Partnering with the Education Sector – Waltham Forest Adult Learning Service26 May 2021
Alison Pearson from Waltham Forest Adult Learning Service (WFALS) speaks about their experience of delivering social prescribing courses locally and shares one of their learners’ story.
Waltham Forest Adult Learning Service: Health and Wellbeing Programme
Waltham Forest Adult Learning Service, in partnership with Waltham Forest Social Prescribing, have set up a range of creative social prescribing courses around the borough in the last five years.
We’ve been fortunate to work with a range of partners in the borough. We have used beautiful green and blue spaces, including Walthamstow Wetlands, Lloyd Park and Epping Forest. Additionally, the courses enable learners to socialise with other people from a broad range of backgrounds.
Social prescribing is sometimes referred to as ‘community referral’. It is a means of enabling GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals to connect people to a range of local, non-clinical services.
Waltham Forest Social Prescribing Service; established in 2016, works collaboratively with many voluntary and statutory services like ours. By partnering with us, they have referred residents at their local GP to activities delivered by WFALS. Our flexible and supportive approach has also helped improve the mental well-being of these learners.
Since the project was launched in 2017, we have reached over 200 residents. Learners have attended courses for a five-week period, introducing them to crafts and activities. These have ranged from drawing and felt-making, to plant lovers’ walks and gardening. The beautiful surroundings were also integral to further enhancing their sense of well-being.
By delivering social prescribing courses, we meet our Council’s 5 ways to Wellbeing agenda; to Connect, Be Active, Learn, Take notice and Give. We also meet the Council’s Connecting Communities agenda in sustaining and enhancing the quality of life.
The Social Prescribing service values the collaboration and flexibility of the WFALS in developing courses for referrals. These referrals are supported by the WFALS as new learners and connect them to learning opportunities; improving their self-confidence and mental wellbeing.
The workshops aim to holistically improve health, wellbeing and social welfare. They encourage collaborative projects and the exploration of nature and wildlife for residents. Many learners had not visited some of the outdoor spaces within our borough. Many also suffer from anxiety and depression, are socially isolated or have a long-term illness. Others are carers, have dementia, other mental health conditions and/or reduced mobility.
Referrals also come from the NHS, Alzheimer’s Society, Waltham Forest Social Prescribing team, CGL team (Connect, Grow, Live), NELFT (North East London Foundation Trust), and Waltham Forest Vision. Local Area Coordinators both support learners and refer residents to our various courses.
Our broader range of community partners includes a number of black and minority ethnic communities, e.g. Arabic Speaking Women’s Society and the Afro Caribbean Elders Association. We also work with some housing associations and the local clinical commissioning group, via their substance misuse and recovery team.
Significantly, the socially prescribed courses have made a substantial difference to learner’s lives. It helps get them out of the house and socialise. They are also reintroduced into education, opening more doors for them.
Opportunities outside of social prescribing include:
- Volunteering in parks.
- Conversation clubs.
- Participating in our art exhibitions, craft fair and fashion show.
- Introducing residents to heritage sites and areas of beauty.
- Enabling and encouraging residents to try an accredited course at pre-entry or Level 1 and Level 2.
There’s been a broad range of participants of different backgrounds and age groups, with a range of varying needs. Feedback has been extremely positive, with most attendees claiming that the workshops have helped them feel more motivated.
Many residents have progressed onto a range of courses within Waltham Forest Adult Learning Service outside of their original referral. This includes gardening and community courses at heritage sites, libraries and accredited courses. Specifically, some of our learners have participated in the Annual Craft Fair and two learners have achieved a Level 1 qualification in Millinery.
As we are a community-responsive provider, we are able to respond to meet the individual needs of groups. Below is an example of someone who attended one of our courses via the Social Prescribing Service, and the benefits he gained.
Case study: Lloyd Fenton – Socially Prescribed learner
“I came from St Kitts, West Indies, to Hackney in London when I was nine years old. My father came here in the ’50s and then sent for my mother. There were six of us children altogether. I was a teacher specialising in Special Needs until I had a stroke and couldn’t go back to work. I was placed in shared accommodation because of my condition so that wardens could monitor my well-being.
They visited me and maintained contact by telephone. Being at home for six and a half years made me depressed and anxious and my GP recommended that I contact Social Prescribing. They referred me to a Creative Well-being course with Waltham Forest Adult Learning Service which was based at Walthamstow Wetlands.”
What impact has this course had on your life?
“I felt confident to progress on from this course and complete a buddy course which involved working with senior citizens. I also applied for work at Waltham Forest College and was successful in getting a job as a support assistant. What I have learnt on the course e.g. printing, drawing and a range of skills will help when I start to support the learners.”
What course did you progress onto after that?
“I also completed a Health and Wellbeing course for Social prescribers at Lloyd Park. This was based around the park with walks to look at the surrounding nature. I found the gardening course exciting, learning all about different trees and plants and how to help the environment.
You can take things for granted and not appreciate them, I now look at trees and nature and appreciate them more. I may consider joining the Volunteer gardening group in the park.”
What do you think you will do next?
“I have been given dates for the next Social Prescribing course that is being coordinated by Waltham Forest Adult Learning Service and hope to act as a ‘buddy’ and support for new learners on the course.”
Contact Waltham Forest Adult Learning Service
For more information about Waltham Forest Adult Learning Service, Health and Wellbeing programme, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8496 2974.
We’d like to hear from you!
The Social Prescribing Network is looking for more case studies like these. If you’re a small organisation filling an unfunded social prescribing gap, please contact us to get your voice heard by those with a key role in supporting the sustainability of social prescribing.