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Gina 22 February 2022

Peer support and social prescribing – a match made in heaven

Social prescriber Gina believes we need to be able to talk about death and dying, and be able to write down our wishes, regardless of what they are
Peer support Guest post

As a Social Prescriber, no day is the same. We are essentially ‘link workers’ connecting people to local services, agencies, groups and organisations to support their practical and emotional needs.

For some people with a new diagnosis or a long term condition, it can be overwhelming at times to know where to start, and this is where we can slot in and help them navigate services and coordinate their support.

There are a few people that require a more hands-on approach. These people need additional support to rebuild their confidence, knowledge, and independence to take that first step in reaching out and engaging in the services. At times like these, our role does cross-over to more intensive support with elements akin to that of a counsellor. We provide that listening ear, an advocate representing and speaking on their behalf, and a caseworker.

How peer support fits in

The role of the Peer Navigator from the charity Compassion in Dying has complemented the social prescribing service really well. It ties in similar support that focuses on the needs of the individual facing a chronic condition or new diagnosis. The service is embedded in peer support, speaking to someone who has themselves faced medical issues and navigated health care issues.

More specifically, in helping the individual come to terms with their new diagnosis, or face discussions and decisions for next steps that may be very delicate to go about alone, whilst simultaneously learning how to better understand and live with a life-changing condition.

The Peer Navigator service has played an intricate part to our work as Social Prescribers, providing a compassionate listening ear, and utilising one’s own experience to strive towards improving people’s wellbeing.

I’ve found the Peer Navigator service provides the bridge to practical and clinical support, intertwining a wealth of knowledge of long-term conditions and practical planning.

For example:

The service provides a holistic, long-term approach to support, a gap found in numerous services.

It gives people the help they need along the way, either in the short term while on a waiting list for another service, or more long-term support. This is where it particularly helps me, as I don’t always have time within my role to provide the in-depth one-to-one support people need.

And what’s so helpful is that it’s really easy to refer people to the service. I either send a quick email or if I have time fill in the referral form, and they are always so quick to respond.

People who benefit most

The service supports individuals of all levels, but particularly those who feel isolated because of their new diagnosis, with added difficulty of communicating with those close to them for fear of upsetting them.

The service utilises a person-centred approach, and holds a lot of value in providing wellbeing support through building a good rapport with individuals over time.

It does this in a way that makes the individual feel listened to and supported along the way, without the worry of the support ending suddenly — as many other services can.

The structure of the support is flexible, and allows availability to be arranged at short notice, for example, prior to an appointment or assessment to help best prepare the individual as to what to expect.

The value of the Peer Navigator service is cemented within the individual and what is important to them, as well as working with other services within the local community in harmony, which creates a fundamental long-term service.

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