Learning Disability Today
Blue Sky Offices Shoreham
25 Cecil Pashley Way
T: 01273 434943
A new report has revealed how social prescribing can benefit autistic people and people with learning disabilities, and provides guidance for link workers and social prescribing services, people and their supporters, community groups, and commissioners and funders.
The report, Building Bridges – Social Prescribing with people with learning disabilities and autistic people, found that social prescribing has the potential to reduce health inequalities and build social capital by connecting people to community groups, and support services in their area, to help with both mental and physical wellbeing.
The research was conducted by the Valuing People Alliance – a group made up of six organisations – Learning Disability England, BILD, NDTi, VODG, Paradigm, Respond and the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities.
The report found that very little research has been conducted about people with a learning disability or autistic people and their experiences of social prescribing.
To fill this knowledge gap, the Alliance conducted two surveys: one for link workers and social prescribing services and another for people with lived experience and their families or supporters.
The Alliance also spoke to 25 people with different roles and experiences on a one to one basis or in small groups. This included three people with lived experience, three people who manage or run social prescribing link working services, three people from NHS England involved in social prescribing, six people from community groups, seven link workers and three people doing research about social prescribing.
The researchers analysed the data from the surveys and the interviews they conducted, and concluded that there are many positive aspects to social prescribing, and many things that worked well for both staff and those who use the service. This includes:
As well as these positive aspects, there were some challenges faced by both staff and individuals using the service. This includes:
With these challenges and benefits in mind, the Valuing People Alliance has created guidance for link workers and social prescribing services, for people and their supporters, for community groups, and for commissioners and funders.
It advises link workers to work flexibly within their boundaries, to engage with families, to use strengths-based approaches, to spend time with community groups and to explore mainstream and specialist groups and activities or services for people.
People with learning disabilities and autistic people are advised to engage with their link workers and tell them what activities they would love to do or are interested in, ask to keep things local and get support to attend new activities if possible.
Community groups should create buddy schemes, be brave and welcoming, ask as much about the person as possible and apply for local grants to reasonable adjustments can be made.
Commissioners and funders should make grants available for community groups, commission link workers with experience in learning disability or autism, use annual health checks as an opportunity to discuss social prescribing and tell families and carers about social prescribing.
The full guidance can be found here.