The Makers On Tour
A story by Artlink Edinburgh and Lothians
‘Makers on tour’ provided mutually beneficial respite to carers of learning disabled adults aged 21-35 through community creative activity booked by a simple phone call.
We partnered with community organisations who could continue to include cared for adults to generate more respite for their carers
What The Makers On Tour did
Artlink's Makers on Tour partnered with three community cultural organisations (KIC Dance, Fettes College and Edinburgh University Community Music Department) to support 28 adults with learning disability who live in Midlothian aged 21-35.
With the ease of a phone call, with no need for social work assessment, 42 carers who have little or no respite, enjoyed regular short breaks from caring.
Artlink provided blocks of activity to allow those organisations to get to know the people we support through dance, print making, photography and music workshops. They were then able to offer people ongoing involvement - growing the amount of respite available to carers in the longer term.
Carers told us about their time away from caring
Makers during lockdown was my son, and my own lifeline. We felt connected. "For me, the calm came during a supermarket shop when I wasn't panicking about being home, it's not all about a spa visit, regular time without pressure is really important"
The organisations The Makers involved got to know people though the introductory workshops run by Artlink funded by Creative Breaks which fortunately took place before lockdown. Workshops continued over zoom during lockdown and resumed in late summer using social distancing guidelines to pick up on the relationships initiated by this funding.
Barriers to involvement through disability or any kind of difference evaporate when people get to know each other. Personality becomes the most important inclusion tool - knowing what motivates someone to want to dance, play or create allowed our partner organisations to offer creative experiences around an individual or group. Lockdown didn't stop us involving people - we actually just got to know them better. Carers reported a different form of respite knowing their son or daughter had an online community ready and waiting for a return to face to face activity.
Makers on Tour has created, Regular Dance workshops for adults with learning disability in Midlothian through KIC Dance, Art workshops in a new community centre near Fettes, Online music workshops via Edinburgh University Community Music Department
What Artlink Edinburgh and Lothians has learned
We could not foresee Covid, but it taught us a great deal about what kind of support matters to families - personalised human connections over phone, video or in person.
We reached families most in need of support by accepting referrals from social work during lockdown who prioritised people with greater need. We developed innovative online workshops which benefited our day to day understanding of what people need. We strengthened our relationships with community providers who were able to hit the ground running as restrictions were eased.
How Artlink Edinburgh and Lothians has benefitted from the funding
Our work never ceases to benefit from Creative Breaks funding as the flexibility and support of Shared Care Scotland is an ongoing jewel in the crown of funding opportunity for unpaid carers who have never needed a break from caring more so than now. We are piloting a new service for Makers aged adults with learning disability in partnership with an adult day service using touring concerts and workshops in people's gardens throughout July and August and later on in the Year with gazebos and safe community venues. We are working with Midlothian Council to try and bring some of the outcomes of this work to others isolated by lockdown.
Carers and relatives will experience improved skills, confidence and well-being through attractive and relevant respite opportunities and tailored activity.
Lockdown put a spanner in the works in April 2020. The Makers on Tour quickly responded by auditing which of our families needed technology to access online activity so that the mutual benefits of respite weren't sabotaged by the pandemic. Wellbeing is so closely related to purpose, meaning and togetherness, so we aimed o provide as much support to both adult and carer. We created four 10 week online courses in dance, making, drama and drawing in collaboration with our partners in Makers on Tour for 28 adults with learning disability . Fettes offered home based making classes, KIC dance produced dance at home sessions and Edinburgh Community Music gave online concerts. We created postal visual arts projects for people to create work in their own time to showcase online together. This resulted in, Increased technology skills to access online opportunity, Increased skill development in drama, dance, Print making, music and percussion. A means to protect social wellbeing
During lockdown, one parent described the value of the Makers on Tour for their collective wellbeing 'Its about quality over quantity now. You have no idea the impact of my son being able to socialise over Zoom, creating artwork that's been posted to him, hand picked buy someone who has cared to put something in the post for him. There's no replacement for face to face, but to be able to work on his own project and come together every week during lockdown, knowing he could see friends and familiarity was a valued form of respite for me. Lockdown meant we were together all the time. He needed to connect with his own, not just me. Knowing he could return to that community was reassuring and helpful for me. Thinking that one day he will join a group in Edinburgh University gives me immense pride.
Carers will be able to pursue their own interest and leisure activities, supported through regular activity for the cared for person and information about carer leisure opportunity provided by Artlink Coordinator.
42 Carers were able to pursue gardening, swimming, social, academic, housework and employment activities, supported through regular activity for the cared for person and information about what was happening locally by the Artlink Coordinator. Lockdown hit unpaid carers hardest. We created four ten week blocks respite for their son or daughter instead of only 5 week blocks. We saw an opportunity to support the family as a whole. We used an underspend in transport budget to increase the volume of activity. We developed online quiz sessions, live music broadcast and request shows to make people feel their voice matters. "Ive seen a new side to him - I've seen how he socialises with friends through dance even when it was through a screen. His community is hugely important to him. Lockdown allowed us to provide more respite hours than planned we weren't restricted to having only 6 participants in a room, we included 20 in each postal art project or up to 12 in a zoom).
We offered online sessions to Keith who loves to lead dramatic or performative activity so he wanted to compere a quiz night over lockdown through Zoom. He organised the questions, costumes and backdrops and has conducted an extraordinary workshop for other adults with learning disability. We offered Keith some time with a performance artists to work on his presentation and stage skills to host his own show for six people. We ran two online discos for 30 adults with learning disability where everyone made their own costumes or backdrops. This confidence grew from the courses with KIC Dance and Edinburgh University community music and I'm sure when they resume full face to face activity that he will have 100% confidence to attend.
42 carers will have support to sustain their caring role through 90 hours of time away from caring. The regularity of this respite allows predictable, regular short breaks to relax or do the things they don’t have time to do.
100% of carers said they experienced increased opportunity to recharge batteries to sustain their caring role. 90% of carers said they felt better supported to care for their adult child. 50% of carers said they had tried new activity as a result of being involved. 100% of carers enjoyed the enhanced communication between Artlink coordinator who explored personalised forms of respite, especially during lockdown when they still felt 'part of something' 100% of carers said they felt supported during lockdown even thought their adult child couldn't physically access workshops - that regular online involvement felt like a different form of respite. 100% of carers said the support given during lockdown supported their adult child to feel they could return to face to face workshops without anxiety. 100% of carers felt the project supported their own wellbeing, and resilience.
One parent involved said that the only time their adult child had any involvement out with of family during lockdown was zoom sessions with the Makers. Carers who were furloughed needed their adult child to remain part of developmental opportunity. particularly those who weren't connected to day services. "I was worried all the benefits of Makers would disappear with lockdown but actually, you managed to keep him being part of something which allowed me quite a lot of time away from worrying about him as he was so motivated by home projects to show the group, since lockdown has eased, he's really looking forward to seeing everyone again and can't wait to get back to workshops with Makers"