Barnardo’s calls for national social prescribing strategy

social prescribing

The children’s charity Barnardo’s has called for the introduction of a national strategy for social prescribing to help tackle the spiralling youth mental health crisis in the UK. It says that – with adequate funding – social prescribing “could make a real difference to the mental health of children and young people” as part of a range of sustainable options to suit a person’s specific needs. NHS statistics published late last year suggested that one in four 17- to 19-year-olds in England had a probable mental disorder in 2022. Meanwhile, recently released figures from the mental health charity Mind indicate the scale of the current emergency in mental health care, with healthcare staff reporting a serious incident once every half an hour.

Social prescribing is a non-clinical treatment option which connects children with mild but complex mental health issues to help. The new Barnardo’s report – The Missing Link – Social Prescribing for Children and Young People – highlights the need for social prescribing services on a national scale to help children and young people with their mental health by nurturing self-confidence and developing a sense of belonging.

The Barnardo’s report suggests that every £1 spent on social prescribing delivers long-term benefits of around £1.80 through the positive impact it can have on mental health. This in turn reduces the strain on and expense of existing mental health services.

The report also found that, as local authority budgets have been slashed, many services for children and young people have been cut, leaving them with nowhere to go to help combat issues such as isolation, anxiety and self-confidence. Barnardo’s is calling for local organisations, including voluntary, community and faith groups, to be properly funded by local authorities and relevant agencies, to provide youth services which can be referred to as part of a social prescription.

Children and young people are having to wait for months – even years, in many cases – to get the help and support they need when they are struggling with their mental health. Their condition often just intensifies whilst their names sit on long waiting lists. Social prescribing connects children with community-based activities like walking outside and developing creative skills, which can help improve wellbeing and stop things escalating.

We know through our own frontline work that for a group of children and young people who are struggling, this can really help to turn their lives around, and means they don’t go on to need clinical NHS services. That’s why we’re calling on the government to put the backbones of funding and infrastructure in place to ensure social prescribing is available to all children and young people who need it throughout the country.

Lynn Perry MBE, CEO of Barnardo’s

NHS Digital reported in November 2022 that one in four 17- to 19-year-olds in England had a probable mental disorder in 2022, up from one in six in 2021.

The mental health charity Mind published figures on World Mental Health Day in October showing that mental healthcare staff across England reported an incident two times every hour in the last year, where people were treated for issues including self-harm, eating disorders and psychosis.

The NHS describes social prescribing as a key component of universal personalised care, the central concept underpinning its current Long Term Plan. Here at Life-Based learning, we have previously highlighted the practice of social prescribing as an example of the role, value and importance of community in modern life.

The National Academy for Social Prescribing is a UK organisation dedicated to using the power of community to promote health and wellbeing at a national and local level.

We work to create partnerships, across the arts, health, sports, leisure, and the natural environment, alongside other aspects of our lives, to promote health and wellbeing at a national and local level. We will champion social prescribing and the work of local communities in connecting people for wellbeing.

from the website of the National Academy for Social Prescribing

Life-Based Learning is focused on reimagining education and development for children and young people. We need to be thinking and planning long-term – starting with the education we are offering our children. Physical activity and wellbeing. Mental health. Cognitive health. Community cohesion. The environment and sustainability. All of these are important priorities for the coming years and decades. They are central to LBL, an approach to education and development for children and young people in which the life challenges that we face – now and in the future – become the focus of a fully rounded, life-based approach to learning.

Image at the head of this article is from a Barnardo’s webpage about social prescribing.

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