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Music-making increases happiness and reduces loneliness for carers: new report shows

Music-making increases happiness and reduces loneliness for carers: new report shows

  • Findings show that carers had more confidence, felt more connected, were happier, and able to provide better care after taking part
  • Carers particularly value the time out from caring, the support networks, and learning a new skill

A ground-breaking trial, funded by the DCMS Tampon Tax Fund and Spirit of 2012 has concluded that participating in group music activities helps improve the wellbeing of unpaid female carers. The Carers’ Music Fund was delivered across the UK in ten projects, targeted at different groups of carers over four cohorts and two years (2019-21).

Among these projects were: Project Alaw in Merthyr Tydfil that worked with carers between the ages of 8-21 on making music and songwriting; Tàlaidhean in Ross-Shire, that worked with young mothers in rural areas and small towns to create folk lullabies in Gaelic, and Sound Out in Durham which worked with over 200 carers in local refugee community using a mix of choral music, folk, rock, gamelan and west African percussion.

In total the Carer’s Music Fund reached nearly 1,000 women and girls all of whom care for children, people with illnesses or disabilities, or older people.

The evaluation report, published today, showed that:

  • the average wellbeing scores of beneficiaries across cohorts had improved for each of the four ONS personal wellbeing measures: life satisfaction, sense of worthwhile, happiness and anxiety.
  • 91% of those who reported the highest levels of anxiety and 79% who reported medium levels of anxiety saw their anxiety levels reduce over the course of the 12 sessions.

In a virtual summit held on Wednesday 23rd June 2021, carers organisations, in arts and music organisations, funders and public health practitioners heard from politicians, experts in social care and wellbeing, project co-ordinators and the participants themselves who shared their personal stories. Speakers included Lord Gus O’Donnell, Simon Baynes MP, and Minister for Civil Society and Youth, and Baroness Diana Barran who welcomed the report: "When tackling loneliness, our focus in government is thinking about how we build connections through activities we enjoy.

"There's no single route for this. However, music is something that stimulates memory for many people who struggle with dementia, that touches all of us in our souls, and that we can share together in a really quite profound way.”

Ruth Hollis, Chief Executive, Spirit of 2012 said: “The need for quality interventions for unpaid carers even before Covid was very clear, and lockdown has placed a significant additional burden on carers, with three-quarters of carers saying that they hadn’t had any time to themselves during the pandemic. Here’s the evidence that participatory music-making improves wellbeing for carers, and some insights on how to make it work. Now our message to funders, commissioners, and practitioners is this: we need more projects that use participatory arts to improve carers wellbeing.”

Click here to read the full evaluation and briefing reports.

When tackling loneliness, our focus in government is thinking about how we build connections through activities we enjoy.

There's no single route for this. However, music is something that stimulates memory for many people who struggle with dementia, that touches all of us in our souls, and that we can share together in a really quite profound way.

Baroness Diana Baran

Nancy Hey, Executive Director, What Works Centre for Wellbeing said: "Making music with others can improve wellbeing and tackle loneliness through a number of different pathways designed into these projects. From building connections, to improving confidence and skills, giving carers a voice, and busting stereotypes - there wasn’t a single route to wellbeing, but a number of different journeys.

"In the pandemic, those at risk of low wellbeing have struggled and will likely continue to do so in the future. The Carers’ Music Fund has shown that by using the evidence to design activities, and adapting those activities as we learn what works, can make a real difference to people’s lives.”