Today, 14 March 2024, marks Social Prescribing Day and we’re delighted to be sharing the rich social prescribing research happening in our group on social media. 

This month is therefore the perfect opportunity to bring back the SBB Spotlight – a feature, where we introduce members of our research group and highlight their current work, including projects and perspectives. We sat down with Joely Wright, Research Assistant/Social Prescriber, who is working on our Wellbeing While Waiting project. We talked about social prescribing for young people and the intricacies of her dual role. Read on if you’re eager to learn more!  

Wellbeing While Waiting aims to understand if social prescribing can help young people whilst they wait for treatment within child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). The project is split into three phases. Firstly, the social prescribing pathways were co-developed with the sites, and we’ve now entered the research phase. The control group has been recruited and young people are being referred to activities in their communities by link workers. The third and last phase will involve assessing how the service could be expanded to cover more CAMHS sites and developing an implementation model. You can learn more about the project here. 


Q: You work on the Wellbeing While Waiting project and have been involved since it began. What are your main responsibilities and your favourite parts of the project?  

J: I have a split role, working as a Research Assistant and a Social Prescriber. For my Research Assistant role, my main responsibilities include working with CAMHS to develop the referral routes into the research and Social Prescribing pathways. I recruit and consent young people into the study as well as collect questionnaire and interview data from young people, their parents/guardians, CAMHS staff and Social Prescribers.  

In my Social Prescriber role, I am part of a Social Prescribing team based at UCL, delivering remote Social Prescribing to young people from five different CAMHS sites across the country. This has involved setting up the protocols and procedures needed to offer Social Prescribing, as well as delivering one to one support with young people on the waiting list for CAMHS.  

My favourite parts of the project have been setting up a youth advisory group to input into the design of the Social Prescribing pathways and working with CAMHS to understand their services and think about how Social Prescribing can be implemented at each site.  


Q: Has anything surprised you about working on this project so far? 

J: The flexibility! The great thing about this project is that it is an implementation-effectiveness trial, which means we can adapt the Social Prescribing pathways to fit the services we are working with. We do not have strict protocols around how Social Prescribing is delivered and what it looks like, so changes can be made to the pathways based on feedback from young people, services and other stakeholders. I hope this will mean that the pathways set up are more sustainable and beneficial to services and young people.  


Q: Can you briefly describe your role as a Research Assistant/Social Prescriber and what being in such a dual role is like? Did you have to complete specific training to become a Social Prescriber/Link Worker?  

J: I have a split role, working as both a Research Assistant and a Social Prescriber on the project. This means that I deliver the Social Prescribing for 5 different CAMHS Sites involved in the project, as well as playing a role in evaluating the Social Prescribing pathways. An advantage of Social Prescribing within a trial in this way is that it is new! Sharing learning is a big part of the project and it is built into the study’s aims. This means that we can talk to lots of people with lots of different experiences working with young people as well as delivering Social Prescribing. As part of the research, we hold Community of Practice events to share knowledge and troubleshoot problems. 

Some of the challenges of this work are that there is no official required training to become a Social Prescriber and there can also be differing views on what Social Prescribing should look like. This has meant that to prepare for Social Prescribing as a team, we have drawn a lot from sharing our own experiences working in services and with young people, as well as discussions with Social Prescribers and people with experiences in Youth Work.  


Q: What is your background in and how did your journey lead you to your current role in the Social Biobehavioural Research Group?  

J: Previously, I have worked as a Healthcare Assistant in a CAMHS Tier 4 inpatient unit, supporting young people with psychological or emotional problems. I then worked as a Research Assistant across two CAMHS Tier 4 inpatient units, which involved completing outcome measures with families, preparing reports on the performance of the services and supporting young people and families to take part in research studies. My current role has been really supported by this experience, in terms of my understanding of some of the challenges of working with young people with mental health problems as well as some barriers to delivering research in a CAMHS setting.  


Q: What do you think people misunderstand about social prescribing?  

J: That everyone will be sent on a nature walk or to do arts and crafts! Social Prescribing is about meeting young people where they are at and understanding what matters to a young person is key. For some young people, a community group or activity may be a great fit, but for others, this may look more like taking their dog for a walk with their sibling or reading a book before bed.   


Q: What do you think are the main advantages of social prescribing, especially for children and young people?  

J: Social Prescribers can provide dedicated time to young people to understand their needs and what matters to them, and then work with them to create a personalised support plan. They can link young people into social activities, which can improve their sense of community and belonging, or support them to engage in healthier behaviours, improving their health and wellbeing.  


Q: Based on your experience with CAMHS, how do you see social prescribing being implemented in health care systems? Or alternatively in community care?   

J: Social Prescribing works well in conjunction with other treatment, to support young people to address some of the social factors in their life that are contributing to their mental health and wellbeing. Young people may still require medication and psychological support, but Social Prescribing can help to equip them with more tools in their wellbeing toolbox, to help prevent deterioration in their mental health. 


Q: What change would you like to see when it comes to how we support young people’s mental health? 

J: I would like to see a focus on prevention and early intervention. We know that young people often deteriorate whilst they are waiting for mental health support, so focusing on preventing mental health from deteriorating would be beneficial not just for minimising distress for young people, but also reducing pressure on overstretched services.  


Q: What are your personal hobbies and interests? Are any of them arts-related?  

J: CrossFit and crochet! Most of my evenings are spent crocheting in front of a film and I love to make things for my friends and family. 


You can find Joely on Twitter/X and LinkedIn.