Integration and the arts

Published in Features on 12 Jan 2015

Integration is at the top of many social care, housing and health professionals agendas which made me wonder about the role of the arts and artists the integration debate.

In my mind there are two forms of integration, service (or process) integration and workforce (or people) integration. It's the latter, rather than the former, where I think that the arts has much to offer.

Workforce integration starts from a perspective where the rationale for integration is focused on the outcomes that working in an integrated way can have on enabling the person with care and support needs to maintain their independence. As part of a workforce working in this integrated way artists and the arts could have a significant impact on both the individual with care and support needs and workers from social care, health and housing.

This impact could make itself felt in a number of ways.

By including artists and art in integrated support planning, workers and people with care and support needs could be challenged to think more laterally about what is possible, desirable and valued by the person and the worker. Abstract art could provide a different way of making an assessment of support needs and talking through how to meet those needs.

By enabling social care, housing and health workers and people with care and support needs to share their artistic knowledge, skills and interests as part of integrated care and support, peoples motivation, confidence and satisfaction could be enhanced. People's  shared interests in particular art forms could form a common bond worker and the person being supported. A common interest that is outside of the care and support arrangement, I would suggest, is a way to enable people to build better relationships that improve trust and improve how people are supported. Improving the lives of the worker and the person they are supporting.

Artists and the arts are already involved in social care, housing and health in many informal ways. Bringing some the expertise into integrated care and support in a more formal way might create new and unforeseen opportunities and connections.

Integration isn't just about how traditional services and workforces work together. It has to have a broader community focus. Artists and the art might be a concrete way to extend integration naturally.