Social Prescribing refers to health care professionals referring patients to community-based support, activities, and groups so to improve health and wellbeing. This project will explore how accessible social prescribing is for autistic people.

In recent years, Social Prescribing has become a key feature in the National Health Service England’s plan to create Universal Personalised Care. This approach aims to increase patient choice and autonomy. While there is evidence that Social Prescribing improves patient mental and physical health, helping to also build resilience and combat loneliness, less is known of whether Social Prescribing benefits autistic people.

Examples of Social Prescribing services and activities include housing and finance support, exercise and horticulture groups, and mental health or counselling support. Social Prescribing is intended to complement traditional healthcare, providing support that improves psychological, emotional, interpersonal and physical wellbeing.

A potential issue in Social Prescribing is that it is accessed through primary healthcare, a route autistic people often find challenging. There is a need for better evidence of the ways Social Prescribing pathways are experienced by autistic people, and the types of adaptions that services might need to make. This project takes a step towards addressing this issue, exploring how Social Prescribing can most effectively be embedded into healthcare pathways for autistic adults.

This project was awarded as part of the Autistica Social Care Grant Development Awards supported by CareTech. The purpose of these projects is to allow researchers to develop a better understanding of a topic and community needs in relation to it. They can then use this knowledge to form an application to the NIHR Research for Social Care Funding Call.

What are the researchers are doing?

This project involves scoping work to create connections with autistic adults and to explore how they may or may not be able to access Social Prescribing pathways. This will involve a literature review to establish current understandings, as well as meetings and participatory work with relevant stakeholders. The key activities are as follows:

  • Examining current pathways for autistic adults accessing Social Prescribing, and exploring ways traditional healthcare routes might be bypassed or made more accessible.
  • Holding 2-3 stakeholder meetings with autistic adults, social prescribers, family members/carers, and social care professionals. These meetings will explore experiences of adult social care and discuss the project's aims and themes. This information will be used to create a draft project proposal which will be reflected upon in a final stakeholder meeting.