The People we Support Unite with Singing

There are some activities which bring people together and where we can all simply enjoy being in the moment and doing something we love….

One of those things is singing in a choir – and as Sarah and Corey of Accomplish Group have found, it’s bringing the people the group supports, the staff who work with them and the wider community together in ways they never anticipated. 

Sarah explains more: “Across Accomplish’s supported living and residential services, we support people with autism, mental health needs, learning disabilities and acquired brain injuries and as part of our values, we believe in making every day amazing and we also strive to make sure we are all treated as equals – whether we are supported, or the supporter.

“The people we support take the lead in decision making including the songs we sing, where we perform and who will be singing solos. It is a joint venture – this is not about “us and them”, it truly is co-production in action and I think it’s that which has made it such a success.”

“There’s a huge amount of research into the positive impact music can have on mental health and well-being, but this has gone even further.

“The first impact we’ve seen is confidence – but not just the confidence of the people we support, but everyone involved in the choir. And it’s not a case of the staff team being the ones offering support – it is very much a two-way relationship – the choir itself and the act of singing in public together has created a completely level playing field.

“We see the people who use our services take on the support role – they support each other and they support the staff members who are also members of the choir. When anyone feels nervous or feels they can’t do it, they can’t do the solo for example, then everyone is there as a back-up and everyone supports each other. It’s great to see the two-way support, and nerves are the same no matter your individual circumstances!”

Corey adds: “Indeed, the act of singing is of a great benefit for your mental health, but what we’ve seen is that there is so much more to it than that alone. There’s increased confidence to try something new, to go to new places, have new experiences. Relationships are being built, pure “peer to peer” relationships – we’re all peers and we are all in it together.

“We had been looking into the link between improving mental well-being through music and singing and thought it might be a good idea to form a choir which could firstly bring together the people we support and the staff who work across our services. However, since we’ve started it, it’s really had a much larger impact than we envisioned and gone further than we ever thought possible.

And what a success it has been. The group continues to gather more members and is actively looking to recruit more. It has grown from just over a dozen to more than 30 people – and their talents are in great demand.

The choir has twice performed at the Learning Disability and Autism Awards – where they have opened the show to rapturous reviews and a true emotional connection with their audience.

Corey said: “The reason the choir has such an impact is that it truly is a joint enterprise – we are, before, during and after the performance, a group of like-minded friends who enjoy singing and enjoy spending time together. We gather after performances to enjoy the moment and to enjoy each other’s company.

“This is not a case of people being supported because they have difficulties – this is a case of people coming together and creating something of beauty. As the choirmaster, I have seen this occur from the frontline and observed the interactions between people who may never have met each other if it wasn’t for the choir. We are truly proud of everyone involved with this effort.

“Our aim is to continue growing the choir and getting more and more people involved, both the people who use Accomplish services and the people who work with us.”

Corey and Sarah’s efforts in establishing the choir were recently recognised by the Welsh Care Awards.

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