Creative Community Intervention

UKRI ‘Mobilising Cultural and Natural Assets to Address Health Inequalities’ grants 2022-2023

Creative Community Intervention is our response to a strategic call from the UKRI’s Mobilising cultural assets to combat health inequalities scheme. Art at the Start’s range of arts-based interventions to promote the mental health and wellbeing of parents and 0–3-year-old infants meant this was an opportune next step for us. Funding from the scheme for our project ‘Art at the Start: Creative community intervention for perinatal and infant mental health‘ allowed us to explore the potential to scale up this locally developed intervention model.

Phase 1 (2022)

Phase one built upon our successful control trial in Dundee Contemporary Arts in 2018-2020, which showed a significant improvement to parental wellbeing, their perception of their infant, and observation of increased behaviours that sustain secure attachments. We expanded across a range of new gallery sites within Scotland in 2022, feeding into current governmental and NHS drives to offer diverse and sustainable perinatal and infant mental health (PIMH) provision.

We embedded art therapists within four galleries across Scotland as action researchers (Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee; Tramway, Glasgow; Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre, North Uist; Dunfermline Carnegie Libraries and Galleries, Fife). They developed services with the galleries, exploring the process and evaluating outcomes. We also supported the set-up of two additional services which ran in parallel with Cross Reach perinatal team and NHS Lothian community perinatal team, supported by Fruitmarket, and National Museum of Scotland. All the art therapists received training in the model of parent-infant art therapy groups and ongoing support and clinical supervision throughout the project. The art therapists were encouraged to work with each gallery to meet local need for wider public engagement and outreach to engage as many families as possible.

In total 58 pairs of infants and their caregivers accessed art therapy support, 220 families received targeted outreach with art-based approaches, and over 2500 people were reached through public sessions, encouraging more art making for the very youngest participants.

“Relaxed informal session – loved it and baby loved it to – excellent opportunity for messy fun play. Brilliant for community. More sessions please!” -first time visitor to DCA

Working across a spectrum from art therapy sessions on referral, to needs-led art support, to a fully public participative approach, part of Art at the Start’s key mission was to widely communicate the psychological benefits of early art making, and to provide on the ground support for such activities. In each area the team adapted to meet the needs of local families.

“Three months old today, and we took him here to create his first work of art! Loved the opportunity to share art in the gallery and let him get messy and share new experiences with other babies and families” – parent at messy play session in Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Gallery

As with our control trial the results seen during this first phase of funding showed significant improvement, and across all sites we had a very low drop out rate (less than 5%), demonstrating high feasibility. We also know that 39% of the families accessing the therapeutic intervention were in the highest quintile for deprivation in the country.

Read the full report from Phase 1 here:

Tip for viewing online: Make the book full screen by clicking on the expand toggle on the bar above and then click on the right arrow to flip the page.

You can also download a PDF of the report here

Phase 2 (Nov 2022 to July 2023)

In Phase 2 we have benefited from further funding from the UKRI scheme, Mobilising community assets to address health inequalities, to bring together a consortium of arts, health and academic partners to explore art-based support and develop logic models for this approach. Our research consortia draws together representatives from art galleries, third sector mental health and arts organisations, NHS and academics across various disciplines; Psychology, Arts Education, Midwifery, Arts Therapy, Arts & Health. We also included a community parent researcher, who is being supported by a participation officer from PIMH Scotland to help us to evaluate the experiences, barriers and needs of families who may benefit from the health and wellbeing outcomes of a community embedded art & health service. To ensure broad representation, we have included targeted community outreach sessions to reach families in areas of high deprivation who may not access arts venues, and our participation offer is currently running focus groups with parents with lived experience of perinatal mental health difficulties. We have run public events in venues such as the RSA and V&A to raise awareness. We are also mapping the available art opportunities for the 0-3 age range across the UK and conducting visits to examples of good practice.

We have also been working with interested external organisations to deliver training in our art based approach. This included training for NHS art therapists delivering groups in Gloucester and Herefordshire, Art therapists with 3rd sector organisation impact Arts, and two days of training to the Blackpool Better Start Partnership made up of NHS team, Social work teams, City Council Staff and 3rd sector organisations.