Over the last decade key health and social care policies including Statutory Guidance to accompany the Social Care (Self-directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013 and the Keys to Life 2013 have highlighted the need for practitioners to be more creative. Yet there is little understanding as to how to translate ‘creative’ into social care practice within the context of prevailing social policy drivers of personalisation and co-production. Dr Susan Levy and Dr Hannah Young from the University of Dundee, in collaboration with Artlink, are beginning to evidence the impact of the work of Artlink artists on the lives of service users, on carers, social care practice and the organisational culture of a day centre.
Qualitative data, including observations, reflective diaries and interviews with Artlink artists, Cherry Road Day Centre carers and managers have been collected over a period of six months. Data analysis is currently ongoing. Early findings are highlighting that the work of the Artlink artists with people with PMLD at Cherry Road Day Centre are blurring the boundaries between the arts and social care, opening up a space where care practitioners and managers are learning from Artlink artists. This learning is visible in social care practice and through empowered staff working in new and experimental ways. In essence, Cherry Road staff appear to be connecting with service users at a more personal level, slowing down time to develop meaningful and reciprocal relationships that are engendering a level of agency for service users that is absent in other places and spaces in their lives. In the words of one of the artists,

He has been able to rewrite his narrative … He can’t speak, so through his actions he is generating his own narrative identity, changing it from what’s always been imposed on him … which has been not not not not not. It’s always about the negative. Never about what can we do … and not about learning and really, really looking at people and really engaging with someone, really spending time. And I think the uniqueness of this project is the amount of time we invest… spending time with people and absorbing…. It’s about forming a relationship.

The current Health Improvement Scotland project is exposing the synergy between the creativity of the Artlink artists and ways to work with people with PMLD in a care setting that brings to the fore the visibility of individual agency and enacts the importance of the experiences and learning of both carers and service users. From carers through to management at Cherry Road the artists’ playful, stimulating and responsive interactions with service users are being integrated into practice. This innovative work is uniquely embedding creativity into the working culture of the day centre and transforming the outcomes for service users and carers. In doing so Artlink’s work is problematising prevailing norms around disability and paid carers.

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