Today I went to Wales with music therapist Liz Coombes who earlier on this year delivered one of our UK pilot skill sharing projects at Oaklands, a respite care home for children aged 4 – 18 with profound and multiple learning difficulties. Liz trained two long-standing care staff, Jayne and Penny, to use some of the basic principles of music therapy in their work. Unfortunately Jayne was unable to be there but it was a really interesting opportunity for me to meet Louise, the manager and Penny to hear their thoughts and experiences; how the project had impacted the care home and of course we were keen to hear whether they had continued to run the sessions! We were delighted at the positive impact the training has had on Oakland’s; regular music sessions have been embedded in to this small family based care home and is having a really positive affect on the children in and out of the sessions. Introducing music to Oakland’s has generated interest from many of the staff and service users. Louise also mentioned that it has affected the mood and atmosphere of the home.

Louise, the manager is keen to involve other staff in making music and its benefits more widely accessible to the children and young people that access Oakland’s, 32 in total. Hopefully Jayne and penny will share some ideas at there next full team meeting so other staff members can gain a better understanding of how they have been using music as well as to gain some new ideas of how they too could use music with the service users.

Louise also spoke positively about how the music programme had added to the entire vibe at the centre – just the music happening in the background has positively impacted the atmosphere of the home. One young man normally chooses to sit in front of the TV and staff find it difficult to engage him any other activities. When music sessions are in progress he now comes and listens at the door, although he refuses when they ask if he would like to join in maybe one day he will. They have also been doing individual work and one boy who usually doesn’t like a noise and prefers to be on his own really enjoys playing the triangle. He responds really well and enjoys the sound he is able to create.

This is one of 5 pilot projects in the UK this year which we have learnt so much from and found out how important training in areas like this is for staff – to give them tools to communicate and build relationships with the children and young people they are working with; to add to their skill set and give them the confidence and opportunity to try something new. My visit to Oakland’s has also highlighted how important this is for people accessing vital services such as this. Giving them an opportunity to express themselves; to build confidence; be listened to and a chance to try something new as well.