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Public Policy: What has changed?

David Cutler (The Baring Foundation) discusses how public policy has changed over the last 20 years in the field of arts and health for wellbeing.
Thinking about the UK’S public policy on arts and health, there’s a couple of things to say. Firstly, because the UK is devolved, there’s actually fairly different things happening in each of the countries. So for instance, Wales has had a much stronger recent position with the national government and the Arts Council on arts and health. They’ve seen that as a central priority in a way that we haven’t yet seen– for instance– in England. So there’s different things happening. And frankly, something that worries me is I think there’s fashions.
So we shouldn’t take for granted that the current situation, which is of quite high levels of interest in all four countries– very important report recently from the All-Party group on creative health very strongly making this case, and particularly strongly for older people. So that level of knowledge, that level of awareness, that level of evidence has increased. However, there has been movements forward and then movements back over the last 20 years. And I think at the moment, we’re at a high point in terms of awareness. We’re not yet seeing anything very dramatic in terms of action to follow that awareness in terms of public funding.
So for a number of the countries– for instance, England– recent guidance from the top authority for the use of health funding, which is NICE– The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence– which decides what local health bodies– CCGs– can spend their money on. Now it’s been really welcome in the last two years that NICE has made an authoritative judgement that those bodies can use their money on the arts. The problem is that we don’t really see any increased use by those bodies of their funds on the arts, despite the fact they’ve been given permission to do that. It’s still very much a minority sport and a great rarity. I think there’s a whole range of reasons for that.
I think the most important reason is the crisis in funding in the health service and the pressures that that produces on budgets. That even if you were given permission, you still don’t think well actually, I’m going to be using the money on arts rather than on basic prescriptions. So we are in a position of opportunity and we’re in a position of increased awareness and increased official backing for arts and health. We haven’t– in my view– yet stepped over the line of a really concerted change in the action that’s taking place on the ground.

David Cutler, Director of The Baring Foundation, provides an overview of how public policy has changed over the last 20 years in the field of arts and health, and highlights the current position of the UK’s public agenda.

This includes insight into how public awareness around the arts for health and wellbeing has increased, even though there is still has a long way to go in terms of public and social care funding

What would be your top priorities for public policy in terms of the provision of arts engagement opportunities for those living with dementia? Do you feel that there have been any changes in recent years that have moved in the right direction? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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Dementia and the Arts: Sharing Practice, Developing Understanding and Enhancing Lives

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