15 September, 2022

Unlocking the potential of social prescribing

How can a social prescribing program successfully improve the health and wellbeing of residents, and lead to improved tenancy sustainment for housing associations?

Mental health and personal finances are intrinsically linked. For social housing residents, rising costs, specifically those for their home could lead to poor mental health. This means that supporting residents’ mental health and wellbeing is not only moral but has a positive business benefit through tenancy sustainment. In parallel, the NHS and local government services are under constant strain, so there is scope and need for housing providers to act.

Social Prescribing has successfully been used across the country for the older population, initially provided predominantly through Primary Care Networks. However, many housing associations have now developed their own social prescribing programmes which can be more readily delivered due to their direct and frequent access to those people that need this service the most. This expanded provision has been shown to support positive health and wellbeing outcomes for individuals as well as enhance community development.

HACT works with housing associations to evaluate their social prescribing programme, working collaboratively towards achieving such things as:

  1. Independently evaluating social prescribing services to empirically quantify the impact on service users.
  2. Maximising the learnings from an evaluation to ensure a robust service design, embedding a durable culture of continuous improvement.
  3. Providing evidence to local health partners of collaborative investment and partnership working.
  4. Optimising data collection and delivery with recommendations for the future.


The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS)  is used to analyse changes in service users’ well-being. WEMWB scales were developed to measure mental wellbeing in the general population. The questions used in WEMWBS are all worded positively and cover both feeling and functioning aspects of mental well-being, thereby making the concept more accessible. Repeated use of the scale helps service providers to investigate the mental well-being of an individual throughout different stages of their engagement with a social prescribing programme. HACT can then analyse anonymised group data to look at what this means at a more comprehensive service level.

What is the outcome of a successful social prescribing programme?

Throughout our projects, HACT has found housing association-run social prescribing services to be extremely effective and accessible for a large variety of residents over and above the 55+ age group. Youth and younger adults, people living with disabilities and members of BAME communities can all benefit from engaging with social prescribing services that are designed to meet their specific needs. Importantly, for anybody engaging with social prescribing, the benefit reaches far beyond that experienced by the service user. Service user interviews have revealed that the wider family unit is greatly and positively impacted by the physical and mental improvements a social prescribing service can deliver.

The benefits of a broad and inclusive social prescribing service span widely from the housing association to the health sector and, most importantly, to the resident. Whilst social housing residents suffer disproportionately from poor mental and physical health; housing associations have a unique opportunity to provide advice and support holistically.

Get in touch

To learn more about how HACT can help you evaluate or develop a successful social prescribing programme, contact HACT Health & Research Lead Sarah Parsons

Contact Sarah