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Case study: Social prescribing

Our social prescribing link workers provide intensive social, emotional and practical support to help people with learning disabilities make positive changes to their lives and improve their health and wellbeing.

About Gemma*

Gemma has learning disabilities and mental health problems and lives alone with her teenage son. Our relationship with Gemma began when a friend brought her along to one of our South Tyneside drop ins.

A Your Voice Counts social prescribing link worker has worked with Gemma on a one-to-one basis for over 20 months, developing a relationship of trust to understand what matters to Gemma, develop her skills and confidence and connect her with others so she can have more control and choices in all areas of her life.

Health and wellbeing

Working with Gemma closely, we explored Gemma’s needs and lived experience to identify her priorities and help her plan the improvements she wanted to make in her life. We worked with her to recognise and seek help for low mood when needed, and show her how she could benefit from taking part in group sessions and activities designed for people with learning disabilities. Gemma is now a regular member of our cooking with confidence, exercise and walking groups, helping her to learn important life skills, improve her physical and mental health and build friendship networks.

Family support We have supported Gemma as a mum, liaising with police and other agencies to manage non-contact orders with her son’s father. We’ve also referred her son into a local young carer’s group, providing invaluable support to him and reassurance to Gemma that her son’s needs are being met.

School policies and procedures can be difficult to navigate, so we have provided practical advice to help Gemma apply for school places and helped her to have conversations with school to raise concerns about bullying and understand plans in place for her son’s educational needs. We also provided support to manage homeschooling and online learning when needed.

Welfare rights and employment Through our partnership with Wise Steps, Gemma received support from a job coach who carried out an assessment of Gemma’s work-related skills for a PIP tribunal and encouraged her to pursue a claim which resulted in substantial backdated payments. Building on this relationship, Gemma joined an employability programme which has motivated her to explore voluntary roles and employment opportunities relevant to her skills.

Coping during Covid

We called Gemma daily during lockdowns to reduce the risk of her feeling isolated and provide practical and emotional support to cope with the unfamiliar circumstances. Initially Gemma had no internet access at home, so we provided a device and helped her arrange WiFi so she could stay connected online. We provided training tailored to her needs to increase her IT skills so she could take part in our online group sessions while also accessing practical services such as online banking. We provided activity packs for her and her son and even helped Gemma to host an online birthday celebration for her son during lockdown, an important part of developing Gemma’s confidence and self-esteem as a mother.

Working with our partners

Where appropriate we helped Gemma to access other sources of advice and support to ensure all of her needs are met, including:

  • Encouraging her to widen her friendship networks by helping her to meet others and attend meetings outside of Your Voice Counts activities

  • Signposting her to foodbanks when needed

  • Helping her to join IT and self-care training courses delivered by our partners

  • Liaising with housing and police around neighbour disputes, managing her garden and exploring future housing options open to her.

Making a difference to Gemma

Gemma’s link worker said:

“I’m extremely proud of how far Gemma has come and how much progress she has made over the 20 months I’ve known her. When we first met, she was very shy and timid and now she is happy to try most things at least once and has made so many friends. Her confidence has grown so much it is inspiring. I thoroughly believe that her and her son’s lives have changed for the better.”

Gemma said:

*Names have been changed


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