Monumental arts project changing perceptions in Welsh care homes

(Age Cymru Media Release)

An arts participatory project involving 122 care homes across Wales (nearly 20% of the total) has brought fundamental changes to the way staff view some of their most vulnerable residents.  This was one of the key findings of an evaluation of Age Cymru’s cARTrefu project and presented to ministers and AMs at a special celebration in the Senedd today (Tuesday 10 October 2017).

Funded by the Arts Council of Wales and the Baring Foundation, the project is thought to be the largest of its kind in Europe and involved more than 1,500 residents and more than 300  care home staff who were encouraged to become involved in a variety of art forms including dance, music, painting and creative writing.  Their artistic endeavours were led by 16 arts practitioners who were in turn supported by four expert art mentors.

The evaluation, undertaken by Dr Katherine Algar Skaife from the Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) Wales at Bangor University, found that the project increased the well-being of residents, improved their social skills, and even helped some of them regain long lost abilities like using a knife and fork. It also found that the project had a positive impact on the care home staff with many reporting improved attitudes to residents, especially those with dementia.  One carer said “It made me realise residents are more capable than one might give them credit for.”

The evaluation also found that the project developed a group of artists who are now better equipped to work with vulnerable older people in care settings and that the lives of the residents are more like to be reflected in future work undertaken by the artists.

Commenting on Dr Algar Skaife’s findings, Age Cymru’s chair Meirion Hughes said:

“The cArtrefu project deserves widespread praise and recognition for helping to fundamentally change our perceptions and expectations of vulnerable older people in care settings.  For far too long, our own understanding of residents’ capabilities and aspirations were often skewed. 

“However, this cARTrefu project has thrust care homes and their residents right to the forefront of our thinking, and rightly so, thanks to the skills of the artists and the contribution of the participating care homes and their staff.

“I am, therefore, delighted that funding has been secured from the Arts Council of Wales and the Baring Foundation for cARTrefu II to take the project through until 2019 to build on the work already done and extend the benefits to a broader group of residents.”

Publication date: 10 October 2017