There are moments, quite frequently as it happens, when I am reminded just how visionary and forward thinking our profession can be.
The government recently announced nearly £4.5 million funding for 23 so called social prescribing projects across England. As social workers, we have endorsed and encouraged this concept for decades – one which sees non-medical services working in tandem with local health and care providers to deliver holistic person centred care.
We are often the ones signposting these assets, our guidance and local knowledge tipping the balance of care and support in favour of solutions that blend statutory, community and voluntary services.
Now, while GP practices in the project areas will have greater involvement and access to non-clinical options, social workers across England still have a crucial role in linking individuals and families with social, therapeutic and practical support in their localities.
Arguably, the best examples of this outreach can be found in the named social worker pilots, which have been running for more than two years and see social workers operating at the centre of a web of care drawing in voluntary, community and clinical support for people living with mental health issues, autism and learning disabilities.
If we truly aspire to a new age of holistic care we need to see beyond pills, potions and lotions to consider the individual and not simply the symptoms they present.
To what extent does a person’s environment and circumstance impact on their health and wellbeing? Are they socially isolated? Is their domestic situation helpful or retrograde to any long term mental or physical conditions? Are they supported by family, friends or carers or just fending for themselves? Social workers ask all these questions and more.
In previous blogs - and my last annual report - I showcased the virtues of Wigan Council’s approach to meeting local health and care needs through the Wigan Deal (in operation since at least 2016). This includes CCGs collaborating with social workers and others in community link worker programmes.
Social prescribing is an essential tenet of this enterprise and if the latest government funding can help embed its application more widely then our profession and those we seek to help can only benefit.