Social Prescribing Day 2024: Reuben lifts the lid on his ‘rewarding and empowering’ work

Today, Thursday, 14 March 2024 is Social Prescribing Day, a celebration of the people, organisations and communities who connect people to non-medical support to address issues including loneliness, debt, or stress and other unmet needs.

Since 2019, thousands of local and national organisations, link workers, medical professionals, academics and students have taken part across the country.

To mark this year’s celebration, we’ve had a chat with our brilliant social prescriber, Reuben Davidson (he/him), who works with TNBI (trans, non-binary and intersex) communities and LGBTQ+ people who have experienced migration, are refugees or seeking asylum in the UK. We hope you enjoy reading our conversation, which we’ve shared below. 

Tell us a little about yourself
I have a background in youth work and for a time supported young refugees who had come to the UK alone. IRIS (International Rainbow Inclusion Service), our LGBTQ+ MRAS (migrants, refugees and asylum seekers) peer support and social group (set up with Conversation Over Borders), is an amalgamation of my two biggest passions in my career, and I’m so excited to see it expanding so quickly.

What is social prescribing and why is it important?
Social prescribing was introduced as a way of taking some pressure off GPs and meeting patients’ wellbeing needs in a non-clinical setting. It has since gone on to develop Social Prescribing Plus (SP+) roles like mine, where workers in the charity sector offer social prescribing to clients in their own communities. This work is incredibly important since LGBTQ+ people often face additional barriers to accessing non-LGBTQ+ services due to their fear of discrimination and their needs not being understood. I’m also in a great position to understand what is going on in the local LGBTQ+ community and link up clients with informal, grassroots groups and events that people outside our community might struggle to find.

How do you practise social prescribing? Tell us about your work.
The first step of social prescribing is to get to know the client – what’s going on for them? What are their interests and how might they like to engage with services in a way that best suits them? Do they have any access requirements? That is always a joyful experience too, getting to meet so many members of our community, hearing their stories and being able to offer advice and support to help them right there and then. I also keep a detailed directory of groups, services and events, which is always expanding. If I don’t know something, I’ll take the time to research and get back to the client as soon as possible.

After having some time to review their options, I then invite clients to a follow-up appointment to see what they think. If they don’t like any of the suggestions, then I’ll go back to the drawing board! As well as signposting, I’ll also support clients to engage by going along with them to their first session or by having more close casework-style relationships with clients. It’s a flexible, adaptable service, and I try my best to be person-centred since no client and no case is the same.

What do you enjoy most about your job? It sounds very rewarding.
My job is really rewarding. My favourite part is when I can do something that’s quite straightforward, but which has a big impact on the client’s life. The perfect example of this is supporting them to access local offers of gender-affirming care, which we are so lucky to have in Brighton since the London Gender Identity Clinic currently has a five-year waiting list for a first appointment. 

And what do you find most challenging about your job?
The most challenging part is when the client and I are up against big beasts like the housing system or the Home Office. I can do my absolute best to advocate for and support the client, but sometimes progress can be slow, or a positive outcome is out of reach. It’s difficult to accept when what the client would like to achieve isn’t possible – but I certainly don’t give up easily!

Do you have any tips for anyone thinking of becoming a social prescriber?
I would say ‘go for it!’. If you have experience of motivational interviewing or coaching and aim to have a professional practice that’s person-centred, creative and empowering, social prescribing might just be for you.

What does Social Prescribing Day mean to you?
It’s an opportunity to shout about the brilliant work of social prescribers! With pressures on the NHS and charities, having someone with you to help navigate all that can be life changing.

How will you celebrate the day, and how would you encourage others to celebrate it?
I’m looking forward to celebrating with other social prescribing colleagues across Brighton and Hove! Coming together to consider best practice and learn from each other is wonderful. I’d encourage others to celebrate by looking online for more information about social prescribing and if there is a service near you. Many are attached to GP surgeries. If your surgery doesn’t have a social prescriber, maybe you could suggest that they aim to recruit one?

How would you like to see social prescribing develop?
I would love to see social prescribing develop to envelop features of advocacy, and flex to accommodate for longer-term work with clients too. As a Social Prescribing Plus partner, I’m very lucky to be able to approach the work with creativity, always aiming for the best outcome possible for the client.

* Read more about our TNBI Social Prescribing Service

* Read more about our IRIS peer support and social group

* Donate to support these services