£5m to tackle loneliness, improve wellbeing and recovery from COVID-19

£5m to tackle loneliness, improve wellbeing and recovery from COVID-19

Funding of £5m has been awarded to The National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP) to help maintain people’s health and wellbeing following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding will go towards supporting local community partnerships, encouraging innovation, and improving the evidence base for social prescribing. Some of the wellbeing projects will include football to support mental health, art for dementia, improving green spaces, and singing to improve the effects of COVID-19.

Working with partners, including the Arts Council England, Natural England, Money and Pensions Service, NHS Charities Together, Sport England and NHS England, the academy will support a range of local community activities.

Minister for Health, Jo Churchill, said: “This new funding is hugely important, as it will allow us to build on the merits of social prescribing and encourage innovation in local projects, as well as supporting people to remain connected with their local community, reduce loneliness, and improve their wellbeing.

“GPs and social prescribing link workers have been working incredibly hard to support their patients through this challenging time. As we begin to support the move out of lockdown, social prescribing will be key to tackling health inequalities and helping people recover and rebuild their lives.”

Improving wellbeing after COVID-19

The funding will help implement a more holistic approach to health by connecting people to initiatives in their local communities to improve their mental health and wellbeing in response to the impact of COVID-19. This will include green spaces, singing, and physical activities, as well as access to tailored debt advice.

The National Academy for Social Prescribing is working with organisations to develop projects including:

  • Football: Newcastle United Foundation ‘Be a Game Changer’ programme and ‘12th Man’ programme which work to support men with mental health issues
  • Art by Post: created under lockdown, the Southbank Centre sends free creative activity booklets to people across the UK who are living with dementia and other chronic health conditions
  • Improved green spaces: link workers refer and connect people to their local wildlife and wider activities including food growing, healthy cooking, wildlife gardening, environmental art and crafts, music workshops, and beekeeping
  • Singing: English National Opera (ENO) have partnered with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust to devise an integrated six-week pilot programme of singing, breathing and wellbeing aimed at supporting and enhancing the recovery of COVID-19 survivors
  • Money advice – the Money and Pensions Service and Mental Health UK have created a Money Support Pack for people who need support with their mental health as a result of COVID-19

Working with football clubs

The partnership work with football clubs will help build on initiatives such as the Newcastle United Foundation ‘Be a Game Changer’ programme, which has already supported over 2,000 men. It supports men typically over 40 years old, who traditionally avoid NHS services, may have been impacted by COVID-19, and are most at risk of suicide.

The foundation facilitates fans to talk about their mental health, get involved in walking football, engage in support groups, and learn lifestyle advice through the ‘12th Man’ programme. Social prescribing link workers in GP practices will refer people to these initiatives so that more people can benefit.

Art by post

The academy is also partnering with the Southbank Centre on a new initiative, Art by Post, which aims to boost wellbeing and reduce feelings of social isolation. The project has so far reached over 1,800 people across the UK, from Aberdeen to Truro, and with people aged 18 to 103 joining in alongside friends, family members, and carers. So far, many participants have created artwork and poetry which will form a special exhibition at Southbank Centre when the centre reopens.

Green spaces

Working with Natural England, link workers will be able to refer and connect people to their local wildlife and wider activities.

Grozone in Northwich, Cheshire, is a two-acre community garden, wildlife, and horticultural therapy project that delivers a wide variety of wellbeing and learning opportunities to people of all ages, abilities, and disabilities, for example.

Marian Spain, CEO Natural England, said: “COVID-19 has highlighted the importance for people to have easy access to high-quality green space close to where they live for their mental health and wellbeing. We are seeing more or more evidence of the good that does for us all. We’ve seen a resurgence in the use of urban parks, beaches and nature reserves by people of all ages and backgrounds who we should welcome and embrace.

“I’m absolutely delighted that Natural England are working with the National Academy to help people connect with nature and to make sure that everybody can access the outdoors, wherever they live, as part of a truly green recovery.”

Singing for health

The project between English National Opera (ENO) and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, will see the development of a social prescribing intervention that will provide crucial support to people recovering from COVID-19. This will take the form of an integrated six-week pilot programme of singing, breathing, and wellbeing aimed at supporting and enhancing the recovery of COVID-19 survivors.

Imperial College Healthcare already uses singing as part of an improvement in care aimed specifically at people with COPD and chronic respiratory issues, often related to smoking and asthma. ENO Breathe is being developed as an improvement in care specifically for patients recovering from COVID-19, particularly those who are suffering from breathlessness and the anxiety this can produce. It is the first programme of its kind being developed for these patients.

Debt and money advice

Working with the Money and Pensions Service and Mental Health UK to create a Money Support Pack, the academy aims to help those who need support with their mental health, as a result of COVID-19.

Caroline Siarkiewicz, Chief Executive of the Money and Pensions Service, said: “Financial, physical, and mental health are all deeply connected. We’re looking forward to working with NASP, to ensure that social prescribing link workers can connect people to local money advice and guidance services, to improve financial wellbeing as a core part of COVID support.”

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