Meet Vicky Wall, our Children and Young People’s Social Prescribing Manager at Southmead Development Trust. She told us all about Link Forward, our Social Prescribing service for young people aged 7 – 12.
What is Link Forward?
Our team (pictured above) works with young people who are facing situations that are affecting their wellbeing. That might be difficulties at school or at home, low mood or anxiety, or struggling with friendships. We give 1:1 support to these young people for up to six sessions. Together, we think about what could help to improve things. Then we link them with groups and support in their community.
How did it come about?
Social Prescribing is something that has been available to adults for years, but up until Link Forward was born in 2021 there was no way of accessing this type of support for children in Bristol. Some GPs in North Bristol approached us. They were seeing lots of young people coming to appointments with worries about their mental health and asked if we could help. The team has grown quickly since then! We are the only service of this kind in Bristol.
Why is a project like this important?
Because looking after our mental health is important! It can be tough being a young person. We all go through things in our lives that can take a toll on us. Research has shown that the sooner we receive support, the more we can prevent these situations from reaching crisis point. We hope that through our 1:1 sessions, and the connections made in their communities, children can have some tools early in life for looking after their own mental health. This is really important for the children that we support, but it also has a wider impact. We have all read about how stretched GPs and mental health services are. By providing support early, we can help to avoid the need for higher level mental health support later in life. This will help to relieve pressure on these vital services.
How does it work?
We mainly receive referrals from GPs and schools in North Bristol. Other organisations can refer to us as well. What makes our 1:1 support really successful are the groups that we run ourselves and in partnership with other organisations. The young people who are referred to us can come to Resilience Lab, Empire Fighting Chance’s Boxing Therapy, Forest School, Wellbeing Arts, and a DigiLocal Coding Club.
Who can Link Forward support?
Anybody aged 7 – 12 years old who is experiencing challenges such as poor mental health, difficulties attending school, or social isolation. They also need to be registered at one of the GP practices that we support – you can see the list below. You can get in touch with your GP to find out more.
What motivates you to run a project like this?
I think many of us have had that one moment when you felt heard and valued, or that one person who listened and told you that you mattered. That feeling can last a lifetime. The Link Workers in our team may well be that person for these young people and over the last two years we have seen the effect that this can have. I also believe that Social Prescribing is a revolutionary approach to health care. For us it means putting the child and what matters to them at the centre of everything we do.
What is your favourite part of Link Forward?
I am immensely proud of my team for always trying their best for the young people we support. They work really hard to find what matters to each individual, encouraging them to build confidence, talk about how they feel, and try new things. Some of my favourite moments have been in our weekly Wellbeing Arts group where we work with clay. It’s really fun seeing what everyone’s imagination creates! You can read more about the magic of clay next week. Everyone has such cool interests and hobbies which I love finding out about! You may have read about Connie’s Isopod Club previously on The Mead. This week you can also read about Charlie who is passionate about trains.
Get in touch with Vicky for more info about Link Forward.
tel: 0117 950 3335
To be referred, young people need to be registered at one of the following GP practices:
Gloucester Road Medical Centre
Horfield Health Centre
Shirehampton Group Practice
Ridingleaze Health Hub
Avonmouth Medical Centre
Westbury-on-Trym Primary Care Centre
Sea Mills Surgery
Greenway Community Practice
Fallodon Way Medical Centre