Why the arts matter

Published in Features on 9 May 2014

I've always had a passion for the arts - whether it's music, visual art, or performance art. I’ve spent most of my career working in adult social care training and development. I've always said that being a trainer is a bit like being a writer and a performer and that the more you can entertain people when you are teaching the more they are likely to learn.

I became involved in looking at the role of the arts and social care through my work on community skills development. This is a program that Skills for Care has developed over the last four years, which focuses on looking at the skills that exist in the community and the skills that people with care and support needs have and asks - how can people share the knowledge they have to better support each other? Then what do they need to learn to support each other even better.

As we developed the community skills program it became increasingly clear to me that the arts and people who work in the arts were an important part of peoples care and support that often only happened by accident, and more often than not where the person with care and support needs was a passive recipient rather than active participant in the art.

I wanted to know what was already going on between the arts and social care and what might make a difference to people's lives.

That's where the work that we've been doing in partnership with others to look at the role of the arts in social care started.

I've been really surprised by the incredible resourcefulness people are bringing from the arts into individuals lives and the level of enthusiasm to do more. There's so much active participation already going on that makes a real difference to outcomes that isn't recorded in away that makes it easy to fund.

From what I've learned so far I think the thing that would make the biggest difference would be to able to show how arts based activities really do change peoples lives and that it isn't just the lives of people with care and support needs that change - its the the lives of workers too.

Understanding and enabling workers to share their creativity, skills, knowledge and expertise around all different kinds of forms of art within their workplace can improve their motivation the desire to come to work and change the relationship between the person they are supporting and themselves.

I may have a learning disability, I may have dementia. I have an autistic spectrum disorder or mental health needs but I am also a lover of music, a painter, a writer, a singer and a performer. You maybe some of those things as well. By finding out what we have in common, we change our perceptions of each other and change our relationship unequivocably. That's why the arts matter to people in social care.