Throughout the pandemic, our Social Prescribing Link Workers have continued to support people – usually patients referred by their GP – with social or other non-medical issues. This is the latest in a series of blog posts highlighting their work; you can read more Link Worker case studies here.
The job of the Link Workers is to help people make connections: to help them navigate the city’s statutory services, to put them in touch with specialist advice and support, and to suggest groups and other activities that might help them improve their health and wellbeing. If a Link Worker can’t help, they will know someone who can!
Osman (not his real name), a Kurdish man living in Birmingham, knew what he needed – but had so far been unable to navigate the system, or even communicate his needs to his GP fully, due to the language barrier.
Creating confidence and connections: Osman’s story
“Osman” was referred to the Social Prescribing service by his GP surgery. However, although he had multiple needs, he doesn’t speak English, so wasn’t able to communicate them in detail.
He was allocated to Sadaf (pictured), a Link Worker based in Small Heath. The first thing Sadaf did was to contact a local interpreting agency that specialises in patient liaison.
During a three-way call with Sadaf, Osman and a Kurdish interpreter, Osman told Sadaf he had three main issues.
Firstly, problems with his physical health mean that Osman has difficulty with steps and using the bathroom at home. He asked how to access equipment to help him get around the house. This was clearly Osman’s most urgent issue. He said that his physical problems affect his mental health, which impacts his day-to-day life, and described feeling stripped of his independence.
Sadaf explained that Osman would need to be assessed by the Council’s Occupational Therapy department to find out if he was eligible for equipment. For this to happen, he would need to be referred, and he readily agreed to this.
Next, he said he was struggling to keep up gas and electricity payments. He told Sadaf he would like to change to a pre-paid meter but, because of the language barrier, he felt unable to call the utilities company to arrange it. This, too, was causing him a lot of concern.
Sadaf assured Osman that all the utilities companies have interpreters, and that they would be pleased to help him. He was reassured and said he felt a lot more confident about calling them.
Finally, Osman said he wanted to find a solicitor to help him with a medical negligence case. He reiterated that his physical health was at the core of his problems, and explained that it had deteriorated during a hospital admission. He felt he had not been medicated correctly during his stay, and that this had left him immobile. PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service) had recommended seeking legal advice, but he had been unable to find a solicitor himself.
Sadaf explained that Link Workers cannot give legal advice or recommendations, but said she would try and connect him to a Kurdish community service that can.
After the phonecall, Sadaf made the referral to Occupational Therapy, and then began the search for more specific help. However, after hours of online research and phonecalls, she found that support for the Kurdish community in Birmingham is limited. Instead, a Community Connector at Family Action, which works with hundreds of groups and services, said they would work with Osman in the longer term to arrange further support that would help with his claim.
Occupational Therapy have since contacted Osman and, although his referral has been received, there is a backlog due to the pandemic. He will be assessed, but it could take a while.
Despite the setbacks, Osman has told Sadaf he is already feeling happier because someone reached out to him and offered to work through issues together. Although he understands that it will be a lengthy process, and that this is just the start of his journey, the reassurance and guidance that Sadaf was able to give him has already helped a lot.