We care but we’re not carers: perceptions and experiences of social prescribing in a UK national community organisation

Bryony Porter, Cate Wood, Pippa Belderson, Chris Manning, Rachel Meadows, Kristy Sanderson, Sarah Hanson

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(1) To explore how social prescribing referrals impact experiences of existing members of a voluntary and community-based organisation and (2) to describe the processes and relationships associated with joining community and voluntary organisations.

Online survey and qualitative interviews with members of Men’s Sheds, a global volunteer-led initiative to address loneliness and social isolation in men. 93 self-selecting Shed members (average age 67 years, 93% male) from across England and Scotland took part in the survey about demographics, joining the Shed, and free-text questions about experiences in the Shed. From the survey participants, 21 Shed members were purposively sampled and interviewed to explore the impact of social prescribing and referrals on the Sheds.

Participating in the Men’s Shed was often associated with a significant change in personal circumstances, and Sheds provided a unique social support space, particularly valuable for men. Key factors around experiences of social prescribing and referral mechanisms were identified. We developed three themes: the experience of joining a Shed, success factors and risks of social prescribing, and ‘we care but we’re not carers’.

The results show that Men’s Sheds are a caring organisation, but their members are not trained as professional carers, and men come to the Shed for their own personal reasons. They are concerned about the potential additional responsibilities associated with formal referrals. They encourage the development of relationships and local-level understanding of the essence of Sheds to enable social prescribing. As models of social prescribing grow nationally and internationally, collaboratively working with voluntary and community organisations to develop a mutually beneficial approach is essential for the effectiveness and sustainability of social prescribing in community health.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPerspectives in Public Health
Early online date25 Jul 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Jul 2023

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