted you to know that the Community is here to support you at any time so please feel free to chat to us.  Do you have any hobbies?  Sometimes that can lead on to joining a group.  Just a thought.  Please keep in touch and let us know how you are getting on.  All the best.  :smile:
  • Snowflake56Snowflake56 Posts: 16Member Courageous
    Hi Ails I have hobbies eg arts and crafts but there is nothing were I live to get involved with sadly,there is basically nothing for those with disabilities. My neighbourhood is a little rural but not a million miles from town,I could manage a taxi to get there,but since I've been stuck at home I've lost my self confidence and also find it painful to walk and scared of falling and being alone,so no company to have a chat or a coffee,I feel everyday is like groundhog day,but I keep thinking maybe tomorrow will be better,my friends know i am still chatty and bubbly but dont make any effort even though i message them,i never mention my illness and never moan but feel for some reason I'm not thought of the same.The loneliness is horrible and i do get tearful but never let it show,I've so much to offer i feel I'm a genuine loving person,with no one to share my interests with,I would give anything to have my health back and out and about,so have to find a way around it all like so many others.Thankyou for your support.
  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Posts: 5,360Administrator Scope community team
    kami24 said:
    There are no groups in my area so I feel. Isolated
    Hi @kami24, I'm sorry to hear this. Have you spoken to your GP about social prescribing in your area?
    Chloe
    Online Community Officer
  • AilsAils Posts: 1,076Community champion Disability Gamechanger
    Hi @Snowflake56, you are very welcome and thanks for your post.  Glad to hear that you have some hobbies.  I too like arts and crafts.  What kinds of things do you make?  I enjoy making cards myself.  I'm really sorry to hear you are struggling just now and can appreciate how difficult things must be for you if there isn't much in your area.  I can relate to being frightened of falling when going out and I take taxis out or use my mobility scooter if my husband can't take me places so am thankful for that.  Have you seen the thread on here about social prescribing?  It maybe an idea to speak to your GP to see if there is anything like that near you.  Just a thought.  Sometimes when pain keeps me in I can get quite down at times too so please don't think you are alone.  You are doing really great in keeping a positive mindset and not showing it is getting you down to your friends, but they might understand if you were to talk about it to them.  Again, please speak to us anytime that you fancy a chat.  I am on here most days or even pm me if you prefer.  I am always happy to chat and if I can be of any help to you then please just let me know.  Hope you are feeling a bit better about things today.  All the best.  :smile: x
  • Snowflake56Snowflake56 Posts: 16Member Courageous
    Thankyou Chloe and Ails,had a new carpet fitted today and just having 2 people to chat to was so lovely then reality set in when they left,that tomorrow there would be no one visiting or anyone to chat to,you never think being in your fifties that your life has taken such a downward spiral and you feel desperate for human contact,its Halloween the fitters had to leave the front door open,the children are all out with mums and dads it made me smile so much 😊 days like these are the best,i felt i was part of something again instead of feeling invisible. 
  • kami24kami24 Posts: 288Member Pioneering
    I am alone at 28 so count yourself lucky. Just irritating neighbours and an annoying weird man downstairs coughing constantly on drugs and god knows what 
  • Snowflake56Snowflake56 Posts: 16Member Courageous
    Kami24 sorry but I dont count myself lucky when I have a disability plus recovering from cancer and my husband also in remission from cancer.
  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Posts: 7,732Administrator Scope community team
    Please be aware of tone and context in your posts. We want the community to be a safe and supportive place. Please make sure your messages respect other users’ views and suggestions, even if you do not agree with them.

    Take care to present your views tactfully and remember that humour may be misinterpreted.


    Scope
    Senior online community officer
  • dolfrogdolfrog Posts: 344Member Pioneering
    edited October 31
    Sam_Scope said:
    Please be aware of tone and context in your posts. We want the community to be a safe and supportive place. Please make sure your messages respect other users’ views and suggestions, even if you do not agree with them.

    Take care to present your views tactfully and remember that humour may be misinterpreted.


    I think Scope should also re think "Guest Blogs" where the author of the blog never responds to regular members comments. This tread was posted 10 days ago and the author has not made any attempt to reply to anyone who has replied to their blog post, which comes across as pure marketing, especially when it is concerned with something most have never heard of.  

  • debbiedo49debbiedo49 Posts: 2,891Member Disability Gamechanger
    edited November 2
    Be interested to find out if this is happening in my area.  I just finished a course of sessions with cbt therapist with my local mh team. She tried a few times to encourage me to self refer to some services in my area. However, I’ve had lots going on with my health and just didn’t feel they are right for me just now. Also one of them I’ve used before and I don’t really want to go back. You could say I’ve outgrown them but in reality I’m still socially isolated. 
    Like others on here have mentioned for me I find larger groups overwhelming and I have had some success in smaller groups of 4 or 5 people. This takes me time to get to know and feel safe in the group and depends on lots of things for me to stay. But I know from experience that much success can be achieved from giving it a go. I try things once and then decide whether to stay or go. 
    This is after a long period of time working up to the trying part. 

    I rely on on my son a lot to support me when I am going out and about outside as it’s one of my issues. I often wonder what other people do when they don’t have someone close to support them and how much harder that must be? I also know this won’t always be the case for me when my son isn’t around and wonder what I will do when that happens? In an ideal world we would have “buddies” to support us with getting around as opposed to paid professionals like support workers and the like. Personally I don’t like the idea of that and I can’t see me qualifying anyway. 

    What are other peoples experiences of getting help to get around in your local area where you may have m h issues like social anxiety, agoraphobia or other issues please? 

    Thanks for the article. 


    I am a fibrowarrior!
  • moomoosmoomoos Posts: 1Member Connected
    I am from the same town as Jo Cox (R.I.P.) There is a ‘resource centre’ in the town, now called Jo Cox House. I rang them and asked them to help me with loneliness. They couldn’t offer me anything! I found that astonishing! Jo worked so hard to end loneliness. There’s a building named after her, within it is meant to be a resource centre specifically geared to helping the community yet the biggest thing Jo stood for couldn’t be ‘catered for’. How can that be?  I was told they couldn’t help me. That made me angry but mainly sad. 

    I never did find help. 

    I did some research and I found out about the ‘Looking Out For Our Neighbours Campaign which was being rolled out over Kirklees, Wakefield and Harrogate and I tried to get involved with being a community champion. I was able to help a little bit by giving out packs, but that didn’t work or last either. Lack of communication. I don’t know if it has had any success? No one has been in contact and you don’t see any communication about it.  

    I tried starting my own group, called My Tribe. That didn’t work either!

    There is too much stigma attached to loneliness. People fear admitting that they’re lonely. There’s not enough done to combat loneliness. People don’t talk enough about it. And I know that there are campaigns going on. But they’re not working. 

    I don’t know what the answer is?

    I believe that some people feel a deep loneliness from within. No matter how many people they be around and for how many hours per day they’re still going to feel a deep inner loneliness. This, I believe needs to be addressed by therapy. Most don’t approach GP for this and when GP is approached, the wait times are ridiculously long. Not enough resources. So many people suffering.  Some people may get helped in this way. Who knows?

    People have other barriers to seeking the company of others, I know... anxiety, panic attacks, other conditions too. It’s so hard. 

    Also, even though some groups are trying to offer community support, the groups are only for a couple of hours on certain days, and normally don’t include evenings, night times and weekends.  Loneliness can be combatted somewhat during the group hours, but there are a lot of hours in a week. What do people do for the rest of those long lonely hours? Most groups are during the day too. People are at their most lonely in the evening and at night. Weekends are long too. 

    I have tried so much and for so long to get help and to help but nothing seems to work. I am still as lonely now as I was when I first spoke up about feeling lonely. This has been going on for years now. It’s crippling. 

    We as human beings no longer belong to tribes and that’s the problem! I feel like I’m out on a limb and very much alone. We are tribal beings and we need to feel connected. Disconnection is the problem! These days we are even disconnected from family. Things have changed and continue to change for the worse. 

    We need ‘Connection’. 

    I don’t know how to help nor be helped. What’s the point in asking anymore?


  • Snowflake56Snowflake56 Posts: 16Member Courageous
    Moomoos that was written very well by you and to the point,its so very true. Even when I am with people which is rare including family that do not bother about me either sadly,all I can think is that this will be short lived and soon it will be back to emptiness when they leave,never knowing when I will see anyone again,its overwhelming and I feel worthless.There is nothing to get involved with in my area I have racked my brains thinking of ways to bring people together,for myself also to feel I belong and am doing something worthwhile bringing meaning to my life,its like a daily war fighting loneliness and always feeling loneliness has won. I have a disability but my mind is not affected other than depression caused by being alone,my illness came about when I was in my 40s and working in a job I loved,then having to live like a hermit is hard to come to terms with made worse when there is nothing to be involved in and people who need to remember disabled people should have every opportunity to be a part of the community and have a fulfilling life the best way possible.
  • BirdsnbeesBirdsnbees Posts: 74Member Pioneering
    edited November 2
    I used to get incredibly lonely. My disability prevents me from leaving the house sometimes and I'm also discovering I'm autistic so I struggle to connect and often deliberately isolate because I get overwhelmed.

    I know it can be hard sometimes

    I am always here and you're always welcome to message me or post on my wall if you'd like a chat Take care xxx
  • BirdsnbeesBirdsnbees Posts: 74Member Pioneering
    @Snowflake56 keep in touch with us start a thread about your experiences your journey I would love to hear from you reguarly and see how you're doing. 
  • BirdsnbeesBirdsnbees Posts: 74Member Pioneering
    edited November 2
    moomoos said:
    I am from the same town as Jo Cox (R.I.P.) There is a ‘resource centre’ in the town, now called Jo Cox House. I rang them and asked them to help me with loneliness. They couldn’t offer me anything! I found that astonishing! Jo worked so hard to end loneliness. There’s a building named after her, within it is meant to be a resource centre specifically geared to helping the community yet the biggest thing Jo stood for couldn’t be ‘catered for’. How can that be?  I was told they couldn’t help me. That made me angry but mainly sad. 

    I never did find help. 

    I did some research and I found out about the ‘Looking Out For Our Neighbours Campaign which was being rolled out over Kirklees, Wakefield and Harrogate and I tried to get involved with being a community champion. I was able to help a little bit by giving out packs, but that didn’t work or last either. Lack of communication. I don’t know if it has had any success? No one has been in contact and you don’t see any communication about it.  

    I tried starting my own group, called My Tribe. That didn’t work either!

    There is too much stigma attached to loneliness. People fear admitting that they’re lonely. There’s not enough done to combat loneliness. People don’t talk enough about it. And I know that there are campaigns going on. But they’re not working. 

    I don’t know what the answer is?

    I believe that some people feel a deep loneliness from within. No matter how many people they be around and for how many hours per day they’re still going to feel a deep inner loneliness. This, I believe needs to be addressed by therapy. Most don’t approach GP for this and when GP is approached, the wait times are ridiculously long. Not enough resources. So many people suffering.  Some people may get helped in this way. Who knows?

    People have other barriers to seeking the company of others, I know... anxiety, panic attacks, other conditions too. It’s so hard. 

    Also, even though some groups are trying to offer community support, the groups are only for a couple of hours on certain days, and normally don’t include evenings, night times and weekends.  Loneliness can be combatted somewhat during the group hours, but there are a lot of hours in a week. What do people do for the rest of those long lonely hours? Most groups are during the day too. People are at their most lonely in the evening and at night. Weekends are long too. 

    I have tried so much and for so long to get help and to help but nothing seems to work. I am still as lonely now as I was when I first spoke up about feeling lonely. This has been going on for years now. It’s crippling. 

    We as human beings no longer belong to tribes and that’s the problem! I feel like I’m out on a limb and very much alone. We are tribal beings and we need to feel connected. Disconnection is the problem! These days we are even disconnected from family. Things have changed and continue to change for the worse. 

    We need ‘Connection’. 

    I don’t know how to help nor be helped. What’s the point in asking anymore?


    For the Jo Cox resource centre near you, it should be shut down. Ridiculous they’ve had the funding to provide what she wanted and have done nothing with it. You have the evidence to do it, sent it to the charity commission/their funders.

    I completely agree about the stigma noone talks about it

    I think lonliness has now become an accepted part of life. People have replaced connection with social media and we have forgotten how to genuinely be there and support each other. This culture of online dating isn;t helping either - the idea you let someone into your home after seeing their picture online maddens me. We let strangers into our home to be intimate with us, add strangers on facebook and never see our friends and family they become strangers to us because of an increasingly high cost of living, less wages and less time for everyone. This is a direct result of our structure of a society and how it’s worked out.

    I agree with the deep lonliness too - therapy is good and there are some wonderful therapists out there. I would always encourage someone going through a life change or who may feel lonley and needs to start somewhere to start with therapy

    In terms of time I think a lot of people are working days, nights, weekends and not even making ends meet. So you’re either disabled stuck at home sick can’t get out or you’re working your butt off to get enough money to meet the rent and it’s still not enough and you’re still not getting enough time for rest or sleep. I think having a bad economy has made us all bad friends. We need to address the problems going on before anything will get better

    Theres no community activities anymore or a severe lack of them because the working have no time for them and the disabled can't afford to fund them and not fit to run or manage them always

    I agree about tribes too. I think people have forgotten this and forget how to be a living breathing person, because of pressure to look a certain way and survive rather than be a human being. The problem starts with us all and ends with us all

  • April2018momApril2018mom Posts: 2,255Member - under moderation Disability Gamechanger
    moomoos said:
    I am from the same town as Jo Cox (R.I.P.) There is a ‘resource centre’ in the town, now called Jo Cox House. I rang them and asked them to help me with loneliness. They couldn’t offer me anything! I found that astonishing! Jo worked so hard to end loneliness. There’s a building named after her, within it is meant to be a resource centre specifically geared to helping the community yet the biggest thing Jo stood for couldn’t be ‘catered for’. How can that be?  I was told they couldn’t help me. That made me angry but mainly sad. 

    I never did find help. 

    I did some research and I found out about the ‘Looking Out For Our Neighbours Campaign which was being rolled out over Kirklees, Wakefield and Harrogate and I tried to get involved with being a community champion. I was able to help a little bit by giving out packs, but that didn’t work or last either. Lack of communication. I don’t know if it has had any success? No one has been in contact and you don’t see any communication about it.  

    I tried starting my own group, called My Tribe. That didn’t work either!

    There is too much stigma attached to loneliness. People fear admitting that they’re lonely. There’s not enough done to combat loneliness. People don’t talk enough about it. And I know that there are campaigns going on. But they’re not working. 

    I don’t know what the answer is?

    I believe that some people feel a deep loneliness from within. No matter how many people they be around and for how many hours per day they’re still going to feel a deep inner loneliness. This, I believe needs to be addressed by therapy. Most don’t approach GP for this and when GP is approached, the wait times are ridiculously long. Not enough resources. So many people suffering.  Some people may get helped in this way. Who knows?

    People have other barriers to seeking the company of others, I know... anxiety, panic attacks, other conditions too. It’s so hard. 

    Also, even though some groups are trying to offer community support, the groups are only for a couple of hours on certain days, and normally don’t include evenings, night times and weekends.  Loneliness can be combatted somewhat during the group hours, but there are a lot of hours in a week. What do people do for the rest of those long lonely hours? Most groups are during the day too. People are at their most lonely in the evening and at night. Weekends are long too. 

    I have tried so much and for so long to get help and to help but nothing seems to work. I am still as lonely now as I was when I first spoke up about feeling lonely. This has been going on for years now. It’s crippling. 

    We as human beings no longer belong to tribes and that’s the problem! I feel like I’m out on a limb and very much alone. We are tribal beings and we need to feel connected. Disconnection is the problem! These days we are even disconnected from family. Things have changed and continue to change for the worse. 

    We need ‘Connection’. 

    I don’t know how to help nor be helped. What’s the point in asking anymore?


    For the Jo Cox resource centre near you, it should be shut down. Ridiculous they’ve had the funding to provide what she wanted and have done nothing with it. You have the evidence to do it, sent it to the charity commission/their funders.

    I completely agree about the stigma noone talks about it

    I think lonliness has now become an accepted part of life. People have replaced connection with social media and we have forgotten how to genuinely be there and support each other. This culture of online dating isn;t helping either - the idea you let someone into your home after seeing their picture online maddens me. We let strangers into our home to be intimate with us, add strangers on facebook and never see our friends and family they become strangers to us because of an increasingly high cost of living, less wages and less time for everyone. This is a direct result of our structure of a society and how it’s worked out.

    I agree with the deep lonliness too - therapy is good and there are some wonderful therapists out there. I would always encourage someone going through a life change or who may feel lonley and needs to start somewhere to start with therapy

    In terms of time I think a lot of people are working days, nights, weekends and not even making ends meet. So you’re either disabled stuck at home sick can’t get out or you’re working your butt off to get enough money to meet the rent and it’s still not enough and you’re still not getting enough time for rest or sleep. I think having a bad economy has made us all bad friends. We need to address the problems going on before anything will get better

    Theres no community activities anymore or a severe lack of them because the working have no time for them and the disabled can't afford to fund them and not fit to run or manage them always

    I agree about tribes too. I think people have forgotten this and forget how to be a living breathing person, because of pressure to look a certain way and survive rather than be a human being. The problem starts with us all and ends with us all

    This is mostly true. But I politely disagree with you when you say there are “no” community activities. There are. You need to look. 
  • Jean EveleighJean Eveleigh Posts: 78Member Pioneering
    I would find social prescribing totally useless, the social groups I have looked at attending are not run at the right times for me and I don't have enough care hours to be able to pay for my carer to take me.
  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Posts: 5,360Administrator Scope community team
    Hi @Snowflake56, I imagine this is very hard and please do let us know if we can do anything to support you.

    Sorry to hear this @Jean Eveleigh, this must have been very frustrating! 
    Chloe
    Online Community Officer
  • kami24kami24 Posts: 288Member Pioneering
    Depression makes you feel more lonely, however, a deep constant feeling of that emptiness or loneliness can often actually be depression. 
  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Posts: 5,360Administrator Scope community team
    It sounds like you're really struggling @kami24, how has today been?
    Chloe
    Online Community Officer
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