In my own neck of the woods. (Or, the South Coast/Worthing Project)

Right from the beginning, I have been interested in bringing the skill sharing concept to groups here in the UK. There is so much need, and so many people who can benefit, particularly in dementia care. In recent years we have seen research demonstrate the far reaching effects of interactive music on people living with dementia, and yet there is no corresponding burst of funding to provide it.

So in 2016, 4 years since I was recruited by Music as Therapy International to share music making with the children, social workers and teachers at a school in Palestine , it was exciting to suggest a project to a fabulous organisation in Worthing called Guildcare.

Guildcare works with over 3,000 local older people, and families affected by disability and special needs, in many different settings every year. They have a focus on community and living well, and run daycentres, outreach, homecare and groups as well as residential settings. There is a special interest in dementia care with enormous effort put into creating safe, stimulating and caring environments for people on this journey and their families. I had been working with a lovely group called the Butterfly Club but became increasingly aware of all the other service users who were not able to access music therapy due to funding constraints. Music as Therapy International agreed that this could be a good setting for a pilot project. The Guildcare staff I approached were immediately keen and enthusiastic, and introductions were made. However, a shift in management put the project on hold while essential changes took place, and Christmas rolled around.

So we began 2017 ready, willing and eager to launch the project at last. One of the original staff members had sadly become unwell and was unable to come to work but another staff member stepped up and I was welcomed into the residential suites and the day centre to meet everyone now involved. The wonderful and totally committed activities team leader, Gill had organised a safe, cosy, secure room, timetables, posters and storage space. The instruments were ordered and arrived! We had a staff training session that reassured everyone and we were in full swing.

Week 1 introduced the service users to the music groups. We have two, one for people living in the residential unit, bringing together two staff members and six residents from two different suites, and the other for two staff members and five or six people from the day centre. All the clients have a diagnosis of dementia, but the two groups are in different places on that journey. Both groups are a mix of men and women. The groups are very different, one is structured, the other is free flowing. Both are relaxed, friendly and punctuated with laughter.

Everyone is so pleased with the way the groups have started. The clients have been pleased to take part in a new activity, while the staff are delighted at the way clients are responding. They have discovered new things about their clients, and have seen them respond to each other in different ways.

I have no doubt that we will hit difficulties – it is the nature of the client group that we have to roll with circumstances as they arise, especially in this cold weather and as illness circulates – but the team is responding strongly and with cheerful flexibility. Watch this space!

Music Therapist, Hazel Child