A scheme helping hundreds of vulnerable people enjoy the benefits of art has ceased due to a lack of funding.
The Arts on Prescription project in Pendle, Burnley and the Ribble Valley, which is managed and operated by Pendle Leisure Trust, has closed after one of its main funding sources, Target Wellbeing, came to and end.
Pendle Leisure Trust’s Arts Development Team can no longer provide the project unless alternative funding can be found and bosses have expressed great concern over the vulnerable people that will be affected by this.
Pendle Leisure Trust’s Arts Development Manager, Kirsty Rose Parker, said: “Target Wellbeing came to an end in May and this has left us with a £30,000 annual deficit, therefore we have had to make the difficult decision to cease providing this popular and successful programme.
“In the last few years we have worked with around 250 individuals each year and it is hard to think of what will happen to them in the future. If we were able to get other funding, then we would be able to continue.”
Arts on Prescription provided art courses free of charge to adults suffering from depression, anxiety, isolation and low self-esteem. Courses include crafts, drawing, painting, creative writing, cookery, cake baking and textiles. People were not asked their reasons for attending, but were encouraged to set themselves goals to achieve during the courses, which led to them meeting new friends, gaining confidence and learning new skills.
Running across Pendle, Burnley, and the Ribble Valley, the much valued and appreciated project has worked with individuals who signed themselves up for the courses and health agencies wanting to refer people – from a referral database of over 300 health and support workers.
Kirsty added: “Since the project started in 2007, we have worked with over 1,200 people and 114 of those have returned to employment, which is a fantastic achievement. In the eight years, 1,020 people have learnt new skills, 480 people went on to study or joined a group to continue being creative and learning and 72% of the people continue to make art at home.”
Comments from some of the people who have attended the courses include: “It gave me a chance to learn new things, meet people and most of all gave me hope for the future”; “It took me away from troublesome thinking and gave me a purpose in life”; “Being part of a group, where we were all on the same level was great” and “I have gone back to work full time thanks to the confidence I regained attending the course”.
One referral partner who frequently refers her cancer patients to the project, Dr Ailyn Garley, Clinical Psychologist with Cancer Services at Burnley General Hospital, said: “Some cancer survivors need to work on managing their mood and anxiety and rebuild their quality of life after their cancer experience. For some cancer survivors groups such as Arts on Prescription are vital for making new links in the community. Arts on Prescription can help to give structure, meaning and enjoyable experiences that are a break from the difficulties of everyday life and separate from any medical or health concerns.”
Another referral partner, Rik Entwistle, a Support, Time and Recovery Worker from Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Focusing on artistic activities takes our minds away from negativity, it benefits our well-being and allows friendships to develop naturally.
“I was disappointed to hear that Arts on Prescription is without funding. Introducing people who are isolated, vulnerable and lonely to the project was one of the first things I suggested our clients try when helping them help themselves. I think the project needs to find funding ASAP as its importance as a resource is paramount in moving people towards independent and happier lives.”
Phil Storey, Chief Executive of Pendle Leisure Trust added: “This innovative project was unique in the area when it first started and has transformed the lives of a lot of people who have attended the classes. It will be such a shame for it to finish, but we simply do not have the funding for it to carry on.
“Unfortunately I do not think this will be the last scheme we see suffer from a lack of funding, as the continuous cuts on grants start to bite. I fear that not only projects like this are under threat, but also facilities as well. It will be a very sad day if a leisure facility is closed in the future. The benefits that leisure facilities, events and projects have on people’s lives, both from a health and well-being value, should not be underestimated.”