Social prescribing and community transport – what are the links?
by Anneessa Mahmood
Director of Member Services
As a newcomer to community transport, one of the most impressive qualities about our sector is how anyone involved in running community transport services view the people using those services as a whole individual. My first experience of this was visiting a CTA member just before the school term started. Volunteer drivers had come into the base to pick up a list of young people they’d be transporting to and from school using accessible equipment, ensuring that they took the time to meet the children, their parents and carers, show them the minibus and provide reassurance that the first trip to school of the New Year would go smoothly. As well as just being focused on getting them from A to B, the drivers had thought “what would make this child and their parent/carer feel confident and excited about their first day at school?” This is a ‘whole person’ approach to service delivery. It’s recognising that emotional, psychical and economic factors are all important when providing these sorts of services, and its a level of care that is consistent across the community transport sector.
In a similar way, social prescribing is a way of looking at the ‘whole person’ when supporting people to stay healthy and well. It’s an approach to help people get the support they need by recognising that people’s health and wellbeing is determined by a range of social, economic and environmental factors and, sometimes, medical treatment is not the only solution. It may be that someone needs to spend more time outdoors, connect with other people, or spend time on a new hobby to support their recovery. In this case, a ‘social prescription’ may be to go to the local garden centre with a community group twice a week. Social prescribing addresses people’s needs in a holistic way.
Social prescribing supports individuals to take greater control of their own health by co-producing their ‘social prescription’. It re-frames the role patients play from people who would be traditionally referred to as ‘patient’ and expected to ‘follow Doctors’ orders’ to a key partner, with agency, in maintaining good health and living well. Community transport is a citizen-led initiative, where the likely beneficiaries of the service often have a hand in co-producing a solution that meets their needs. Viewing beneficiaries of a service as a co-producer is a core part of the DNA of both community transport and social prescribing.
Social prescribing has had a groundswell of support in recent years to reduce pressure on GP and other health services. Most models of social prescribing involve a link worker or navigator who works with people to access sources of support, which might be run by the council or a local charity. Community transport, a service which can open up whole new worlds of support, could be central to this agenda. As well as offering support for people to get to medical appointments and treatments, community transport can get people to ‘socially prescribed’ activities to maintain health and wellbeing. And many services already do just that.
I’m looking forward to a panel discussion on the links between social prescribing and community transport at CT ’19, our two day event for CTA members and friends taking place in under two weeks time. Dr Richard Kimberlee, Senior Research Fellow in the Health and Social Sciences department at the University of the West England and Christiana Melam, the Chief Executive of the National Association of Link Workers, the largest national professional network for social prescribing link workers, will be speaking about the links between community transport and Social Prescribing. I hope to come away with some ways CT can better connect with the social prescribing agenda and how CTA can support members to do that. If you want to be involved in the conversation at the event, you can book your place at ctauk.org/ct19.
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