Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by London Arts in Health Forum (LAHF) (arts 51)


This submission looks at the issue of funding for the application of arts and wellbeing. The arts have a valuable part to play in improving healthcare environments, improving medical training, offering therapy to patients and providing opportunities for participation and meaningful activity for patients. The contribution the arts makes to the NHS is considerable and cost-effective, there is a growing evidence base supporting the impact of the arts on health. This area has historically struggled for support from arts funders and tended to find support albeit piecemeal from health providers. Given the current changes to healthcare provision, much of this support is in jeopardy and the valuable role of the arts in health may be lost. Serious consideration should be given to greater support for this important area of work from arts funding bodies and lottery funders.

About the author: London Arts in Health Forum (LAHF) works to promote and support arts in health activity across London and nationally.

1. LAHF promotes knowledge and understanding of the arts in health care, showcases best practice in the field, supports practitioners and encourages a strategic approach to arts in healthcare nationally while forging links internationally. The organisation is free to join and offers regular events, a monthly newsletter, training sessions and advice and support for artists, architects, clinical staff and anyone with an interest in arts in health. It receives regular funding from Arts Council England (£21,675 per annum)As of January 2009, LAHF has 2180 members.

2. In recent years, a growing body of evidence has been compiled exploring the potential of the arts to impact on health and wellbeing. The evidence may now be mounting but it is still a big challenge to make the case for supporting arts in health when the public sector is facing the current spending squeeze. The arts can have a profound impact on wellbeing. Up and down the country, projects utilising the arts are directly contributing to public health, community engagement, social wellbeing and improved mental health. This is on top of the direct involvement of artists in the improvement and development of the NHS estate and the engagement of patients and service users in acute settings, in GP practices and in social care. What is more, the diversity and range of artforms employed in these activities is constantly expanding and developing. The field of artists and practitioners engaged in this work is growing rapidly. As the sector expands, so too does understanding of the impact the arts can have on wellbeing: research and evaluation is becoming more sophisticated, knowledge is growing. The quality is improving. There are many examples of great art in health on the new website

3. However, this work is built on shaky foundations. For years, arts in health has struggled to earn the whole-hearted support of the Arts Council and the Department of Health (DoH). The sector continues to run the gauntlet of ill-informed press comment and pockets of resistance within the NHS.

4. Arts in health has plenty in common with the wider arts sector – it is subject to the same economic and political pressures only perhaps more so. For years, this area of work has relied on support from two sides – the arts and health. Like many in the arts, organisations are now being squeezed by the cuts to Arts Council and DCMS and by the pressure on trusts and foundations. However, despite the ring-fencing of funding for the NHS, there is also huge pressure on funding from the health side. The building boom in the NHS – which generated a focus on environmental improvements, especially in hospitals – has now largely come to an end. Healthcare providers are rapidly changing their output and there is a danger arts in health will not be included.

5. Most of the artists and practitioners who work to deliver arts in health work do so as individual artists or as part of small organisations. Many rely almost entirely on public support and have limited means of raising alternative income. Community arts activities and opportunities for marginalised people to participate in the arts have immense value but – as delivered by individual artists and small organisations have limited fundraising options.

6. It is worth noting that even if Lottery funding to the arts increases, the reduction in Lottery funding to Big Lottery will impact on community arts activities from the other side. If the new Lottery cash is spent on, for example, buildings, then these community arts groups could actually find the availability of Lottery cash reduces under the new system.

7. Current funding arrangements for the arts do not work effectively for this type of work. Arts Council England’s proposed changes will also limit opportunities for artists working to deliver arts in health activity. This work is very difficult to fund on a project basis. Ethically and practically, there are huge difficulties in engaging in arts activities with audiences and participants in the field of (for example) mental health solely on a project basis yet longer term funding is unlikely to be offered to even the most innovative and dynamic arts in health organisation. Under the current and proposed funding system, the large arts organisations prosper while small organisations and individual artists working in community and social settings struggle.

8. A lot of work is currently being undertaken to measure the impact of the arts on health. In June of this year, the DCMS published its CASE review. In terms of demonstrating the value of arts attendance and participation in health terms, this shows a clear link – especially the section on Subjective Wellbeing Measures (p35-39).

9. The Well London project – now drawing to a close also demonstrates the value of arts participation.

10. What is lacking is clear links between DCMS, Arts Council and the Department of Health to look into the means of supporting arts and health. This could be facilitated through the arts in health committee chaired by Professor Rob Smith in the Department of Health and the staff in the DCMS and Arts Council with knowledge and interest in this sector. Considerable funding for arts activities comes from Primary Care Trusts, acute hospitals, Foundation Trusts and healthcare charities and foundations. A more proactive role for Arts Council England along with some dedicated funding to support this area of work would help enormously to develop this important area of work.

September 2010