Exciting times ahead for social prescribing in Edinburgh

Social prescribing is everywhere – from government strategies and health service plans to Third Sector Organisations’ websites. Referring individuals to a range of local, non-clinical activities or services seems like a sensible way to reduce loneliness and/or social isolation. However, many people offered such advice often need a little bit of persuasion to attend or participate in new groups. Even when the person has expressed an interest in doing so, there can be tangible barriers to overcome first, for example, transport, accessibility issues and financial implications.

Several health and social care partnerships across Scotland have introduced Community Link Workers (CLWs) to provide people with support and encouragement to take those first steps towards engaging in local activities. To maximise the effectiveness of this role, CLWs are employed by Third Sector Organisations but are based in local GP practices working as part of the team. The CLWs ensure that practice teams are aware of what is available in the immediate neighbourhood so that the clinicians and reception staff can signpost people to community organisations and events. Although still in its infancy, there is growing academic evidence that highlights the benefits of social prescribing and as it becomes more established other organisations and services have started to explore this as an additional way to help people.

Although slightly removed from the more usual health setting, social prescribing is referred to throughout Scottish Government’s Culture Strategy. That said, the principle is the same – engagement in cultural activities results in reduced social isolation and improved health outcomes. It doesn’t matter whether this is participating in a drama workshop, attending an art class or learning a musical instrument. Every one of these, and more, are part of Scotland’s rich culture.

For some people activities that have a cultural basis can be daunting – stepping into new venues, attending exhibitions, exploring different and varied forms of art/music and perhaps feeling that some of these events are “out of bounds”. Happily, the CLWs have case studies that demonstrate that these activities can be enjoyed by everyone and in conjunction with Voluntary Health Scotland (VHScotland.org.uk), Edinburgh’s CLW Network has been working to encourage greater involvement.

VHS hosted two online events bringing together arts practitioners, such as Youth Theatre Arts Scotland, Museums Galleries Scotland, Art in Healthcare and some of the city’s link workers. There was a series of presentations and discussions over the course of both sessions allowing participants the opportunity to begin to understand one others’ roles and perspectives and to find ways to work together to improve access to a wide range of activities for people living in Edinburgh.

Shortly after these sessions a workshop was held for several of the city’s CLWs at The Collective, a contemporary art centre based at the top of Calton Hill. The aim was to introduce the CLWs to this resource and for the link workers to add it to their “toolbox” of activities. This took place during the pandemic and was therefore a virtual event but there are now ambitions to run another piece of collaborative work and some training for the CLWs, this time in person.

This led us to consider that there might be value in setting up direct conversations between art practitioners and link workers. We created a Teams meeting and invited participants from the two VHS events to come along. On the day we had representation from organisations such as Tinderbox, Art in Healthcare, The Collective, City of Edinburgh Council and Edinburgh International Film Festival. There was much discussion around the challenges of connecting with people who face challenges such as finance and housing, with arts and culture. The group were able to discuss how CLWs, their employing organisations, local practices and the arts and culture groups could work together to bring arts and culture to the people we work with in ways that suits them. It was agreed that contact details could be shared so that smaller, more specific discussions could take place.

We are delighted to report that these “pairings” have been extremely helpful. CLWs have highlighted specific barriers and offered some practical solutions to the individual organisations and the CLWs are able to describe and explain what local arts initiatives (in their very broadest sense) can offer and, where appropriate, encourage individuals to get involved.

The small groupings are due to come back together again during June 2022 to share learning and experiences. This will provide us with an opportunity to jointly agree next steps and future ventures. Exciting times lie ahead!

Written by Anne Crandles, CLW

CAIR: Caithness Artists in Residence, Lyth Arts Centre

people wearing embroidered aprons and holding other garments with emboidered text

people wearing embroidered aprons and holding other garments with emboidered text

Lyth Arts Centre (LAC) is the UK’s most northerly mainland arts centre, presenting an annual programme of live performance across Caithness alongside contemporary visual art and an extensive participatory programme of educational and socially-engaged arts projects led by local creatives in our community. LAC strives to be a nationally and internationally recognised, industry leading small arts centre that practices radical localism and challenges conceptions about what it means to be ‘rural’. Our Caithness community is at the heart of everything we do and we work across the county acting as a cultural hub for the North of Scotland.

Since the pandemic, LAC has been developing new arts and wellbeing programmes. Central to this has been CAIR: Caithness Artists in Residence – a new community arts initiative that connects artists and creative practitioners with distinct Caithness communities.
Led by LAC and local community organisations, the project explores how we could work with artists and facilitate creative responses to local problems, encouraging creative cultural activism and prioritising an artist and community centric approach to recovery after Coronavirus.

A steep decline in our communities mental wellbeing since Covid-19 is regularly reported by many of our partners and their participants. In response to this, several of the CAIR projects have focussed on arts-based wellbeing activities to reduce isolation, improve confidence and explore tools and ideas for healthy wellbeing in Caithness.

Five local artists worked with local communities in Caithness, responding to Locality Plans within the area. Kelly Munro worked with local young people to explore their maritime heritage and identity through metalwork and design. Karlyn Sutherland worked specifically with Caithness Community Connections in Lybster using her vast skill base. George Gunn worked across the county delivering writing workshops and developing ‘Words on the Wind’ a community poem/film project which explores and captures what it means to live in Caithness today. Donna Swanson collaborated with young people and communities in and around Thurso using theatre and film techniques to explore mental health and other local issues. And Joanne B Karr collaborated with Befriending Caithness – a voluntary service that aims to reduce isolation and loneliness in the county by matching volunteers to older isolated adults in the county.

During Joanne’s project she collaborated with Befriending Caithness to develop a textile reminiscent pack through weekly sessions. The themes were varied and included “School Days” and “Fishing Folk”. The group decided to collaboratively create a “reminiscence pack library” at the Befriending Caithness office where befrienders can go and pick up a pack and take it along to their meetings with befriendees to encourage conversation and memory. These will also be available to local care homes. As a culmination of the project the group decided to host a touring exhibition, taking some of the work to more rural and remote befriendees gardens.

Feedback from befrienders described the project as being like a breath of fresh air and a true inspiration, reporting that the best part of the project were the conversations that people had in preparation before sewing. Key worker Angie House from Befriending Caithness said,

‘The whole experience has encouraged conversation at a very difficult time, it brought laughter, socialising and exchanging our past individual stories within the community.’

Watch videos and find out more about the CAIR: Caithness Artists in Residence here.

Charlotte Mountford, Co-Director Lyth Arts Centre


Mapping Arts & Health Provision in Scotland

Creative Scotland mapping of Arts and Health logo, white text on lilac background

Creative Scotland mapping of Arts and Health logo, white text on lilac background

Creative Scotland commissioned a mapping report by Rocket Science to understand the scale and scope of the current involvement of professional artists working in the area of health and wellbeing within Scotland.

“The scope of the work by Rocket Science was tightly defined to cover artsrelated activity led by one or more professional artists, created with explicit artistic and health or artistic and wellbeing objectives, and designed to enhance the health and/or wellbeing of those with a health related condition or illness, the wider public, and the healthcare workforce.”

The report outlines the policy landscape around art and health in the UK and specifically in Scotland. The development of Arts, Culture, Health and Wellbeing Scotland (ACHWS) network plays a role within the Scottish Government‘s Cultural Strategy by providing information and support for anyone working across arts and culture, health and wellbeing in Scotland.

While Rocket Science‘s mapping exercise hasn’t captured all the noteable work being carried out within Scotland, it provides a useful overview of the sector. Respondants were asked whether they had an equality, diversity and inclusion plan and whether they were disabled-led or multi-ethnic led. Other questions covered: artists’ practice in health and wellbeing; funding for arts and health in Scotland; the impact of COVID-19 on arts and health activities in Scotland; the challenges and barriers to delivering the arts and health / wellbeing agenda; ambitions for delivering the arts and health / wellbeing agenda; and how Creative Scotland can support organisations and artists involved in arts and health / wellbeing.

You can read the full report here.

Preventing Falls Using Dance, Dance to Health

older people taking part in jopyful movement session while seated

older people taking part in jopyful movement session while seated

The arts touch us all. Imagine a world without music, film, theatre, dance or photography. It would be bland and joyless.

We are all passionate about the arts: the music track that makes you get up and dance; the poem that feels as though it’s speaking directly to you; and those big, communal artistic occasions – Glastonbury, the opening ceremony of the London Olympics – which stay with you forever. The arts communicate to us all, bridging divides and breaking down barriers. They have the power to change, even shatter perceptions, in an instant. They can compel us to act, to change. They can transform individuals and societies.

Aesop is a charity that harnesses the power of the arts to help solve society’s big challenges.

Their lead programme addresses the challenge of older people falling. One in three people aged over 65 fall each year. In Scotland, more than 18,000 older people are admitted to hospital after a fall each year.

Sadly, having a fall is often the start of a downward spiral. Falls destroy confidence, increase isolation and reduce independence. About 1 in 10 older people who fall become afraid to leave their homes in case they fall again.

This challenge is going to get bigger. Scotland’s population is continuing to age, with a 50% increase in over 60s projected by 2033.

Dance to Health’s approach to meeting this challenge is to recruit experienced community dance artists. They then train as ‘Postural Stability Instructors’ – the recognized qualification for falls prevention exercise. Lastly they learn how to smuggle Postural Stability into creative dance.

Dance to Health then set up classes for groups of people, in their community or online. The fun, creative nature of the classes aims to increase engagement so more people take part and continue to do so for longer periods of time.

The Sport Industry Research Centre (SIRC) at Sheffield Hallam University was commissioned to evaluate Dance to Health. They concluded:

  • Dance to Health offers the health system an effective and cost-effective means to address the issue of older people’s falls.
  • Dance to Health reduces falls by 58%
  • If an older person visits A&E because of a fall, the likelihood of their becoming an in-patient is 35%. This reduces to 13% for Dance to Health participants.
  • Dance to Health’s fidelity to existing physiotherapy programmes was confirmed.
  • As a result of Dance to Health:
    • 96% of participants report becoming more physically active,
    • 96% report increased mental wellbeing,
    • 87% report making new friends.
  • 98% of participants said they would recommend the Dance to Health programme to people who have fallen or who are at risk of falling.

3 people young and older making creative movement

Equally as impressive as the evidence above is the feedback received directly from participants:

I can feel my legs are stronger. I went to a family christening at the weekend and my relatives couldn’t believe the difference in me. My entire posture has changed.

When I leave here I feel elated – it sort of uplifts you. Gives you a lovely feeling. I can come in depressed and go out feeling on top of the world.

After retirement my mobility had become increasingly compromised, by worn out, stiff and painful hips. After each session I was able to stand up straight instead of being stooped, if only temporarily, and move about more freely.

Dance to Health currently works with a wide range of organisations in England and Wales. Customers include Hywel Dda University Health Board, Swansea Bay University Health Board, Birmingham City Council Adult Social Services, Walsall Council Public Health, Anchor Care Homes and Age UK.

Dance to Health is exploring how best to support healthcare organisations in Scotland and welcomes conversations with anyone who would like to collaborate.

To find out more about Dance to Health, feel free to get in touch with Ben Worth, Head of Business Development & Marketing, t: 07723 310 714 / e: benworth@ae-sop.org