National Partnership for Culture: Workshop 1 – culture and wellbeing workshop report

Output report for the meeting of the National Partnership for Culture on culture and sellbeing held in March 2021.

This report contains a high level summary of the main themes, issues and ideas advanced by participants at the above workshop.

This is an abridged version of the report.  If you would like the full version, please email

Key outputs

There was general consensus from participants around the following priority themes, issues and proposed actions:

Young people and education

Participants recognised the benefits of embedding and mainstreaming culture from early years onwards across formal and informal education, health and wellbeing settings.

They acknowledged that current evidence about the impact of the pandemic demonstrates that children, young people and people who have existing illnesses have experienced the greatest impact on their mental health. 

There was general support for a proactive and preventative approach to support the wellbeing of young people through culture. The participants also considered how activity might link to the recovery of the sector more broadly.

Participants suggested the following actions:

  • develop a post-pandemic national plan, aligned with the curriculum, to embed artists and other practitioners who specialise in creating and delivering cultural experiences within schools to enable as many young people as possible to have access to high quality creative experiences and a route to wellbeing.
  • embed health and wellbeing into curricula of conservatoires, while respecting creative practice, so that artists and other practitioners who specialise in creating and delivering cultural experiences recognise and can choose wellbeing as a career choice.
  • support mainstream work within schools that enables teachers to educate students in creative and cultural ways to develop and maintain ongoing mental health resilience, learning from the success of the Active Schools Programme.
  • increase investment in culture within educational settings and ensure the importance of a cultural and creative education is fully recognised as part of the proposed education-led recovery actions set out in the Report of the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery led by Benny Higgins.

Training, skills and Investment

There was a general recognition amongst participants of the specialist skills and knowledge required to work effectively within the culture and health interface. These specialist skills also extend to the knowledge and approach within organisations to ensure person-led strategies are deployed successfully, particularly around mental health.

Actions proposed by participants included: 

Training and skills

  • more professional development for artists and other practitioners who specialise in creating and delivering cultural experiences working in the culture/health interface, whether community-based or via the health service. This should involve health professionals and ensure that artists and other practitioners who specialise in creating and delivering cultural experiences gain the understanding needed to meet the needs of individuals requiring their help.
  • training across both sectors to better understand the value of culture in maintaining mental health and wellbeing and how to work collaboratively. For example, training for students so they have experience of working in hospital settings or as part of a research question, formulated between artists and other practitioners who specialise in creating and delivering cultural experiences and NHS.


  • devise an approach to investment in culture and wellbeing that supports the preventative spend agenda, attracts consistent cross-portfolio funding and goes beyond short-term project funding to support capacity building and the scaling up of approaches that work. Health and Social Care Partnerships (HSCPs) could be encouraged to invest in art and culture interventions that support health and wellbeing and culture could also potentially tap into other funding, for example, mental health.
  • develop a dedicated funding stream for artists and other practitioners who specialise in creating and delivering cultural experiences working in the health field, in particular, for specific health conditions and early years. This funding would provide effective support for artists and other practitioners who specialise in creating and delivering cultural experiences working in health and wellbeing contexts to provide a range of support mechanisms, recognising that these practitioners are usually on freelance contracts and are often working in challenging circumstances.

Community wellbeing and tackling inequalities

There was broad support for interventions that would make the experience and opportunities for engaging in culture across Scotland more equitable and benefit community wellbeing. Tackling inequalities, especially post-pandemic, was viewed as essential and that part of the approach to that should be informed by a better understanding of what is stopping people accessing opportunities and making informed choices about culture and health.

Suggested actions to tackle inequality and promote community wellbeing included:

  • work towards equity of access to culture with representation at national level and delivery at grassroots level through community networks. This will require consideration of existing community networks and how they are linked nationally.
  • review impact of, and consider reinstating, culture co-ordinators/creative link posts in local authorities, supported by Creative Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland and Museums Galleries Scotland, to help embed cultural approaches at a local level as well as ensuring more effective engagement with COSLA around culture and health.
  • consider how the role of community arts practitioners could be developed for the benefit of community health and wellbeing.
  • ensure that national initiatives are joined up and informed by one another and by local and regional initiatives to renew focus on tackling health inequalities through culture.
  • targeted to specific audiences and creating more programmes that have a focus on wellbeing.

Partnership working, policy and legislation

Participants recognised the good work already being done across the sectors through existing networks, organisations and individual champions and agreed that building on these firm foundations, rather than reinventing the wheel, would be the best way forward.

Participants suggested the following priorities for action:

  • cross-portfolio working that brings culture and health Ministers together in a shared commitment to support joint working and develop cultural approaches to health and wellbeing which recognise culture as an area of practice within health. This should ideally lead to joint financial commitments.
  • develop a nationally agreed strategic framework around culture and health and wellbeing. Scotland's Public Health Priorities could be used as a starting point and it could be informed by the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 framework and the framework for wellbeing economy proposed by Benny Higgins. The Place Principle is also relevant here.
  • develop a Public Health Scotland action plan for culture to be rolled out by health boards and ensure that culture is embedded into health and social care standards including strengthening leadership. The action plan should address noted inconsistencies with getting practitioners into healthcare settings where regional differences need to be ironed out.
  • deliver on the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government 2020-21 commitment on social prescribing to establish a short life working group to examine social prescribing of physical activity – identify and communicate examples of best practice and co‑produce resources for practitioners in the many roles which make up the overall system.

Advocating for culture and cultural renewal

There was consensus around the need to better articulate the role of culture in people’s wellbeing and raise awareness about the power of culture and its role in the prevention of physical and mental ill health, the promotion of individual and community wellbeing and how cultural participation aids recovery. There was a general call for a more strategic and cross-sector approach, with ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ working to strengthen the case for culture.

It was agreed that culture’s role in supporting mental health, particularly throughout the pandemic, has raised general awareness of the essential role culture plays in generating a sense of wellbeing and that, post-pandemic.

Participants suggested the following actions:

  • ensure that culture features in Scottish Government discussions around wellbeing as a national priority as it is an essential part of the pandemic recovery process. Consideration should be given to who can best advocate for culture in health in national-level discussions as well as any practical offer that can be provided to the people of Scotland in alignment with other policy areas. This could be a collaboration rather than a single voice.
  • create a nationally agreed strategic framework around culture and health and wellbeing that facilitates effective collection of relevant data and information and measurement of impact.
  • strengthen the voice of culture in health through Arts Culture Health and Wellbeing Scotland
  • identify one or two key voices to make the case for culture within emerging approaches to healthcare delivery or have a champion for Culture and Health in each Health Board.

National Partnership for Culture Secretariat

May 2021

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