Showcasing: iCare Plus Social

Northern Sydney 

Lead agency
Primary and Community Care Services Ltd.

Living Well domain

  • Better Responses

Program overview

Plus Social is an innovative program established by Primary and Community Care Services Ltd and funded by the iCare foundation. Plus Social is based on a proven social prescribing model of care and is designed specifically for injured workers who are experiencing mental health issues. The program provides access to a qualified and experienced Link Worker (typically social workers, occupational therapists and psychologists) through the use of non-medical interventions to improve the wellbeing, quality of life and social connectedness of injured workers. 


People who suffer a significant physical injury often also experience mental health issues. Plus Social aims to reduce the severity and impact of mental health issues on a person’s recovery from workplace injury.  


The Plus Social program runs for 12-weeks and works alongside the physical health care that injured workers receive from their General Practitioner and rehabilitation provider. Plus Social is not a rehabilitation program or return to work program and does not replace medical interventions. 

The program is available to injured workers who have been unable to return to work or who have returned to work on reduced hours. Those who are eligible to participate can enter the program by referral from a health provider or through a self-referral process by contacting Primary Care and Community Services directly.

Social prescribing is similar to the prescription of medication for illness but instead involves the “prescription” of activities and services to improve wellbeing and quality of life. Social prescribing is a new and emerging framework to link people with long-term health conditions to psychosocial services, with the aim of improving their social wellbeing. 

The program uses a co-design approach to support collaboration between services including Northern Sydney PHN, iCare, insurers, rehabilitation providers, financial counselling services, General Practitioners, other health providers and workplaces. This approach has assisted with the uptake of the Plus Social program through supportive workplaces and improved referrals enabling key cross sector partnerships. 


International studies have demonstrated the benefits of social prescribing. UK Social prescribing research has shown that social prescribing has decreased the demand for General Practitioner services and has resulted in a 20% decrease in emergency department presentations1. The study also found that social prescribing reduced inpatient admissions by as much as 21% and outpatient specialist appointments by 21%1. Research has also highlighted a reduction in hospital referrals following a social prescribing programs.

Commencing in 2017 Plus Social has provided support to over 300 injured workers and assisted to better support injured workers’ unmet mental health and wellbeing needs. The Plus Social program has been evaluated by Southern Cross University using qualitative and quantitative data to assess the program’s impact and has found:

  1.  A reduction in the number of participant hospitalisations, and significant reduction in the frequency of contact with health services by participants.
  2. Significant improvements on overall emotional state, indicating reduced emotional distress and loneliness and improved health perception and quality of life.
  3. The Plus Social program has lead to significant improvements in work readiness (return to work confidence, ability to work in paid employment, and certificate of capacity hours) and social inclusion/support (frequency of social activities, number of people who could be counted on, and satisfaction with social support) for injured workers involved in the program. 

Next steps 

Plus Social is continuing to support the emotional wellbeing of injured workers. iCare is currently working closely with Primary and Community Care Services Ltd to explore the program’s sustainability. 


  1. Dayson, C. and Bashir, N., 2014. The social and economic impact of the Rotherham Social Prescribing Pilot: main evaluation report.