Three West Yorkshire-based charities have received nearly £50,000 from the Thriving Communities Fund to help people engage more with arts, nature and sporting activities, with a view to supporting health and wellbeing.

Arts and social change organisation, Space2, will work with the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation and Feel Good Factor, plus a range of community partners across the City, on a ‘social prescribing programme’ to deliver activities which tackle social isolation, improve wellbeing - and specifically support the communities of Chapeltown, Gipton and Harehills in Leeds.

Space2 has also been invited to give a presentation to the Leeds Arts, Health and Wellbeing Meeting on 20th May.

Social prescribing is a way for Primary Health Care and other local organisations to refer members of the public to activities which might help and support their physical and mental wellbeing. Local Wellbeing Co-ordinators are trained to talk to people, focusing on 'what matters to me' and taking a holistic approach to people's health and wellbeing. They then connect people to community groups and other local services for practical and emotional support and engagement – promoting a non-medicalised route to wellbeing, where appropriate, and freeing up valuable GP resources and time.

Joint CEO of Space2, Emma Tregidden, said: “The impact of COVID-19 on mental health has been massive and this funding will allow us to offer activities which meet the needs of our local communities and help to improve health and wellbeing.

“It will increase engagement in a range of activities in some of the poorest areas of the City where we know that residents are economically and socially disadvantaged, and have had the highest impact from the pandemic.”

As part of the Thriving Communities project multiple Leeds-based partners will offer a range of activities including:

  • culturally diverse dance classes with Balbir Singh Dance Company
  • a peer-led poetry collective, called Clear Out Your Closet, for people with lived experience of mental health, supported by performance poet Michelle Scally Clarke.
  • walking cricket, a walking club, multi-sports, active families and sporting reminiscence sessions, guided stadium tours and match day volunteering opportunities with Yorkshire Cricket Foundation.
  • walk leader training; walking groups; community based exercise classes and yoga as well as community garden projects and money management with Feel Good Factor
  • training for six social prescribing Wellbeing Coordinators, led by Art Doctors, to develop their understanding of the impact of arts and creativity on mental health and wellbeing.
  • tours of the Thackray Museum of Medicine including sharing artefacts to inspire creative activity and co-curating and hosting a final exhibition showcasing the work of all partners throughout the year. The museum will also be hosting the training for Wellbeing Co-ordinators, led by Art Doctors.
  • Deaf and Visual Impairment Awareness training and peer-led support group sessions delivered by BID Leeds Hearing and Sight Loss Service.
  • conservation activities and volunteering opportunities offered by Active Leeds Nature, a Green Prescribing scheme led by The Conservation Volunteers, alongside other green organisations in the City.
  • bushcraft and woodwork for isolated and vulnerable men, plus volunteering opportunities, conservation sessions and health walks for all participants delivered by The Friends of Gledhow Valley Woods
  • physical activity, cooking and a women’s group to support individuals dealing with social isolation, poor housing and domestic violence, delivered by Give a Gift, an organisation which works with refugees and asylum seekers

The strategic partners working on the Thriving Communities project include The Thackray Medical Museum, which will host a final cross-sector event and six month exhibition; Leeds Arts Health and Wellbeing Network; Arts Together; Leeds Conservation Volunteers; NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group; the Primary Care Networks; Adult Social Care and Active Leeds; Forum Central, including Older People’s Forum, and three Local Care Partnerships in East and North East Leeds. All of the partners involved are committed to working in partnership and embedding social prescribing in Leeds to secure a sustainable way forward.

Sue Wilkinson, Pathway Integration Manager at NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group and Anna Quinn-Martin at Linking Leeds, who have worked in partnership to support the project, said: “This project will help to increase social connectedness, supporting communities who face the biggest barriers to accessing activities and wellbeing support. We are delighted to be able to enhance social prescribing opportunities in Leeds and better understand the assets in our local communities by working with these innovative organisations”

One of the keys to the success of the Thriving Communities project in Leeds will be the use of specially trained Wellbeing Co-ordinators who can talk to people in the community and link them up with appropriate activities. The Art Doctors will work with six social prescribing Wellbeing Coordinators in Leeds to develop their understanding of the impact of arts, creativity, nature and movement-based activities on mental health and wellbeing. Their journeys will be filmed so that their learning can be shared later in the year.

James Sanderson, Chief Executive of the National Academy for Social Prescribing said: “The last year has shown how important social prescribing is in helping people to stay connected, feel supported and to maintain their wellbeing.

“We began our ambitious agenda to support people, like those living in Leeds, to live the best life they can by accessing support in their local communities based on what matters to them.

“We are so pleased to support, and encourage, this project through the Thriving Communities Fund, to deliver everything from dance to cricket, poetry to conservation, and more.”

Thriving Communities funding is delivered in a unique partnership between the National Academy for Social Prescribing, Arts Council England, Historic England and Natural England, NHS England and Improvement, Sport England, the Money and Pensions Service, and NHS Charities Together, and is part of the Thriving Communities Programme.