Collaboration is key to improving social outcomes

ForHousing Managing Director Henry Terefenko sat down with Housing Management Network, to discuss how social prescribing brings health, housing and voluntary sectors together as well as the positive impact it has on peoples health and wellbeing.

Here is what he had to say:

Last year, we became one of the first housing providers in the country to pilot a fresh approach to improving the health and wellbeing of tenants – social prescribing.

Social prescribing provides non-clinical support for people who need it, including cookery classes, exercise sessions, social clubs, financial advice, training and volunteering.

It offers opportunities to keep fit, socialise and learn new skills to improve confidence, employability, and overall health and wellbeing.

When the project began, social prescribing was relatively unknown outside of health circles. Although at a national level it continues to be seen largely as the domain of the health sector, it is becoming increasingly recognised by the government. It can mitigate the clinical impact of some illnesses and enable lifestyle changes to improve them.

GPs are often the first port of call when someone needs support, and they’re inundated with non-clinical conditions such as loneliness and isolation, where community services are better placed to help.

I was surprised to learn that around a fifth of a GPs consultation time is spent on non-health problems. That’s one of the reasons we decided to work with Cheshire West and Chester Council on a project called Passport to Wellbeing.

Passport to Wellbeing is a digital platform allowing GP practices to refer patients with nonclinical issues to services offered by both ForHousing and our partners for a more suitable solution.

This could range from a referral to our money advice and wellbeing service, employment support services, to voluntary projects to boost confidence and self-esteem, and social events. The pilot has focused on financial security, wellbeing, health, training and home management to enable people to maintain their tenancies.

Ultimately, Passport to Wellbeing raises aspirations and provides people with support to build a better future. We’ve worked hard to ensure that people are always the focus of the project, and that they can control their own pathways and wellbeing.

As it’s a digital platform, we’ve been able to monitor progress, and we’re seeing some positive changes. We know these interventions are making an impact.

One lady visited her GP due to issues with mobility and personal care. As it transpired, she was experiencing loneliness and had no family close by.

Her GP was able to refer her to our wellbeing service. She received a variety of help, including being introduced to social activities at her local church.

The referral also meant we could register her for a home that met her mobility needs and refer her to social services for a care assessment and occupational therapist.

She said Passport to Wellbeing was invaluable, and she now feels less isolated and more integrated within her community.

Working collaboratively has been crucial to the success of this project – combined with the right digital solution and helping patients to take ownership of their wellbeing. We worked with a local medical centre and organisations such as Healthbox, Mersey Forest, and Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Work Zone.

Through partnerships, we’ve been able to help to improve lives and create thriving communities where more things are possible for more people. Passport to Wellbeing has been live for around a year now, and we’re currently reviewing its overall impact and considering its expansion.

What has become even clearer than ever is the fact that housing providers are more than just landlords. We have an essential role to play within communities.

Sometimes, we might be the only service someone speaks to. We can form a relationship with individuals through regular contact and we can build trust and identify potential issues.

We are constantly striving to improve people’s health and wellbeing. We really do have a vital part to play and we must work collaboratively to ensure we are doing the very best we can for people and their communities.