A Choir in Every Care Home

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Aims and Objectives
These as set out by the Baring Foundation in their tender document were to

  • Collate the existing evidence for the benefits of singing/choirs for older people/in care homes/links to the wider community. This should include benefits for staff, family and friends, choir members as well as residents;
  • Map existing activity;
  • Describe different models of activity, e.g. dedicated choirs for care homes, performance by community choirs in care homes, etc., giving their benefits as well as the challenges for using these and how they can be overcome;
  • Assemble any existing materials that support choirs in care homes and produce new materials where needed. This should include considerations of quality of the artistic experience and art achieved. Special reference should be made to dementia;
  • Describe what more can be done without extra resources and cost what more activity could be achieved with further resources. This should include for instance, awareness raising, brokerage between care homes and choirs, the use of awards and competitions, whether new or existing;

Funding Sources
Funded by the Baring Foundation in the sum of £60,000

Timescale and delivery dates
June 2015-July 2016

Context, location and setting
This was not a delivery project. It was a study to respond to the six challenges above. Therefore, it did not happen in one location, rather took the form of a series of activities to explore and respond to the enquiry drawing in divergent cross-sector knowledge and experience.

Description of the arts activity

This was not a delivery project rather an enquiry into the potential for singing and live music to feature regularly in all residential care homes for older people

We defined the arts activity widely so that it embraced singing and live music, and could include a whole range of music based activity in care homes, formal and informal, offered by professionals, non-professionals visiting, as well as by people living and working in the settings.

Activity carried out

  • Formation of a three partner Consortium to manage and Steer the project - Live Music Now, the Sidney de Haan Research Centre and Sound sense
  • Formation of and three meetings across the year of a “Working Group”  including senior representatives from 34 major organisations in social care, arts, and health and wellbeing to address the six challenges
  • Two open and detailed surveys - with care homes and musicians. 152 care homes completed the survey, and 98 musicians did so.
  • Academic research led by Professor Stephen Clift at the Sidney De Haan Research Centre together with Dr Trish Vella Burrows;  the largest ever review of the published evidence on the impact of singing and participatory music for older people.
  • Partnership building. Over the course of the year, the partnership grew, to include organisations of greater influence, including Care England and the Care Quality Commission (CQC), who have made a significant contribution to the dissemination and reach of the project. The endorsement of Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of the CQC has the potential to be very influential in enabling us to reach those care homes that are not currently engaging with the arts.
  • Case studies. The surveys gave us excellent quantitative data, but we also needed good quality qualitative data. We gathered 27 detailed case studies; a diverse range of instances of good practice. These ranged from music therapists to professional musicians to amateur groups. They included organisations such as the Alzheimer’s Society (Singing for the Brain), Manchester Camerata, Mindsong and Nordoff Robbins. These case studies show paint a vivid picture of what takes place in care homes, and how their modi operandi varies.

Details of the project participants

Organisations playing a role in the Working Group:  
Arts sector
1. Live Music Now
2. Sound Sense
3. ‘Sing for Your Life’
4. Voluntary Arts
5. Making Music
6. Superact
7. Tenovus Choirs
8. Natural Voice Practitioners Network
9. Sing Up
10. Nordoff Robbins
11. Welsh National Opera
12. Mindsong – Music for Dementia

Care sector
13. The National Care Forum
14. Skills for Care
15. Age UK
16. Orders of St John Care Trust
17. Abbeyfield
18. My Home Life
19. Age of Creativity
20. MHA
21. Care England
22. West Kent Dementia Action Alliance
23. National Activity Providers Association (NAPA)
24. The Alzheimer’s Society
25. The Care Quality Commission (CQC)

Wellbeing sector
26. The Sidney De Haan Research Centre
27. The Royal Society for Public Health
28. The Mental Health Foundation
29. National Alliance for Arts Health and Wellbeing
30. ‘Creative and Credible”
31. Arts and Health South West
32. The South East Arts and Health Partnership,
33. Creative and Cultural Skills
34. The Centre for Arts and Wellbeing (University of Winchester)

Project management

The three Consortium leads took responsibility for different elements of the project:

Live Music Now- Partnership development, running surveys, developing online space and convening and hosting Working Groups;
Sound Sense- Project management, activity design and facilitation and data analysis and report writing
Sidney De Haan Centre-  Evidence review

Evaluation methods and findings

Evaluation methods and findings
We have created a website for the project at www.achoirineverycarehome.co.uk, which includes

  • 13 detailed working papers showing the results;
  • Evidence review;
  • Toolkits for care homes and musicians; and
  • Handbooks.

Launch and Dissemination
The findings were launched at the Arts in Care Conference in May 2016, hosted by Care England and the National Care Forum and shared through presentations at other conferences and events, including the International Society of Music Educators, Glasgow, Arts in Dementia Conference and Engage Cymru Conference. We have also created a hard-copy leaflet and other materials, and with the help of all members of the Working Group these have been distributed widely around the arts and care sectors, including an endorsement from DCMS.

Some of the key documents on the website are:

  • Evidence review by Sidney De Haan


  • Tool kit for care homes


  • Toolkit for musicians


  • Handbooks


  • Working papers in including CQC paper


Drawing together all this work, whilst mapping it against the Baring Foundation’s 6 challenges, led us to ten headline findings, six messages and recommendations:
Ten headline findings

  • Singing benefits older people, including residents of care homes
  • Care homes themselves can benefit from singing, too
  • There are lots of ways to sing
  • A Singing Home – where many of those ways of singing are deployed every day – brings even more benefits
  • Singing leading needs to be of special quality
  • Singing leaders can have a range of roles
  • Musicians and care homes need to be supported for when demand rapidly increases
  • Musicians and care homes need to be able to buy and sell better
  • Issues around repertoire need clarifying
  • Singing work must be sustained

Messages and recommendations
For care homes

  • Care homes should do more singing, because
  • singing provides measurable benefits to older people
  • it is recommended by NICE, and would provide evidence for a CQC assessment
  • singing benefits everyone involved
  • singing may even help a care home’s bottom line.
  • There's lots of ways of singing, so it's easy to start
  • but becoming a Singing Home – singing in deferent ways, singing every day – brings greater benefits.
  • Some care homes could use help in how to hire people to lead singing activities
  • we have been so convinced by the value of the work, we've put together a website packed with free advice to get care homes started

 About singing leaders

  • Singing leaders need to be skilled in a mix of appropriate music skills and people skills. But the skills needed can be acquired by all sorts of musicians, all sorts of care staff

For singing leaders

  • To make the best of increasing demand from care homes singing leaders need to be able to market their work properly and efficiently
Supported using public funding by the Arts Council England