In recent years, the cultural sector (which can include things like gardens and open spaces, galleries, museums, heritage sites, theatres and libraries) has supported public wellbeing, for example by providing a space for relaxation and distraction, volunteering opportunities, or putting on activities for specific populations). Such provision can be considered as part of the ‘community assets’ (e.g. groups, organisations, charities, activities) that are central to social prescribing.
Social prescribing aims to address the ‘non-medical’ challenges (e.g. isolation, anxiety, low mood) that affect how people can feel physically and psychologically. The NHS has seen the introduction of link workers who are employed to work in GP practices to facilitate social prescribing. They do this by connecting people to community assets.
Healthcare in the UK is becoming increasingly devolved. In July 2022 the creation of 42 Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) in England will bring together NHS bodies and local authorities to deliver many public health services. For social prescribing to flourish in this context, it is vital that link workers, GPs and other prescribers understand what the local cultural offer is and what programmes might be suitable for different individuals and groups.
The Reconnect project aims to being together three sectors involved in identifying, creating, delivering and evaluating social prescribing to build a local network founded on shared values, best practice and knowledge exchange. The aim is to create resources, toolkits and replicable models that can be transferred to our neighbouring county of Buckinghamshire.
For example, Outside the Box was a cultural social prescription* pilot project between Oxford Playhouse, University of Oxford Gardens Libraries and Museums (GLAM) and the Museum of Oxford.
- To develop a sustainable Cultural Social Prescribing Network in Oxford/ Oxfordshire built on shared values, objectives and communication channels;
- To support the sharing of knowledge and expertise between different sectors and stakeholders
- To build confidence in local cultural organisations and creative practitioners in delivering social prescribing activities
- To work with experts by lived experience to identify and co-design social prescriptions;
- To test co-produced cultural prescriptions with third sector/ health/ cultural organisations
- To identify and test evaluation methodologies led by researchers and third sector/ cultural organisations that evidence the health and wellbeing benefits of cultural social prescriptions of Cultural Prescriptions
- To collectively identify fundraising models for sustainable practice.
- To produce outputs (publications, toolkits, recommendations) that can be applied to practice within the cultural sector.
The project is generously funded by The Rothschild Foundation with support from Arts Council England.
Beth McDougall, Reconnect Project Manager / Community Engagement Officer (Older People), Gardens, Libraries and Museums, University of Oxford
Emma Webster, Research and Impacts Officer, Gardens, Libraries and Museums, University of Oxford
Helen Adams, Head of Audience Engagement and Support, Gardens, Libraries and Museums, University of Oxford
Dr Stephanie Tierney, Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford
Beth Sedgwick, Community Programme Manager, Oxford Playhouse
Anne Ferrey, Course Director / Senior Researcher, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford
Helen Shearn, consultant in arts, culture, health and wellbeing
Project publications and outputs will be made available here.
For more information or to join our Reconnect mailing list for professionals involved in social prescribing (privacy notice), email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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