Evaluation of Creative Alternatives arts on prescription programme (2015-16)

ICC Research Fellow Gayle Whelan has worked with Creative Alternatives  to evaluate its arts on prescription programme delivered in St Helens (2015-16). Mental health in the borough is ranked below the national average, and in a bid to reduce costs associated with mental health disorders, there is a growing number of community-based interventions, and specifically those which involve an element of creativity.

Creative Alternatives follows an innovative arts on prescription/social prescribing model, in which health and care professionals can refer individuals to arts-based activities in a bid to improve health outcomes. There is a growing national interest on the efficacy of social prescribing to improve, promote and protect people’s health and wellbeing, including the fields of arts and creativity. The programme is aimed at St Helens residents who are experiencing mild to moderate stress, anxiety or depression. Creative Alternatives St Helens is part of the National Lottery/Arts Council England-funded Cultural Hubs – Arts in Libraries programme and provides an opportunity to explore a range of arts activities which enhance self-expression, relaxation and social interaction within a creative core workshop programme consisting of 12 weekly sessions.

The evaluation found that in its pilot, 53 people completed the workshops. Benefits of attending included improved reported mental health and wellbeing; increased physical activity, and an increase in social activity. A social return on investment conducted as part of the evaluation found that for every £1 invested in the programme, £11.55 was returned in social value.

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