The government has pledged to spend £5 million to help tackle loneliness and support people who may have suffered from mental health issues during lockdown.
The funding has been awarded to the National Academy for Social Prescribing to spend on community activities including football, singing, art and improving green spaces.
The aim is to connect people, including those living with mental health problems and dementia, to these initiatives in order to improve their mental health and wellbeing in response to the impact of COVID-19.
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.”
The Academy is working with organisations to develop projects including Newcastle United Foundation’s ‘Be a Gam Changer’ and the Foundation ‘12th Man’ programmes, which work to support men with mental health issues.
Funding will also go to the Southbank Centre’s Art by Post initiative, which sends free creative activities booklets to people across the UK who are living with dementia and other chronic health conditions.
The project has so far reached over 1,800 people across the UK, from Aberdeen to Truro, and with people aged 18-103 joining in alongside friends, family members and carers.
Working with Natural England, link workers will also be funded to refer and connect people to local wildlife and other activities including healthy cooking and beekeeping.
Welcoming the funding, chief executive officer of the National Academy for Social Prescribing, James Sanderson said: “Now more than ever, the pandemic has shown the value of social prescribing in helping people to stay connected, feel supported and to maintain their wellbeing.
“The National Academy for Social Prescribing has an ambitious agenda to support people to live the best life they can by accessing support in their local communities based on what matters to them. We will be working with key partners across national and local government, the NHS, and the voluntary and community sector to build the support structures necessary to enable social prescribing to thrive.”