Engaging Support Networks in the Return to Work Process

Engaging support networks through social prescribing is an innovative way to move beyond the medical model and to address the wider social determinants of health. It recognises that the health of an individual is largely affected by a variety of social, economic and environmental factors, thus offering holistic support that is person-centred and tailored to individual needs.

Research shows that we typically undervalue the relevance of social factors including social isolation and loneliness, as well as the environmental and economic determinants of health.

According to a recent meta-analysis, social isolation is associated with an overwhelming 29% rise in mortality and there’s evidence to indicate that 20% of all GP visits are primarily for social issues.

The role of social prescribing in the return to work process

There is a well-researched link between family support and effective physical and mental rehabilitation of injured workers. Currently personal injury management is narrowly focused on the injured person, which can overlook the fact that the first line of support for an injured worker is often not a treating practitioner, ancillary support service, employer or the case manager – but rather, the individual’s immediate family. Engaging family and social support structures in the rehabilitation process would better facilitate mental and physical healing for injured workers, supporting them back into the workforce where appropriate.

Integrating social prescribing in workers compensation adopts a holistic approach to wellness, supplementing mainstream medical interventions with social and community supports to facilitate an individual’s recovery and return to work.

GB’s interdisciplinary Allied Health Team, consisting of Case Managers, Registered Mental Health Nurses and Social Workers provide a bespoke service for organisations whereby injured workers are provided with a dedicated support officer and receive a tailored return to wellness plan, encouraging autonomy and independence. GB’s Network & Support

Service utilises the technical and clinical knowledge of staff and online platforms to connect injured workers and their families to community supports during a time of change. This service was recognised at the icare Care and Service Excellence awards for the specialist support the team provided to injured workers transitioning out of the NSW Workers Compensation Scheme.

According to Ellen Warner, Project Manager - Allied Health Team,

“Successfully transitioning back to work provides an injured worker with something meaningful and to look forward to. It provides them with identity, social connections, and financial security.

The Network Support Service addresses social, economic and environmental factors and recognises that families and support networks are key to facilitating return to work."

Engaging with Support Networks

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) is another example of an organisation that utilise support networks to influence recovery and engage them in co-designing policies and strategies. As part of The Department’s Veteran Centric Reform Program they held collaborative design forums with veterans and their families in order to inform the future design of its services. Through initiatives like this DVA are seeking to better support current and serving members with rehabilitation and their transition back to work or into the community.

Integrating social prescribing into the return to work process is the new benchmark for the personal injury industry. It keeps the injured worker central to the process and provides the best chance of a successful transition back to work and quality of life.

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