The Housing Executive has teamed up with SPRING Social Prescribing to support vulnerable tenants with their health and wellbeing. Launched early this year, the Social Prescribing project is being piloted in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area.
Over £25,000 has been invested by the Housing Executive as part of the organisation’s homeless prevention work.
Already, over 50 local tenants have been helped via the programme, made all the more important as vital assistance was provided during the COVID-19 lockdown.
SPRING Social Prescribing is a community-led health initiative helping people improve their health and well-being by connecting them to sources of support within the community.
Oonagh Quigg is a Social Prescriber at the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum. She said:
“I work with the Housing Executive to connect tenants to services in the community. I help people suffering from depression, anxiety, loneliness, chronic pain and other health and social issues to access the help and services they need to improve their health and wellbeing.
“I help people overcome feelings of loneliness and isolation, helping them with gardening projects, isolations packs, support calls, deliveries, counselling referrals and enabling them to access to online classes. SPRING Social Prescribing has also provided tenants with tablets and Wi-Fi to ensure they stay connected to services and supports,” added Oonagh.
Mary Nortonen, a Housing Executive tenant in the Brookdale area of the City, says the support she has received throughout lockdown has been invaluable:
“The Social Prescribing Project has been more than helpful. Support was there for me when I got out of hospital.
“During lockdown there was weekly telephone support, isolation packs, help with meals and assistance with food parcels through the local community response team.
“Oonagh encouraged me to go out when restrictions lifted and has helped me with a device to help me access courses online."
Philip Kincaid, from the Fountain area in Derry, was also referred to SPRING Social Prescribing through the Housing Executive scheme. He said:
"I’ve received a lot of support from Oonagh and Spring Social Prescribing Project.
“I attend a weekly walking group which I get great benefit from - Oonagh also keeps me informed of other programmes that are running too."
The scheme will provide access to support services for Housing Executive tenants, with the overall aim of encouraging clients to take ownership of their health and wellbeing.
Caroline Connor, Assistant Director in the Housing Executive’s Housing Services, is pleased at the impact this scheme has made. She said:
“Social Prescribing has been a welcome boost for our tenants in the Derry City and Strabane council area, especially during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a landlord, we recognise that many different services help tenants maintain their tenancies and enable them to enjoy their homes.
“SPRING Social Prescribing supports vulnerable tenants, helping them to be aware of their personal situation and avoid unnecessary stressful situations that could impact their health or their home.”
Spring Social Prescribing, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, is available to anyone who is 18 years or over. A GP or primary health care provider can refer a client to Social Prescribing.
Spring Social Prescribers then meet with the service user and support them on their journey to better health. This can include exercise classes, meditation, counselling, cycling or walking clubs, with an overall aim of improving health and wellbeing, increasing engagement in the community and reducing pressure on the health service.
Entering its third year in operation, the Spring Social Prescribing Project operates across Northern Ireland and Scotland. A total of 24 Social Prescribers work in socially deprived areas in Northern Ireland.
Already, hundreds of people across Northern Ireland have been helped to better health, participating in exercise classes, nature walks, men’s sheds, social cafes, counselling or other supports which have helped them improve their overall well-being and to reduce social isolation.
To find out more about social prescribing log on to www.springsp.org.