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Key takeaways:

  • Referral ‘pathways’ Link Workers to arts and culture will not always look identical
  • Timescales of working with clients vary between Link Workers and VCSE organisations
  • Creating allies and collaboration in the voluntary sector can increase visibility of your programmes/ groups to vulnerable, digitally excluded people – who are often the same people social prescribers have contact with
  • Link Workers have little time outside of casework to support capacity building and community development within the VCSE sector. This demonstrates the importance of having a supportive and responsive local CVS

We are really excited to share this conversation that LAH chaired, as one candid example of how social prescribers and the voluntary sector work together, to support their communities through partnership building and creating relationships that strengthen referral pathways into creative groups and activities. During this conversation you will hear perspectives from the Waltham Forest Social Prescribing team, WIILMA Waltham Forest and the Migrant Training Centre Leytonstone.

Audio clips:

Interview transcript:

Two WIILMA participants hold up paper collage Christmas wreaths they have made.


  1. Barbora Ertlova is a senior Link Worker working alongside Sharon Hanooman in the Waltham Forest Social Prescribing team. Below Barbora explains the current structure of social prescribing in the borough; how it has developed over time, and highlights the importance of co-creation of creative activities to support partnership building.
  2. JJ Khun is the founder and lead volunteer of WIILMA, here he explains the origins of the charity and the fundamental values within which the charity operates. He discusses how the pandemic changed the way services were delivered and how current funding streams are dictating the longevity and tempo of programmes and events that are put together. In this introduction we start to understand WIILMA’s relationship with social prescribing in the borough and their strategies to bring their groups to some of the most isolated and digitally excluded people living within the surrounding area.
  3. Here, Barbora responds to JJ’s summary of what they are currently doing to promote their work outside of their existing circle of participants. She explains that it’s really important for social prescribers to know where and when projects are doing community outreach, so they can signpost their clients in confidence.
  4. JJ brings to the table the issues that the charity faces when they are trying to disseminate information on events that have a quick turnaround, and how communication blocks within statutory organisations such as the council, make it difficult to get the message out to all of the interested people fast enough. He acknowledges that this is an ongoing challenge for so many grassroots and small organisations within the community.
  5. Sharon explains the role of social prescribing in supporting the VCSE and how her team has been giving advice to JJ on what a referral form or pathway could look like, through providing examples of what exists between the social prescribing service and other services/charities in the borough.
  6. Barbora reflects on the different time-scales of working that often exist between social prescribers and the VCSE, and the importance of social prescribers being able to offer groups or projects that are longer term for their clients.
  7. JJ discusses how useful it would be for the VCSE  to have a good practice toolkit for social prescribing.
  8. Sharon and JJ consider how the lack of Council for Voluntary Service (CVS) in the borough has heavily impacted the growth and development of voluntary sector organisations. As well as the fact that social prescribing does not have the capacity to plug this huge gap in sector support.
  9. Shahid Mahmood works as Community Development and Information Facilitator at the Migrant Training Centre (MTC) in Leytonstone, he describes his journey into this role and how he has been working with social prescribers and bringing arts to communities, alongside the core skills classes at the MTC.
  10. Anna Woolf (LAH) asks Shahid, ‘Is there a clear referral pathway into Sharon’s team that has been established?’. Sharon explains how place-based social prescribers naturally become ambassadors for local organisations they know well and this allows them to act as the bridge for clients, between organisations like the MTC and a GP surgery.
  11. Here Barbora makes a suggestion for WIILMA to take on some further partnership building with other VCSE organisations in the area like the MTC, to increase their programme visibility and get new programmes and events to a wider audience without having to rely on social prescribers to be the sole channel they use to make contact with these ‘harder to reach’ persons.
  12. Shahid discusses how building relationships in the community through the core classes in the MTC, led to discovering community interests and talent, and ultimately the co-creation of some of the creative groups offered by the centre. JJ makes the point that collaboration is key, especially when working together to support large communities with varying demographics and interests. Finally,  JJ discusses how physical infrastructure issues in the area have been  making it increasingly difficult to keep their workshops and programmes inclusive and accessible to everyone.

We asked participants on the call to give closing remarks and reflections on the discussion and this is what they had to say:

  1. Anna
  2. Sharon
  3. Barbora
  4. Shahid
  5. JJ
Group photo of WIILMA participants and volunteers sitting at a table full of creative materials.


Photo credits: Ke Tao, Volunteer Photographer for WIILMA, All Rights Reserved @wiilmamusicarts

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