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I Love My Job

It’s really varied, social prescribing. In the course of our conversations, things come out, people seem to instinctively trust us. I have helped a lady, she's divorced and she wanted to change back to her maiden name, she didn't know how to go about it. So I looked into it, showed her the different ways it could be done, the sort of forms that she would need. I printed off a load of them and had them posted out to her. So she could just go to her bank and whoever and put that in progress. So it’s bizarre stuff that I don't think anyone would ever get referred for. But in the course of our conversations these things come up. And then there’s usual stuff, linking people into social things, and benefits checks and all of that are our sort of bread and butter. 

 

At any one time, I usually have between 25 and 40 open cases. Since 2019 I’ve worked with around 350 people, and we've got a few repeat ones. From the start, our main point of contact has been a really strong relationship with Woodlands Surgery. They've been really open, really on board. Everyone's very welcoming. I go into Oak Tree and the Didcot Health Centre as well. We asked the staff, ‘How many of you have heard of social prescribing and know what we are?’ and virtually nobody did. So now we’ve explained some of the things we can help with, we're hoping that they will be able to refer. So we've been welcomed in the surgeries in different ways.  

 

I felt a lot of pressure at the very beginning, I was really impressed by this really important work. I felt almost like the new kid at school. But now, doing this work, it's given me more confidence. I feel more able to have difficult conversations with people, in my personal and work life. I'm more open, I’m more direct. Because, you know, if something needs to be sorted, it needs to be sorted. If you're going to kind of play around the edges, you're not going to get to the whole problem. I think people appreciate being asked, because sometimes it's really hard, isn't it, to actually come out with what's bothering you. It's really hard to start that conversation yourself. So I'm more direct. It's just become a habit now. It's better, being able to just be open. Rather than letting things fester. I get better results with my work. It has kind of fed into my personal life as well. And the more you do it, you know, the more you realise it is okay, you can do this. You’re not gonna break anybody by asking questions, as long as you do it sensitively. 

 

The clients can respond quite well to that. And to being told what to do, in a nice way. I think that's also part of the confidence in my role. I'm not just gonna give people leaflets and let them get on with it. I'm going to really encourage them to do whatever it takes. When you have to be a bit more assertive I quite like it. Because I feel that actually, this is possibly the way through. I would never do it to somebody who wasn't ready. And it's done in a nice way. But I would feel I was letting people down if I wasn't pushing them as far as I felt they could be pushed. They have accepted referrals for a reason. They want to change. So if I have to encourage them to do that, then that's part of it, isn’t it? Quite often you'll give people information and support them, and talk through their options, and find out what they would like to do. And at the end of it, they don't do anything with it, they're not ready. But that's their choice. And they know they can come back to me if they need to, but I'm not going to kind of flog a dead horse at that point, and feel I've let them down, because I know I haven't. They have to take certain steps themselves. So, I've got more of a sense of perspective. I don't feel like I used to, that sense of having to fix people. They've been referred, they've got this problem, I need to sort that for them. But I'm not here to fix their lives, I can't fix everything for them. I can fix certain things that will relieve the pressure in other areas.  

 

My first case as a link worker was right at the end of 2019. So it was just before Christmas, and obviously just before lockdown, which made things interesting. Poor woman had so much on. Her husband had a brain condition that was eventually going to kill him. And they have a young son who was having a lot of difficulty with his mental health. I just really felt for her. And in practical terms there wasn't very much I could do, but I was an emotional support. I feel that emotional worry less now. I can shelve it a lot easier. But I still have to stand back now and again, and remind myself, ‘Look, you can't do everything for this person. You can only do what you can do.’ 

 

Also you can look beyond what they have been referred for. So maybe going into a social group isn't the sort of thing that would help them, but doing voluntary work is. So it's not just about sitting with the same old options that you might offer people time and again. It's really trying to look at, from what they tell me about their lives, what could help. It's not just ticking boxes, you know – social clubs offered, benefit check done, close case. Also, the more networking we do, the more people we meet, and get to know in other organisations, you just become more confident in making those connections and asking for things. We want to set up a gardening club, and we want it to be a social hub, and an information exchange. But we don't want to do it ourselves. It's not going to be an Age UK thing. It's gonna be something we can support with, and dip into and use as a resource, but I'm not running it. And I have more confidence now to ask somebody to do that than I used to. I was talking to a lady from the council the other day. You don't ask you don't get, you know. I find it easier to fight somebody else's corner than my own. If somebody's got a need, and I know the person who is able to help with that, I have no problem asking them to see what they can do. And if you don’t get the results you want, there's always gonna be somewhere else, you can try another avenue. So each time you succeed, or something goes right, or somebody opens up to you in a way you weren't expecting, it's like learning to walk – the more you practise it, the better you get. 

 

The clients, it takes that pressure off them – someone else has got their back, is gonna do the hard work for them. Just knowing that is a big thing for people. Because I think even if they don't come back to me, they know they can, and that's enough to give them a feeling that ‘I can get through this day. Let's just see if I can sort this out myself.’ They don't necessarily have to ask me. That’s the beauty of social prescribing if it's done properly. I just love being able to do this job. I've never been somebody who would want to put on a suit and go and work and make money for other people. It just leaves me cold. I love fixing people's problems. You know, you've got people who are absolutely desperate. I got one email that said, ‘There's no one else I can talk to who won't judge me.’ Just being that person for somebody is huge, isn't it? Because we've all been in that position. I certainly have. And it's horrible. So to be that person for somebody else, it's a wonderful thing to be able to earn a living doing that. Not anyone could be a social prescriber. You've got to care. And how can you not, you know, some of the things people tell us, it's heart-breaking. And people have been let down by other systems. I get frustrated at times. Worried for them, if things aren't good. You know, wondering how things are going to work out. But a huge sense of satisfaction. It’s great to know that you've played a part, you're in the system that is designed to help people. I just love my job.

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