Social Prescribing case study: “I just want to know my son is OK”

This is the second blog post in a series highlighting some of the real life cases our Social Prescribing Link Workers have worked on since they started in February.

You can read the first one, about Wayne and his patient ‘Linda’, here: Social Prescribing case study: “Help me to sort this out!”

“I just want to know my son is OK”: Chloe’s story

Becky, Link Worker

Chloe* was referred to Link Worker Becky (pictured, right) by her GP, who reported that Chloe was struggling with her mental health and a lack of routine.

When Becky contacted Chloe a few days later, it was obvious why. She said, “my baby son has been taken into care and is being adopted. I haven’t seen him for months. I just want to know if he’s OK but I’ve called and the social worker isn’t answering.”

At first, Becky simply listened.

In supported housing because of her learning difficulties and mental health needs, Chloe also told Becky she was unhappy sharing a house with people who, she felt, didn’t care about her son. She had previously lived with her son’s dad but now they were in separate houses and, because of Covid-19, they couldn’t see each other. She felt sad and isolated.

Having established that finding out about the baby was Chloe’s priority, Becky offered to call the social worker, and the next day was able to reassure her that her son was doing well. She explained that she would be sent a “settling in” letter, and helped her understand that, although she couldn’t see him, she would be able to write a letter to him every year.

Giving Chloe the space to talk about her son was vital. They discussed writing letters, or keeping a journal, and Becky has suggested setting aside a time each week to think about him and express her feelings. She’s reassured Chloe that what she’s going through is a very significant and difficult thing, and put her in touch with Karis Neighbourhood Scheme’s Listening and Guidance Service, which supports people going through loss.

Chloe really wants to move house, so Becky contacted her support worker, who told her that Chloe is in arrears and on a very low level of benefit. Clearly, budgeting isn’t easy –Chloe had already run out of food for the month – so Becky put her in touch with Ladywood Money Advice to find out if she’s on the right benefits, and what her housing options are. In the meantime, she also arranged for a one-off food parcel to be delivered.

Becky also pointed Chloe to an online social prescribing art group, which has turned out to be beneficial to both of them. Becky says, “it’s great because she enjoys the activities and it’s something for us to talk about. But the group leader has also shared a lot of Housing Association knowledge with us. We can communicate about Chloe and keep her GP in the loop too. It’s a great network.”

Chloe continues to lead her own support, but Becky expects she’ll help her with housing, budgeting support, and perhaps finding some volunteer work over the next few weeks. In the long term, she hopes Chloe will be able to make sense of the loss of her son.

Becky says, “when someone has multiple issues, it’s natural to want to do everything at once, but it’s important to focus on a person’s priorities. It’s not about rushing in with a magic wand or a sledge hammer. As Link Workers, we are able to spend time getting to know someone, understanding their needs and supporting them one step at a time.”

*Chloe’s name has been changed

Social Prescribing Link Workers and lockdown

Some of the Social Prescribing Link Workers team, pictured in February

Based at GP practices, Link Workers take referrals directly from GPs and other practice staff for Social Prescribing: offering one-to-one “whole person” support for non-medical and social issues, and helping people to access local activities and services.

We started putting together our Birmingham Social Prescribing Link Workers team in February; however, they had only been working with their local surgeries for a few weeks when Covid-19 hit and the country went into lockdown.

As more and more people started to need help, the referrals came flooding in and our Link Workers went into overdrive. As well as continuing to build relationships with their local GPs and care staff, they also continued to build their networks of local organisations and agencies, including making contact with the hundreds of new volunteer organisations and foodbanks that were popping up. And of course they were still getting to know each other as a team, albeit remotely. All work was done via video and phone calls, with occasional visits to foodbanks, shops and pharmacies to help patients out.

It has been tough, but they have done (and continue to do!) a tremendous job. In the five months they have been in their roles, our Social Prescribing Link Workers have already supported more than 400 people.

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