Creative Homes Play Day

by Creative Homes

A play day for Newham housing, health and cultural organisations discussing cultural entitlement and access for families with young children.

In July 2016 professionals from Newham organisations across the Housing, Health and Cultural sectors came together to play with ideas of how working in partnership and designing innovative cultural programmes that consider the family and their needs right from daily life at home – could impact on the serious health and housing issues facing families.

With representatives from Newham CCG, Childrens Services, four leading Housing organisations and from key cultural organisations including Stratford Circus and those entering the Olympic park by 2020 – all agreed this was a rare opportunity to share sector experience and research and have a frank discussion about the impact of early intervention. Could a more holistic approach to supporting families in need prove to improve health, happiness and life opportunity in a much more cost effective way?

“We need to increase cross-sector communication and cooperation in order to help families with young children who are most in need – there needs to be more time and networking opportunities like this”.
– Housing representative

But why are cross-sector strategy, intervention and communication so important?

Because we are all trying to reach the same families. Newham’s diverse population has some of the UK’s highest rates of dental carries and childhood obesity in under 5’s. Research shows that children not supported with their health and development in their early years, start school not ready to learn and enter adulthood with low attainment and higher health risks.

There are many families with under 5’s living under the radar of support services providers, not accessing GPs, children’s centres, training and employment services or cultural activity. These families don’t surface until something more serious happens such as injury or health issues bring them to A&E, they loose their job and can’t pay their rent, their child starts school with communication difficulties that have not been identified. At this stage the family is going to cause a big strain on whichever service they have come to for help. It is therefore the aim of everyone across the Housing, Health and Cultural sectors to find these families early and prevent these problems from escalating.

Social isolation is a larger issue for services than we give credit and manifests itself in a variety of mental and physical health issues across the family.

“People don’t want to leave their GP without being given something. We’ve developed a culture of ‘cure’ rather then prevention which results in GPs prescribing what is essentially paracetamol (costing the NHS something like more than 20 times what is costs over the counter) in order to feel like they are providing a service. How great would it be if instead a doctor could refer their patient to a local cultural event or sessions that could improve their resilience and general quality of life and as a consequence make much more of an impact on their long term health”.

– Satbinder Sanghera, Director of Partnerships and Governance, Newham CCG


Now this is where the cultural sector can really step up.

Creative Homes Director, Sally-Anne Donaldson offered a reflection on this point, having devised family activity with many museums, libraries and theatres across London alongside Creative Homes’ targeted work in family homes. As she told the group, ‘We see again and again how families aren’t accessing services across the Housing, Health and Cultural sectors because the pathways families need in order to get there aren’t currently in place’. 

With so many international, high quality cultural venues and artists entering the Olympicopolis in 2020 – it is very important to question how we plan to engage and provide for local families.

Can the cultural sector work more closely to home to engage these families?

Can we work together with GPs and health and housing build these families’ sense of cultural entitlement so that they understand that cultural activity is not something you do as an add on to life, it is imperative for your health and happiness and plays a key role in your child’s development and sense of place in the world.

At Creative Homes we believe the answer lies in investing in the artist.

We’ve found the role of the trusted artist to be key to linking families to services and activity. Our artists work closely with families to build trusting relationships through play that are non-judgmental and non-threatening. This puts the artist in an ideal position to introduce families to other support services they’ve been unaware or distrustful of before. In 2015  70% of the families we worked with in their homes were then connected to further support with Housing’s in-house services, Health, Children’s Services and cultural or play activities. We achieved this through creative play. Through knocking on doors dressed in gingham headscarves and playing on the doorstep, through decorating stairwells and trees in communal gardens, through treasure hunts in local parks and storytelling in local libraries, through tooth fairies popping up at the local dentist. Through taking families to the V&A for the day.

How can we utilise this great work on the ground and open up opportunity across our sectors to continue building the capacity of these families?

We all have the same aim: to help parents and carers feel more resilient and confident in their own skills so they can look after their family and raise their children well, who in turn will grow to be capable adults themselves.

As budgets continue to be cut it can be easy to loose track of the importance of cross-sector support. More strategically planned cultural activity that addresses and impacts on the needs of our health and housing sectors could ultimately reduce the cost to independent sectors.

Its time for us professionals to play! Play with innovative ideas to tackle social problems. Time to play together across sectors and solve problems together.

Thanks to Arts Council & Stratford Circus for their support.

Want to know more about our work?

Read how funding from Arts Council and Unltd helped us unlock doors to further investment.

Increasing cultural access – how we brought families to visit the V&A for the first time.

How our work with families helped increase healthy eating and toothbrushing on an L&Q estate in Lambeth, South London.

How playful support with toilet training became a catalyst for change in a family’s daily life, through a referral from Coin Street Children’s Centre, South London.


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