The Ripple Effect: Relational Social Care through Art

Susan Levy, Hannah Young

Research output: Book/ReportOther report


We would like to invite you to be changed by this work, both professionally and personally. In this
report, we endeavour to enter a dialogue with you about the ideas and concepts presented here.
We hope you are inspired to go on this journey of change.

The collaborative work between Artlink and Cherry Road Learning Centre has introduced a ‘quiet
revolution’ (Alison Stirling, Artistic Director, Artlink) in how social care is conceived, practised and
experienced. This innovative way of working, which seeks to understand and value people with
profound learning disabilities, uses art as its methodology to create aesthetic and sensory
experiences that stimulate and excite, in contrast to the monotony of routine and passivity.
Together these organisations are challenging prevailing social care practice through developing
ambitious, yet achievable and democratic, social care that is co-producing experiences that are
immersive and ultimately enjoyable.
Our input as researchers has been through an appreciate inquiry, designed to identify and spread
good practice. It used qualitative data to explore the process and impact of the work of artists at
Cherry Road. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis informed the approach to the data,
facilitating a deep exploration and exposing the meaning participants attributed to their
experiences. Data from reflective diaries and semi-structured interviews were collected over a
period of eight months, from June 2017 – January 2018.

Our findings evidence that the innovative and collaborative work between Artlink and Cherry Road
is presenting an alternative vision and future for people with profound learning disabilities. The key
themes emerging from the data are Art, Relationships, Time and Learning (ART-L). Through
integrating art into social care, new ways of working are leading to tangible transformation,
improving the quality of life and wellbeing among this group, as well as raising the motivation and
enjoyment of social care work amongst practitioners.

The successes of this work have emerged from motivating individuals, giving them permission to
work differently and be inspired by their work. This can only emerge when we allow an openness
and flexibility within health and social care practice, allowing service users and paid carers to find
ways of being, which are meaningful. Current social care policy limits this approach. For instance, a
person-centred approach considers the needs of service users but does not fully consider the
relational dimension of those involved and therefore the needs of support staff (carers through to

Our recommendations are to work with the key themes emerging from this collaboration to enable
alternative experiences for service users, paid staff and management. To further expand the
element of co-learning opportunities by drawing on the core strengths of the approach.
It has been difficult to display the complexity and intricacy of the approaches adopted by Artlink
within current frameworks promoted by health and social care policy. The work described here
transcends these frameworks and challenges them. When we use these policy frameworks as a way
of evaluating the work there is a dilution in the outcomes. In writing this report we are sharing the
Artlink approach and hope to have stayed true to its principles of reflection whilst also and
importantly challenging current modes of thinking and practices in social care.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationUniversity of Dundee
PublisherCare Inspectorate
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


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