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‘Arts groups that improve wellbeing should have funding boost’ – report

A parliamentary report has recommended arts groups offering participatory activities should be given greater priority for funding. Photo: Shutterstock/ Kzenon
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Arts organisations that include participatory activities in their output should be given greater priority when public funding decisions are made, according to a parliamentary inquiry into wellbeing.

The report, called Wellbeing in Four Policy Areas, recommends that subsidy for these types of activities – such as taking part in a dance or singing workshop – should be improved as they increase wellbeing for participants.

Following a year-long inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Wellbeing Economics, chaired by former culture minister David Lammy, the report also recommends that cultural activities should be better promoted to deprived communities.

Less advantaged groups should be targeted by publicly funded cultural organisations “so that government subsidy of the arts narrows rather than widens wellbeing inequalities,” states the report, which included consultation with Arts Council England chief executive Alan Davey and Independent Theatre Council chief executive Charlotte Jones.

In his introduction to the publication, Lammy said: “We firmly believe that austerity makes a focus on wellbeing more essential, not less. As we show throughout this report, wellbeing evidence can not only help target public spending more effectively at improving people’s lives, but in many cases has the potential to deliver significant long-term savings by reducing demand on public services.”

The publication calls on bodies such as ACE to evaluate the wellbeing impacts for those engaging with organisations that receive grants and to use this data to justify arts and culture spending to the government.

It also urges the funding body to work more closely with local authorities so that arts organisations are commissioned to deliver projects that help with health and social care.

“We heard from witnesses that the arts and health sectors do not always cooperate effectively, and that addressing this would improve the effectiveness of arts and culture spending,” the report adds.

Welcoming the publication, shadow culture minister Helen Goodman said she was delighted that the link between the arts and wellbeing had been highlighted. She said: “Drawing together the evidence, the report shows how the arts can improve a person’s physical and mental health, employment opportunities, life expectancy and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.”

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