A North Cumbria Arts, Health & Wellbeing Partnership will be delivering a project designed to help people of Carlisle to recover from COVID-19 through the power of social prescribing.

They will be extending their reach and influence to deliver a programme of community co-produced arts, health and well-being activities across North Cumbria.

The partnership is made up of Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery, Carlisle City Council, North Cumbria Integrated Care Foundation Trust, Carlisle Healthcare, Prism Arts, Susie Tate Projects and Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

They will be working with other partners to increase the uptake of social prescribing to help improve the health and resilience of a community that has been hit by COVID-19 and lockdowns.

The partnership is celebrating after being awarded £50,000 from the Thriving Communities Fund to support its £90,000 project. The funding will be used to help Carlisle communities cope with the impact of COVID-19, as part of a national initiative to embed social prescribing in communities and healthcare.

A new Thriving Communities funded Community Development Worker will coordinate Partnership activity and support community connection. The post will be advertised soon.

Social prescribing enables health care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services to support their physical and mental health and wellbeing. The Thriving Communities Fund will support 37 projects across England and is being delivered in a unique partnership between the Arts Council England, Historic England and Natural England, NHS England and NHS Improvement, Sport England, the Money & Pensions Service and NHS Charities Together.

It is part of the Thriving Communities programme, which aims to strengthen the range of social prescribing activities offered locally, enhance collaboration and networking between local organisations and enable social prescribing link workers to connect people to more creative community activities and services. The programme is enabling providers working in arts, culture and heritage, nature, physical activity and offering life advice and support to develop initiatives, learn and network, and build the evidence base for social prescribing. The project also supports the wellbeing strand of the emerging Carlisle Culture strategy.

Carlisle City Council Portfolio holder for Communities & Health, Cllr Elizabeth Mallinson, said: “It is great that this partnership between Carlisle City Council, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, North Cumbria Integrated Care Community, Prism Arts, Susie Tate Projects, has been successful in securing the ‘Thriving Communities’ grant which will go a long way in helping us to deliver real benefits from increased cultural activities for the communities of Carlisle District.”

Andrew Mackay (Director, Tullie House) added: “Tullie House is incredibly proud to be at the forefront of developing a culture of social prescribing for Carlisle. Along with our partners, we fundamentally believe that arts, culture and the outdoors are essential in enhancing health and wellbeing and are excited to be able to offer the communities we serve such fantastic new opportunities in this area.”

Catherine Coulthard (Creative Strategic Director, Prism Arts) said: “Prism Arts is delighted to be part of the new partnership developing accessible cultural experiences to improve people’s health and wellbeing. We have seen first-hand how arts and culture can transform lives, increase confidence, and support significant health improvements. We look forward to working with our partner organisations and the local community to develop these important cultural opportunities.

Rachel Murdie (Social Prescriber, Carlisle Healthcare) added: “Carlisle Healthcare is really excited to be involved with this project, it provides a great opportunity to further develop local partnerships across a range of themes. We can now expand existing projects and provide new and exciting opportunities to help improve people’s health and wellbeing. This will be more important than ever as we move out of these sustained periods of Lockdown to enable people to reconnect with others and rediscover their hobbies and interests.”

Jody Ferguson (Gosling Syke Centre Manager, Cumbria Wildlife Trust) said: “We know how valuable access to nature is for health and wellbeing, particularly through the Covid-19 pandemic, when people found a new appreciation for wildlife in their local area. Cumbria Wildlife Trust are looking forward to working with our colleagues in the Partnership to help more people benefit from the arts, culture, and nature-based activities on offer in this part of the county.

Susie Tate (Artistic Director, Susie Tate Projects) added: “This partnership is a fantastic opportunity for us to work together to develop a wealth of creative and cultural programmes that will support the health of our local population, and in turn build the understanding of the positive impact arts and culture can have people’s health and wellbeing.”

Paul Counter (Healing Arts Chair, NCIC) said: “Arts and culture are a very important but often neglected area of healthcare and I’m delighted with the success of Thriving Communities for North Cumbria which will support our efforts to embed arts into NCIC.”