Independent Arts

Award amount: £37,000


Case Study

“J has begun attending more activities than previously. J appears happier in herself and seems to smile a lot more … J is also engaging with other residents more and us with them, which is a delight to see. J has lived at the home for at least five years. During this period, she rarely visited the residents or took part in activities, preferring to remain in her room. Only recently, and particularly with the arrival of the Changing Spaces project, has she been persuaded to join in. J’s baseline anxiety score was nine. At the end of the 12 weeks this had been reduced to 2.”

Organisation: Independent Arts

Changing Spaces

The Charity

Independent Arts is an Isle of Wight charity using the arts to improve wellbeing, quality of life and to reduce social isolation. Their mission is to deliver music, creativity and the arts to older people and disadvantaged people who may be excluded, to provide older people with regular activities to address their social isolation and to address the health issues of the older community by providing social and creative activities which have a positive impact on long-term health conditions. 

The need

The Isle of Wight has one of the highest populations of over 65’s, and the highest proportion of people with dementia, in the UK. 

The care home population in the Isle of Wight is approximately 2,040 individuals, housed in 75 care and nursing homes across the Island. Despite some improvement, Island care home services continue to languish at the bottom if the national league tables. In 2018, the Island was ranked the worst in the country for the quality of its residential and nursing homes, based on inspections carried out by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). 

The 2016 Home from Home report from Healthwatch Isle of Wight, found lack of stimulation and lack of meaningful activities was an issue that meant people’s skill levels deteriorated and increased their dependence on others. The report also stated that the provision of activities was a low priority for care staff, particularly if they were short-staffed or busy. 

The project

Independent Arts was awarded a two-year grant in 2018 for Changing Spaces, a culture change project designed to improve the lives of older people in residential settings by providing a sustainable programme of activities to those in care. The project engages residents, staff and the wider community to actively transform care homes into creative spaces, making them places where individuals can learn, live and thrive. 

The project employs as its theme the changes brought about by history, to involve people in the heritage of their local community and their own rich life experiences. The project establishes links between local culture and heritage sites and brings heritage into the homes through creative and local historically-themed activities. A diverse range of art forms, including literature, music and photography is being utilised throughout the project. Care homes are also twinned with local heritage sites and local volunteers, enabling the connections to endure after project completion.

 Is it working?

During the first year of the project, Independent Arts has engaged with three care homes, reaching 95 residents and 15 staff members. Each care home received 24 hours of workshop provision over 12 weeks, plus two hours of staff training and two hours of evaluation meetings. Workshops took place either on site at the care home or consisted of visits to local sites, e.g. museums, libraries and community groups.

An evaluation framework has been developed in partnership with Winchester University, based on Public Health England’s guidelines to monitor and evaluate clinical outcomes. It was decided that GAD-7, a short form easily completed by staff, would be utilised. GAD-7 comprises seven questions which result in an overall score, with a high score indicating the presence of anxiety.

Initial data from two of the homes shows a reduction in anxiety levels in both residents and staff, with lowered anxiety levels in all participants over the 12-week intervention. Observational assessment is also being done to allow for a more holistic and individualised assessment of residents’ development during the project. These observations have been recorded at every session and compared with individual GAD-7 scores. 

In the coming year Independent Arts will engage with five more care homes, delivering a further 125 hours of creative engagement to 90 residents and 30 staff.