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Health and Wellbeing Community Referral 

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The FRC Mental Health Promotion Project is the lead and support organisation for 10 Health & Wellbeing Community Referral Sites within Family Resource Centres across Cork and Kerry in partnership with Cork/Kerry HSE Health and Wellbeing. 

What is Health & Wellbeing Community Referral or Social Prescribing? 

According to the WHO, the growing global issue of declining mental health and the negative societal and economic impacts of diminished mental health on all societies has brought attention to the urgent need for a comprehensive, coordinated response from all health and social sectors across the country at a local level.

Social prescribing is just one response in Irelands' collective response to addressing poor mental health and wellbeing.  As an emerging area of practice in mental health promotion, prevention, and primary care provision, social prescribing enables healthcare and other professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services primarily provided by the voluntary and community sector.

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In 2018, an All-Ireland Social Prescribing Network was established to champion social prescribing to be valued, understood, and sustained across Ireland.  The network includes representatives from the health service, academia, and the community and voluntary sector North and South of the island of Ireland. 

Subsequently, the expansion of social prescribing in Ireland became a key component of the 2021 Programme for Government and is an action in many recent strategies and policies, including the HSE Mental Health Promotion Plan 2022–2027, Sharing the Vision 2020-2030, the Sláintecare Implementation Strategy and Action Plan 2021-2023, the Healthy Ireland Action Plan 2021-2025.

This service seeks to address the problems of social isolation, anxiety, loneliness, and inactivity, which negatively affect health and wellbeing.  While these issues can particularly impact older age groups, they can also affect those who endure chronic health problems, people with mental health difficulties and psychosocial needs, the bereaved, carers, single parents, migrants and immigrants and people from ethnic minorities or disadvantaged backgrounds.  Social prescribing aspires to address societal needs holistically, using a resource-based approach to empower participants to improve their health and wellbeing.

The Health and Wellbeing, Community Referral Programme supports individuals through face-to-face conversations with a Social Prescribing Link Worker. Through these conversations, individuals can learn about local opportunities to improve their health and wellbeing and design personalised solutions that fit their needs, abilities, and situations. This approach empowers people with social, emotional, or practical needs to find realistic solutions with the support of a Link Worker.

Most social prescribing services in Ireland are open to adults over the age of 18.  As social prescribing evolves, there is an increasing interest in including social prescribing in a support framework for children and families.  

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