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Evidencing Impact

Creativity and Mental Health

Once you know where to look, there is a growing body of evidence that demonstrates the value and impact of creative working on mental health outcomes which you can draw from to evidence and illustrate the value of your project.  Social prescribing as a process gaining wider credibility within the health sector can also be referenced as evidence of creativity’s role in effective clinical interventions.

Here we have gathered a wide range of these key, free resources from a number of excellent sources. You can use this material as evidence to convincingly demonstrate to funders and partners:

Why your organisation or project is so valuable, why your work needs to use the arts and creativity, and the ways your work can be expected to achieve different mental health impacts for children and young people.

What is Social Prescribing?

A process that recognises the value of community systems, such as local art, physical activity or social clubs, to people's health

Social prescribing is a process that recognises the value of community systems such as local art, physical activity or social clubs to people’s health. Its growing role as an emerging clinical pathway within the NHS is a clear recognition of the impact of these activities on health on mental health outcomes. The social prescribing process involves the appointment of local link workers, to whom GPs can refer patients, who work holistically with them to find appropriate local activities to improve their health.

Social prescribing’s recognition of the impact of activities such as creativity and the arts on health creates a significant opportunity for organisations working in the field to grow their work within communities. At the same time, it demands some adjustments – training and support for workers to help them become confident in understanding health issues that may have triggered a prescription to their activity (eg young people’s mental health) and a thorough understanding of how to monitor and evaluate work to show evidence of clinical outcomes.

Social prescribing has been rolled out most widely so far to older people, and so these pages aim to support organisations advocating for the value and impact of social prescribing for younger people, as well as supporting you to plan effective projects that can operate in the wider context of growing social prescribing practices.

The NHS Long Term Plan commits to significantly expanding the number of social prescribing link workers in primary care, and is on track to exceed the commitment to 1000 additional link workers by April 2021, rising to 4000 by 2023. Social prescribing and community-based support enable GPs, other health and care practitioners, and local agencies, to refer people to a link worker who can then give time and focus on what matters to them as an individual. For some people this will be green social prescribing, which links them to nature-based interventions and activities, such as local walking for health schemes, community gardening and food-growing projects, for others it will be activities that fall in the arts and sports sector.

In the Long Term Plan NHS England committed to building the infrastructure for social prescribing in primary care:

there will be 1,000 new social prescribing link workers in place by 2020/21, with significantly more after that, so that

at least 900,000 people will be referred to social prescribing by 2023/24.

This is part of the drive to Universal Personalised Care that will see at least 2.5 million people benefiting from personalised care by 23/24.

In 2020, the University of East London published an evaluation of the Children and Young People Social Prescribing pilot project run by Street Games:×15

Some key headlines are:

The role of the young people Social Prescribing Link Working is even more complex than the adult’s role, particularly in terms of balancing primary focus on the young people with the input and needs of parents/carers, and the need to coordinate support amongst a large number of providers, for example in relation to schools and CAMHS.

Young People reported that link workers contributed to improving their sense of autonomy, reduced their sense of ‘stigma’ around mental health challenges, and filled a gap in mental health service provision by providing almost immediate access to non-clinically based emotional support

Mental well-being followed a positive trend recording a statistically significant positive change between baseline and follow up, confirming that social prescribing is an effective mental health service.

Sheffield young people social prescribing service showed a social return on investment above average if compared to adults’ services.  (research shared by the National Academy for Social Prescribing)

Mental well-being followed a positive trend recording a statistically significant positive change between baseline and follow up, confirming that social prescribing is an effective mental health service

Further information about Social Prescribing:

The Kings Fund is an independent charitable organisation working to improve health and care in England.

The National College of Social Prescribing – an organisation which exists to advance and develop the practice

NHS introduction to social prescribing

Evidence about value of social prescribing

The Making It Better toolkit has been produced by Artswork through the Arun Inspires programme, a 3-year cultural development programme for children, young people and the organisations supporting them in District of Arun. As a result, place-based data is focused to Arun. However many of the resources collected here are national or can be focused to other areas.

We hope you find the Toolkit useful. This is a living resource so if you have suggestions about material that should be added or content that could be improved, we would like to hear your ideas. Please email us on 
Data used across this toolkit was collected in March 2021, and all data is correct at the time of this site being created. Artswork have worked to ensure all resources gathered here are relevant and appropriate, but we cannot be held responsible for the content of external sites. If you have questions about any of this content, or encounter any broken links, please contact

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