Social Care Roundtable

Social Care Roundtable

Social Care Roundtable

On Jan 26th NCCH and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Arts, Health and Wellbeing held our third roundtable as part of the Creative Health Review, on the timely and important theme of social care. Looking at social care right across the life course, our panellists demonstrated how creativity is being used to support the health and wellbeing of people accessing social care services. We also considered how creative health can help to tackle the challenges currently faced by the sector, and how, through creativity, we can reimagine our approach to care, building a system that allows people to thrive.

Creativity and Social Care in Practice

We began with an introduction to Plus One based in Derby Theatre, a gateway to creative and cultural opportunities for care experienced young people across the city, through a range of initiatives including free access to shows and creative mentoring, linking professional artists with young people. Mentors not only help young people to meet their artistic potential, but also provide educational, social and emotional support. Plus One is embedded in Derby City Council’s approach to supporting looked after and care experienced young people and their families, working with foster families, offering mentoring in residential homes and supporting young people with employment and volunteering. Young people are also offered the opportunity to coproduce their own work, together with freelance artists. Their most recent piece, Odyssey, a virtual reality audio play, has been nominated for a Stage Award.

“The dynamic that allowed the safe space to be so effective was the community building through a mutual love of creativity, and the desire to express and feel heard and represented in the art made by the young people. The fact that we all happened to be care experienced felt secondary to this.” - Lucy James

Lucy James, an alumni of Plus One now working as a professional composer and musical director, described the solace and escapism that music and songwriting provided from her childhood experience of domestic abuse. After a period of poor mental health, joining Plus One with the support of her foster family helped her to overcome social anxiety and provided the opportunity to write and perform her own original material, ultimately leading her to a degree at the Academy of Contemporary Music. Lucy is also working as a freelance researcher looking into the benefits of songwriting for care leavers. Having experienced the sense of identity and belongingness afforded by Plus One, Lucy highlighted the importance of equitable access to these opportunities, and recommended that similar programmes are embedded in systems as part of a robust social care offer.

A vital but often overlooked component of the social care sector are carers. Anndeloris Chacon, CEO of Bristol Black Carers outlined the range of support the organisation provides to carers and, as a poet herself, believes that the arts are integral to health and wellbeing. Bristol Black Carers provides activities including painting, craft, African drumming and creating memory boxes to help carers feel free from the burden of care.

“Yes they are learning a skill, but they are also giving freedom to their soul.” - Anndeloris Chacon

Bristol Black Carers joined Rosetta Life as part of an alliance of organisations, HeArt of Care, which explores representations, perceptions and understandings of care, and the balance between caregiving, self-care and prevention of burnout through creativity. Lucinda Jarrett of Rosetta Life described how the alliance produced responses including poetry, creative journalling. With Bristol Black Carers they focused on dance and creative movement, using touch as a supportive moment for both carer and caregiver. A film of this process can be viewed here.

Creative activities can be particularly impactful in residential care home settings. National charity Live Music Now uses music for positive change in communities including care home settings for older people and people with dementia. They deliver evidence-based and tested programmes, which improve the wellbeing of both residents and staff. Programmes include a workforce development and skills training element, building confidence in staff to deliver creative activities. Strategic Director, Douglas Noble, described the process as ‘a three-way partnership between the musicians, the care teams and the people that live in the care homes’. Appleby House in Epsom is an example of a care home that has fully embraced creativity, and worked with Live Music Now as part of a 10-week residency. Manager Shona Bradbury, Lifestyle Lead, Tracey Judd and resident, Patricia Redvers-Smith described how much both staff and residents enjoyed the programme. Shona has gathered evidence of improvements in appetite, sleep and confidence in residents as well as decreases in distress and anti-psychotic drug use. She credits the focus on creativity in the care home as a major factor in staff satisfaction and the home’s outstanding rating from the CQC.

“When the sessions are on and the residents are singing, it radiates this energy to every part of the home, and for staff and visitors coming in you have two choices – either join in, or you smile.” - Shona Bradbury

“The confidence of the residents has just grown, and its incredible to watch, and it’s so empowering to me to be able to have the knowledge and confidence by working with Live Music Now to be able to create these sessions and watch them grow.” - Tracey Judd

“You wouldn’t sing on your own, and singing in a group, you get lost in it and thoroughly enjoy it” - Patricia Redvers-Smith

Arti Prashar is a community artist, researcher and consultant who has explored dementia and spirituality, with a focus on global majorities. Arti’s practice focuses on the here and now rather than reminiscence. Inspired by her own mother’s love of her garden, Arti produced ‘The Garden’ with Spare Tyre Theatre Company. This was a multi-sensory show incorporating smell, touch, taste and sound, for people living with dementia that toured care homes across the UK. Recognising the programme was not reaching global majority audiences, Arti began to research stigma and taboo relating to dementia in the South Asian diaspora in the UK and whether the arts could be used to dismantle this. The resulting report, supported by the Baring Foundation, can be found here. Based on this research Arti produced a non-verbal show, ‘Love Unspoken’ in collaboration with older South Asian people, which incorporated Indian folk and classical dance, Urdu and Punjabi poetry, jasmine oil and classic Indian film songs, and which also allowed carers to participate in the performance. Further research commissioned by the Creative Ageing Development Agency (CADA) resulted in ‘Visionaries: A South Asian arts and ageing counter narrative’

Arti highlighted the power of community arts, which can work holistically, culturally and within a health and wellbeing context to meet the needs of the communities within cultural and religious parameters. This work can instil a sense of connection and feeling of being heard amongst community members, with positive benefits for health and wellbeing.

Arti ended her presentation with a recommendation;

“I think we need more support and understanding for the potential of grassroots projects, particularly those working with global majority communities and perhaps we could learn something from them.” - Arti Prashar

Skylark Café is part of Southbank Centre’s arts and wellbeing programme. The café is situated in the local community and focuses on reducing isolation and loneliness, particularly for people with chronic health conditions and disabilities. Described as ‘part performance, part workshop and part social club’ the café takes its inspiration from 17th Century literary salons, adapted for its members. In the café setting all members are artists and decisionmakers, and the event grows out of the community in the room, different in each session. Head of Creative Learning at the Southbank Centre, Jessica Santer, explained the importance of providing consistency, so that people feel confident, mixed with variety, providing a safe and ‘brave space’ for spontaneity. Members are supported to attend sessions, through regular communication between events, assistance with transport and provision of a hot meal. Skylark’s lead artist Bernadette Russell describes the space as a ‘utopia – a space where everyone is happy and held, and can get everything that they need and want’.

The benefits of creativity in social care

A theme that shone through in the session was the ability of creativity to bring joy and have an ‘impact on the soul’. Through creative approaches, spaces are created where people can feel heard, and build friendships and connections as in the Skylark Café, and where all the senses can be engaged to enhance people’s experience in the moment, as demonstrated by Arti Prashar’s immersive sensory practice. This joy can be built on to improve confidence, resilience, and mitigate distress, as evidenced by the residents’ choir in Appleby Care Home. It can provide support and self-care for carers, and, as Lucy James has shown, can lead to successful and previously unimagined careers in creative industries. As social care communications specialist Edna Petzen noted, such positive examples of the use of creativity in social care are much needed in the media, where, particularly since the pandemic, focus often falls on the deficits.

These benefits are not only felt by people accessing care. Creative activities, and feeling empowered to apply creative approaches in care provision, can also have a positive impact on staff wellbeing and satisfaction. In the current climate, where workforce retention is a significant challenge, it is particularly important that staff feel valued and fulfilled. Live Music Now has introduced a Badge of Excellence award to recognised the achievements of staff who have completed the programme, ensuring their value is recognised. Grace Meadows also notes research which shows the benefits for care home staff when music therapy is in place, as well as the potential for professional musicians to use their skills in care settings to support health and wellbeing.

Embedding creative health in social care

Having heard such positive examples, our attention turned to how we can bring about strategic change to make sure that creativity is supported and embedded fully into social care. For Liz Jones of the National Care Forum, the membership organisation for not-for profit care providers, this means that commissioners must place trust in grassroots and community organisations, flow power and money to providers, and afford them the freedom to develop creative and innovative approaches which best meet their users’ needs. David Cutler, Director of the Baring Foundation believes that we must go further still, ensuring that the right conditions are established at system level to ensure the kinds of activities showcased in the session are universally available across all care settings.

“Everyone should have a right to that quality of creative engagement, and that’s not what is happening” - David Cutler

Furthermore, funding for such initiatives should be diversified beyond arts funders. These are issues that are explored further in the recent report ‘Every Care Home a Creative Home’, which makes several recommendations for a systems approach to embedding creativity into residential care.

Karen Culshaw, Policy Manager in Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the regulator for health and social care in England, believes that a new assessment framework to be introduced later in the year will provide more opportunity to capture the outcomes from creative approaches to care more clearly. A series of new quality statements relating to caring will emphasise the impact creative approaches can have on quality of life, emotional wellbeing, promotion of human rights, choice and social and creative aspirations. The CQC are very keen to hear where and how this is taking place.

The Power of Music campaign, spearheaded by Grace Meadows has made steps forward in working strategically to shed light on and grow the fantastic work that is already taking place, consulting with key stakeholders from across health, social care and the music industry. Their report, ‘Power of Music’, highlights the importance of leadership, awareness, training and investment and recommends the appointment a Power of Music Commissioner to lead a cross-sectoral governmental taskforce. Along with the other recommendations in the report, these measures will help to reposition the arts within health and social care ‘from a nicety to an absolute necessity’. As Grace puts it;

“All of these recommendations take us to positioning music, and also the wider arts, as absolutely core to supporting the delivery of health and wellbeing and reimagining how we think about health and social care, and embedding the arts and music into what good care looks like.” - Grace Meadows

We are very grateful to all the speakers who joined us in the session. As Lord Alan Howarth summarised, we look forward to joining with them as the Creative Health Review progresses to influence practice and policy and ensure that creative health is embedded fully in health and social care systems, allowing the creative energy demonstrated today to flourish.

The roundtable is available to watch back here and we welcome your own perspectives and experiences through our open call for contributions – find details of how to submit here.

Roundtable Agenda & Biographies:

More about our Creative Health Review >>

Themes and Roundtables >>

Our next roundtable is on End of Life Care & Bereavement find out more here >>

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