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FEATURE ARTICLE: Reclink Collaborates with Social Prescribing Project

Reclink Australia has joined forces with a unique social prescribing project in the Latrobe Valley to bring sports and active recreation to people in need through a robust collaboration with the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation (VRGF).

The social prescribing project is using Reclink activities to assist residents in the Latrobe Valley who are experiencing a variety of physical and mental health issues, including those at risk from gambling harm, to join in activities that are socially inclusive and that have physical and mental health benefits.

Part of Reclink’s mission has been to establish links with local Gamblers Help agencies to prevent and reduce gambling harm in Victoria, according to acting senior sports coordinator Isaac Copland.

Mr Copland says Reclink is using a “door stop” model in the Latrobe Valley to encourage gamblers to step away from the pokies at a licensed venue for a range of activities.

“Using the ‘door stop’ approach has allowed us to reach new audiences while creating opportunities for those experiencing gambling harm through offering an alternative through a Reclink program run onsite such as Lawn bowls, Yoga and Arts. If we are reducing someone’s time on the pokies through one of our programs, we are doing our part,” he said.

Claire Watts is the Community Connector for the Social Prescribing Project, at the Hazelwood Health Centre, which is funded by the Latrobe Health Assembly.

Ms Watts’s role as a social prescriber is in identifying suitable social activities for her clientele, which is how she came to discover Reclink.

Ms Watts says the purpose of her role as a social prescriber is to tackle her patient's loneliness, isolation or low levels of activity.

“Reclink has added a huge value to my role. I can see the changes in my patients from participating in Reclink funded programs. I’m a strong advocate for physical activity and what Reclink is trying to promote,” she said. 

The social prescription project was guided by Latrobe community members who found that GPs were being inundated by lonely older people. A social prescription model was identified as an important model to use, as research from England over the past 10 years, shows the benefits of social prescription.

Reclink uses sports and active recreation as tools to encourage physical health, mental health and social connection.

Across the Latrobe Valley, Reclink offers sessions including recreational tennis, squash, chair fitness, yoga, pilates, tai chi, croquet and lawn bowls.

The sessions are casual, free and accessible to all abilities, with Reclink staff providing a fun and inclusive environment for people to join in.

“Reclink has been offering some walking groups and that’s one activity I have prescribed to my patients,” she said.

Ms Watts is based in a Churchill GP Medical Practice, and also in the Churchill Neighbourhood House. She is referred patients, particularly chronic health patients, and has been in the role for 18 months, recently celebrating her 40th referral.

“Obviously Covid has been a huge barrier in connecting people, and the other issues are cost of activities and transport. Reclink is helping to break down these barriers. I have latched on and gone for the ride with Reclink, it has definitely helped me to in my role,” she said.

In 2022 Reclink created Wellbeing Wednesdays in collaboration with the Churchill Neighbourhood House, offering inclusive yoga, meditation, chair fitness, child-friendly Pilates, with free financial counselling offered throughout the day.

“I’ve tapped into the Wellbeing Wednesdays at the Neighbourhood House and I do the exercises with my patients. Every opportunity I try to get my patients involved. It’s been such a positive thing in my role – so many various activities for different fitness levels, age groups and abilities,” she said. 

Ms Watts is excited by the new appointment of a Reclink arts coordinator in the Latrobe Valley.

“Some patients are keen on arts, and that social connection within a group activity is so important.”

Arts activities for term 1, 2023 across Warragul, Trafalgar, Moe, and Morwell, include dance and theatrical improvisation, weaving, cooking, and fine arts.

Ms Watts says she will continue to promote Reclink to her patients.

“I’m kicking goals along the way, the feedback is that people are really enjoying Reclink programs."

Article: Callista Cooper.

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