A North Cumbria partnership has welcomed an injection of new funding to support its efforts to improve physical and mental wellbeing through the power of social prescribing.

The North Cumbria Arts, Health and Wellbeing Partnership, which includes the local NHS trust, Carlisle City Council and Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, has been awarded £50,000 to support its work using social prescribing to help improve the health and resilience of communities battered by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The term social prescribing describes the practice of healthcare professionals referring individuals to a range of local, non-clinical services to support their physical and mental wellbeing.

This could, for example, involve arts, cultural or outdoor activities, and the social prescribing model is seen as an important approach to supporting wellbeing that takes a holistic approach, as a complement to clinical care and treatment.

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

The partnership has been awarded £50,000 from the Thriving Communities Fund, which is composed of a partnership of a number of organisations including the Arts Council England, Historic England and NHS England, plus others.

The funding will support the North Cumbria Partnership's £90,000 project to support communities across the north of the county, which will include the appointment of a community development worker to coordinate partnership activity and support community connection.

The partnership will be working with others to increase the uptake of social prescribing activities.

The funding has been provided to the North Cumbria Partnership as part of the England-wide Thriving Communities programme, which hopes to strengthen the range of social prescribing activities offered.

Elizabeth Mallinson, Conservative Carlisle City Councillor and the council's portfolio holder for communities, health and wellbeing, welcomed the funding.

“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," she said.

The director of Tullie House, Andrew Mackay, 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 is the creative strategic director for Prism Arts.

She said that the charity 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 at Carlisle Healthcare said that the organisation 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.”

Cumbria Wildlife Trust's Gosling Syke centre manager, Jody Ferguson, added:“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 for Susie Tate Projects, said the 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.”

And Paul Counter, the chairman of Healing arts at the North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Trust (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.”