18/03/2021 Helix Arts is helping carers connect to art and culture (4)

A group of people stand around a table and prepare food
A range of activities will be offered to carers

Helix Arts has connected people for almost 40 years using the arts to create change; advocating arts and health for the most excluded and vulnerable communities. They have been awarded funding from the Thriving Communities Fund, to lead the Better Connect project, a cross organisation initiative to enhance social prescribing for carers in North Tyneside. 

Support services for carers are desperately needed, as there are 22,008 carers live in the borough, according to the 2011 census, with a 19% increase in the number of people who are caring for more than 20 hours per week. An estimated 1 in 5 of these are young people.

Cheryl Gavin, Director from Helix Arts says ‚ÄúCarers¬†in our community have been adversely hit by COVID-19. Especially unpaid¬†carers, those¬†who are¬†often¬†forgotten¬†about¬†and not accessing the support they need. We have been delivering¬†programmes¬†with partners like this over our¬†40 year¬†history and are thrilled by this¬†boost to help us extend our reach and build on a service that we know is important for the North Tyneside area.‚Ä̬†

Young and adult carers will engage in activities around advocacy and mental health in varied ways, depending on people’s needs; at home, online or small group support sessions. The programme provides focus, depth and impact for carers impacted by COVID-19 with a particular emphasis on supporting those carers who have multiple barriers to engagement and who are suffering mental ill-health as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. 

Activities and programmes include: a creative community listening programme; heritage and home kits; dance classes to reduce risk of falls, improve physical health and reduce loneliness; reading coaches providing access to books; a mental health support network; mindful creativity; a range of fitness activities and outdoor and gardening activities; therapeutic horticulture/friendship and cooking group; volunteer training in North Shields regeneration; a holiday respite programme around telling personal stories; and many opportunities for personal development. 

Carers will gain increased knowledge, skills and experience, feel able to have ownership and social agency, have improved resilience, and see an improvement in health, wellbeing, especially mental, emotional and physical health (including loneliness and social isolation). There will be an increase in the diversity of referrals from health care practitioners as the project is reaching out to new communities. 

Clare Easton, Chief Executive at North Tyneside Carers‚Äô Centre shares support for this¬†alliance¬†‚ÄúThe pandemic has had such a significant impact on carers, this¬†programme¬†will increase capacity to support them through and beyond.¬†We¬†look forward to working with all the partners.‚Ä̬†

The network will provide solutions to difficult circumstances using social prescribing, and through a mutually supportive network of partners and participants, they will be encouraged to feel part of a better community for carers North Tyneside. The aim is to reach around 350 carers across the highest areas of deprivation to tackle some of these concerns. It will target those most in need and impacted by COVID-19, which includes those in poverty, with poor life chances and having suffered the largest health inequalities where financial and emotional insecurity is highest.  

As the only Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation in North Tyneside, Helix Arts has trusted partnerships with the voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise organisations, working across the borough. Helix Arts are co-founders of the Culture Health and Wellbeing Network in the borough, and are active members of the Chief Officers group and cultural consortium for the Heritage Action Zone in North Shields.  

The project has been informed by consultations with the North Tyneside Social Prescribing Service and their link workers, and is also supported by GPs, Primary Care Network, Tyne Health, and PHE Clinical Champions. As a result, the project will have longevity and see social prescribing embedded in the offering for local people.  

External research will be looking the progress and¬†sustainability of Better Connect. Newcastle University will review the¬†Ann¬†Cleeves¬†reading¬†programme¬†and by¬†Professor¬†Stephen Clift,¬†Emeritus Professor for the Sidney De¬†Haan¬†Research Centre at Canterbury Christ Church University. Stephen‚ÄĮwill provide¬†support, critique and explore¬†impact across the¬†programme¬†providing¬†expert knowledge of¬†Arts and Health.¬†¬†

Along with ACE’s Let’s Create and the National Academy for Social Prescribing’s strategic plan, these findings will inform Helix Arts’ future. 


Cheryl Gavin is director at Helix Arts

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