Over £170,000 of national funding has been awarded to the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK) Integrated Care System (ICS) as part of a pilot scheme.
The funding is set to further develop a social prescribing service for vulnerable children and young people in the area.
The pilot programme will provide up to 12 weeks of funded access for physical activity, social and creative groups, as well as specialist support for weight management, drug and alcohol use, smoking, mental health and homelessness.
Felicity Cox, Executive Lead for BLMK ICS, said: “This programme is a welcome boost for children, young people and families in BLMK. A significant number of children in our area live in poverty and the Covid-19 pandemic has had and continues to have a devastating impact on many people’s lives, with low-income families often the hardest hit.
“Children and young people have been amongst the most affected by the pandemic. It has often prevented normal social interaction and sometimes led to mental health concerns within families that has the potential to have a long and lasting legacy.
“We need to take action now to support our young people, so we can limit the impact of Covid, and help them to live long, healthy and happy lives.”
The pilot will be run by a team of Social Prescribing link workers who will be recruited to provide additional support to 300 children and young people in our area.
Sanhita Chakrabarti, Clinical Lead for the project said: “There are many aspects involved in improving health and wellbeing and many of them lie outside of traditional NHS services. Often people need to make healthy changes to their lives to help them improve their wellbeing and so this programme is a great start to allow us to help young people in our area improve their lives and health in the long-term.
“The programme is targeted at children and young people aged 11-18 that do not currently have access to physical, social or emotional support services. This could be because they are below the thresholds to be eligible for these services, or they have been put off by previous experiences. It also supports the ‘invisible’ young people that have difficulties which are not on the surface.
“By working with young people, listening to them and putting a bespoke package of care around them, we are able to support behaviour change and engage, motivate and empower the individual to make changes to their lifestyle and to access other support as needed.
“This social prescribing service is just what we need in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes and has the potential to really make a difference to the long-term health and lives of those accessing the programme.”