A social return on investment evaluation of the St Helens Creative Alternatives arts on prescription programme

Author(s):*Listed Alphabetically
Bockler J, Holden H, Whelan G

Year of Publication:

Creative Alternatives St. Helens

Publication Type:


In June 2015 St.Helens Public Health commissioned the Alef Trust, a North West based social enterprise dedicated to transformative education and community development, to deliver ‘Creative Alternatives,’ a 12-month pilot arts on prescription programme modelled on the successful service which has been delivered in the borough of Sefton since 2006. The pilot was aimed at St.Helens residents who are experiencing mild to moderate stress, anxiety or depression. Creative Alternatives St.Helens is part of the ‘Cultural Hubs – Arts in Libraries Programme’ and provides an opportunity to explore a range of arts activities which enhance self-expression, relaxation and social interaction within a creative core workshop programme that lasts over a period of 12 weekly sessions.

The evaluation report of Creative Alternatives discusses the broader background of evidence on the success of the social prescribing model in developing arts and health initiatives, and then details the programme carried out at St. Helens. Results of the programme are presented and discussed, including data from participant Lifestyle Questionnaires, demographic data, and longitudinal data on patient health outcomes.

A social return on investment analysis is also carried out, and the ratio generated by the programme shows that for every one pound input into the programme, a total of £11.55 is returned in social value. Furthermore, findings demonstrate that the programme reduced regular GP visits of participants, while improving participant measures across the following categories: physical activity, social activity, and mental health. These outcomes indicate the success of the project and reaffirm the efficacy of the social prescribing model as applied to creative health care and arts in health.

Evidence Type: Non-Randomised Evaluation

Main Focus: Mental Health

Research Purpose: Process Evaluation

Context: Community

Art Forms: Multi-Arts

Access Type: Free Download

APA Citation:

Whelan, G. (2016). A Social Return on Investment: Evaluation of the St Helens Creative Alternatives Arts on Prescription Programme.Liverpool: John Moores University.