Inspiring Ashfield – final evaluation full report

Stevenson, C. ORCID: 0000-0002-2438-6425, Bailey, M., Wakefield, J. ORCID: 0000-0001-9155-9683, Fino, E. ORCID: 0000-0002-5095-6014, Hutchings, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-4303-6607 and Morris, S., 2022. Inspiring Ashfield – final evaluation full report. UNSPECIFIED. (Unpublished)

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- Ashfield Voluntary Action’s (AVA) Inspiring Ashfield Programme aimed to use Thriving Communities funding to bring together over 30 partners to deliver a calendar of online and in-person events and activities to support the work of local Social Prescribing link workers
- Over the course of the year, AVA encountered a number of barriers which limited the number of referrals and the uptake of activities. However, it delivered 19 activities over 27 groups and reached a larger number of community residents. The experiences and adaptations of the programme are likely to be of use to other community and voluntary organisations
- The NTU evaluation detailed in this report comprises interviews with AVA staff (3), project partners (2), activity leads (12), beneficiaries (10) as well as conversations with link workers (5) and quantitative data from a small number of clients (9). NTU also undertook a community survey (388) to ascertain levels of need and desire for further provision in the area.

Analysis of this data indicated:
- Lack of awareness (80% respondents), time poverty (49%), lack of appeal of existing activities (45%), cost (27%), social anxiety and travel (18%) were all indicated by survey participants to be barriers to availing of existing community services. Over 70% indicated that they would like to see one or more new services in their area.
- Interviews with those delivering Inspiring Ashfield indicated good communication with service users and between AVA and activity leads. Communication between staff and link workers was more limited and between project partners was sometimes poor.
- Conversations with link workers indicated that they thought Inspiring Ashfield was a useful support which increased the range of available options, thereby enriching Social Prescriptions. However, link workers were unaware of the rate of activity uptake and did not consistently follow up on their clients’ outcomes. Referrals were sometimes incomplete, placing the responsibility for making a Social Prescription on AVA staff.
- Low uptake was attributed by those delivering Inspiring Ashfield to the barriers posed by COVID-19 as well as the incomplete scoping of community need at the outset of the initiative. Adaptations included increased diversification of the content and mode of activities as well as increased scaffolding of client participation.
- For those who did engage in activities, the benefits of meaningful social connections were reported to have positive and sometimes transformative effects on their lives, improving health and wellbeing as well as increased personal confidence and community connectedness beyond the activity. This was supported by trends in the client survey data showing strong associations between group memberships, feelings of belonging, psychological resilience and wellbeing.
- Those who engaged in volunteering reported additional psychological and social benefits while lack of reward was often due to a mismatch between the needs of the patient and the activity or due to low numbers in the group detracting from the social benefits of the activity.
- Assertive outreach was an additional alternative route to client engagement which targets three deprived estates across the area. The gradual development of relationships of trust is used to provide a small number of potential community champions with intensive support. In the longer term, this approach is intended to foster community empowerment and autonomy.

In sum:
- Inspiring Ashfield provides a promising model of support for Social Prescribing which enriches the offer of activities available to link workers in the post-COVID era. While this potentially improves the quality of Social Prescriptions by ensuring a better fit with individuals’ needs, it faces barriers in terms of appropriate referrals and uptake of activities.
- These barriers can potentially be addressed though better communication between project partners, better advertising of activities and more proactive scoping of community need, as well as through supplementing the approach with complementary ways of identifying and engaging community members.
- The adaptations already developed by AVA in terms of enhanced scoping of community need, scaffolding client participation and assertive outreach are promising. These should be of use to other Social Prescribing services and to Community and Voluntary Service organisations facing similar problems.

Item Type: Research report for external body
Description: Commissioning body: Ashfield Voluntary Action
Creators: Stevenson, C., Bailey, M., Wakefield, J., Fino, E., Hutchings, S. and Morris, S.
Date: August 2022
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Laura Ward
Date Added: 20 Mar 2023 10:12
Last Modified: 20 Mar 2023 10:14

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