Embedding equalities in social prescribing

Why embed equality in social prescribing?

Embedding equality in social prescribing schemes would create a person-centred care approach to recognise, respect, value and harness differences of those to whom we provide services.  It also increases the chance for services to reach and support those living in deprived areas, diverse communities and marginalised groups.  Carrying out an equality impact assessment is one key way of ensuring equality is embedding in your social prescribing service.

The Equalities and Social Prescribing presentation may help to understand the key points to equalities and its importance in social prescribing. 


What does legislation say?

In Scotland, the public sector duties on equalities included in the Equality Act (2010) place a requirement on all public bodies to consider the impact of policies and services on the needs of individuals with the nine protected characteristics.

The public sector duties include:

  1. Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other prohibited conduct.
  2. Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a relevant characteristic and those who do not.
  3. Foster good relations between different people who share a characteristic and those who do not.


The nine protected characteristics include; age, disability status, ethnicity, gender/sex, religion/belief, sexual orientation, and transgender identity. Apart from the nine protected characteristics, it is good practice to also consider those who are marginalised e.g. carers, prisoners.  Understanding the characteristics of an individual can help to improve individual care and support at the point of service delivery.

The Scottish National Action Plan (SNAP) is an ambitious roadmap towards a Scotland where everyone can live with human dignity. It is also considered good practice to maintain and aim to improve human rights when it comes to health and social care, and the right of adequate standard of living and access to justice.


What is an Equality impact assessment (EQIA)

There are many good practices of EQIA, and you can normally access your EQIA practice through in number of ways:

  • Equality and Diversity Lead or team, or equality webpages of a health board
  • Equality staff in your local authority
  • Human Resources department

See the Five essentials document to help you plan your equality impact assessment for your social prescribing service. a checklist is provided overleaf.  For more information on EQIA go on the Scottish Government website.

Another form of impact assessment is the Health inequalities impact assessment (HIIA) provides a systematic way to consider how a policy or plan may affect people differently.  In addition to the nine protected characteristics, HIIA considers other population groups who are vulnerable to unfair differences in health outcomes (such as people in different socio-economic groups, those involved in the criminal justice system, those living in remote/rural locations) and the social determinants of health (for example, employment and education).  For more information and case studies visit the Health Scotland website.


Key principles to remember when embedding equalities in your social prescribing service

1. Review the accessibility and impact of the scheme on various population groups and for those likely to use it. You can do this by carrying an equality impact assessment (Five Essentials).

2. Mainstream equality in your social prescribing process which advances opportunity for all groups, including those most marginalised.

3. Involve communities and the users, and their support organisations to shape and review your social prescribing process.


Case Studies

Find video and written case studies related to social prescribing and inequalities.



Good Mental Health For All

NHS Health Scotland - Inequalities briefing papers

NHS Health Scotland - Equalities and Health Inequalities

NHS Health Scotland - Good work for all

Age Concern - A model for partnership working between primary care and the voluntary sector

Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland - Social prescribing and older people: guide to developing project plans (2014)

Falkirk's Mental Health Association Projects' Report

Dundee Sources of Support (SOS) social prescribing and community referral scheme