Suffolk launches new social prescribing pilot scheme to connect rural communities

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Local people joined professionals working in their community to celebrate the official launch of the Community Connector pilot scheme at Shotley Village Hall.

Tony Goldson, Hayley Hancock and Steve Molyneux at the launchThe pilot is part of Suffolk County Council’s work to join professionals working in health and social care with voluntary groups that provide direct support to promote social prescribing.

Social prescribing supports individuals to find non-clinical ways to improve their physical and emotional wellbeing by providing early support and dedicated time with a trained Community Connector to identify tailored solutions. This often involves accessing opportunities provided by local groups, clubs and activities in their local community.

Suffolk Family Carers are working in partnership to deliver this service. Hayley Hancock, Head of Adult Services at Suffolk Family Carers said:

“We are delighted to be able to support people to connect better within their communities. This will benefit individuals by reducing the effects of social isolation. Our Community Connector Adviser will work from the bus with individuals to help them reach their goals.”

Whilst social prescribing is not new to Suffolk, the Community Connector scheme is a fresh approach to bringing this way of working to rural and often isolated parts of Suffolk. The pilot will utilise the Suffolk Family Carers Bus twice a week to visit Shotley, Holbrook, Stutton and Chelmondiston.

The scheme accepts referrals from professionals, family members, friends, or neighbours. Self-referrals can also be made. Home visits are also an option. The Community Connector will spend time with individuals to help identify goals and ways of achieving them.

There will also be opportunities to meet with other people working within their communities, either offering advice, ideas, or new activities. Read more information about the Community Connector Scheme.

Tony Goldson, Cabinet Member for Health at Suffolk County Council, said:

“It’s so important that people, particularly in rural areas, have access to support if and when they need it.

“There is a strong sense of community on the Shotley Peninsula, but still many people need a helping hand to explore something new and make that first step to change. Seeing the shared commitment of professionals and local people working together to help each other, I am confident that the Community Connector scheme can make a difference.”

Dr Ed Garratt, Chief Officer at NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups and vice chairman of the Suffolk Health and Wellbeing Board, said:

“This is a really positive example of partnership working which aims to help people achieve and sustain a good quality of life within a supportive community setting. It is important that people can access the right support services to help them enjoy a happy and healthy life.

“This Community Connector Scheme is part of the wider Connect Suffolk initiative and it is pleasing that health, care and voluntary organisations in the county are continuing to develop new and better ways of working which are delivering real and positive change to the population.”