May I first apologise to you, Mr Speaker, and all Members participating for not being present in person as I am required to self-isolate at home?
I am very pleased the hon. Lady has asked this question because, like her, I am a big supporter of social prescribing, and I am delighted to be able to tell her that the Church of England is a member of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs green social prescribing advisory board and that we work closely with the members of the National Academy for Social Prescribing.
While hospital chaplains play a crucial role in providing support within our NHS, our community chaplains and clergy are highly trained professionals and could play a far more integral role in the provision of community health, not least as primary care is completely overwhelmed currently. What further discussions have taken place between the Church Commissioners and the Department of Health and Social Care and also clergy and their local primary care networks on how they can support the social prescribing agenda in their communities?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for praising the valuable work that clergy do in this area. Examples of Church social prescribing include our therapeutic gardening projects, often in urban areas, and the new cycle routes to all our 42 cathedrals. Nearer to her, the Joyful Connections café at St Luke’s church in York is linked to a GP social prescribing scheme and has run dementia-friendly church services. Indeed, a 2018 American Journal of Epidemiology study showed the positive impact on wellbeing and mental health of faith in Jesus and being a Church member.