Pic credit: Newcastle United Foundation

A football-based programme aimed at improving the mental health of adult men is to benefit from a new ‘social prescribing’ fund announced by the Government this week.

The ‘Be a Game Changer’ scheme run by the Newcastle United Foundation has already supported over 2,000 men, typically over 40 years old, who traditionally avoid NHS services, may have been impacted by Covid-19 and are most at risk of suicide.

Local men are referred to the programme by their GPs, and the plan is to build on the scheme with other football clubs through the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP) which has been awarded £5million by the Department of Health and Social Care.

Other projects that the NASP will be working with include art for dementia, improving green spaces and singing – all aimed at helping people to stay connected and maintain their health and wellbeing following the pandemic. The NASP will be supported by partners including Sport England and NHS England.


Steve Beharall, from the Newcastle United Foundation, said: “Working with the academy and social prescribing link workers will enable us to reach more people, to help communities recover from Covid.

“We’ll be sharing our ‘Game Changer’ learning with other football clubs, to support men’s mental health.”

The Foundation also supports fans to talk about their mental health, get involved in walking football, engage in support groups and learn lifestyle advice through the ‘12th Man’ programme. Social prescribing link workers in GP practices will refer people to these initiatives so that more people can benefit.

Welcoming the funding, NASP chief executive James Sanderson, said: “Now more than ever, the pandemic has shown the value of social prescribing in helping people to stay connected, feel supported and to maintain their wellbeing.


“The National Academy for Social Prescribing has an ambitious agenda to support people to live the best life they can by accessing support in their local communities based on what matters to them.

“We will be working with key partners across national and local government, the NHS, and the voluntary and community sector to build the support structures necessary to enable social prescribing to thrive.”

Minister for Health, Jo Churchill, commented: “This new funding is hugely important, as it will allow us to build on the merits of social prescribing and encourage innovation in local projects, as well as supporting people to remain connected with their local community, reduce loneliness and improve their wellbeing.

“GPs and social prescribing link workers have been working incredibly hard to support their patients through this challenging time. As we begin to support the move out of lockdown, social prescribing will be key to tackling health inequalities and helping people recover and rebuild their lives.”


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