Social Prescribing in Ireland
The Report tracks the development of Social Prescribing in Ireland and notes that "Social prescribing has significant policy mandate in Ireland and .....started in Ireland as a ground up movement in partnership between the health service and community voluntary sector. Social prescribing services are now available in over 30 locations, including acute hospital settings". Programme for Government : Our Shared Future commits to expanding "social prescribing where patients are referred to non-clinical activities, as a means of positively influencing mental wellbeing" and Sharing the Vision: A Mental Health Policy for Everyone states that "Social prescribing should be promoted nationally as an effective means of linking those with mental health difficulties to community-based supports and interventions, including those available through local Voluntary and Community Sector supports and services".
The Sláintecare Implementation Strategy and Action Plan (2021 – 2023) lists social prescribing as part of its plan to implement the Health Service Capacity Review and the Healthy Ireland Action Plan (2021 – 2025) commits to launching a Social Prescribing Policy which will see patients referred to non-clinical activities, as a way of positively influencing mental health and wellbeing.
In 2017, the All-Ireland Social Prescribing Network was established with the purpose of championing social prescribing “so that it is valued and understood across the island of Ireland”. The network includes representatives from the health service, academia and the community and voluntary sector on the Island of Ireland. In their All-Ireland Social Prescribing Conference 2022 Report, they note the need for appropriate long term funding and career paths in order to retain highly skilled staff and that referrals could possibly come from sources other than primary care, social housing providers, for example.
They identified numerous challenges to social prescribing in rural areas across Ireland such as limited access to transport links, lack of internet access, the continued stigma relating to accessing supports for mental health and wellbeing, caring commitments amongst others. If communities across the country are to be supported in addressing and meeting health needs, these other factors must be resourced.