State of Mind (Mental Health)

Arts with heart: connecting people with a disability to support workers that share their passions

In 2017, a UK study entitled ‘Creative Health: The Arts For Health and Wellbeing’ found, according to The Guardian, that the arts “can help keep us well, aid recovery, and support longer lives better lived.” We all need the arts, now perhaps more than ever, to keep us healthy and sane in a tumultuous world, but those that could benefit the most, such as people with disabilities, often face barriers to access.

Peter Scutt | image supplied

We speak to Peter Scutt, the CEO of the disability support worker platform Mable, about the experiences of his company’s clients and the ways that his platform has started to break down the walls separating the disabled from the therapeutic benefits of the arts.

On 3 December, to mark the International Day of People With A Disability, Mable released research which indicated that people with disabilities believe that, when compared to the sports industry, they are very poorly represented in the arts, media, and entertainment industries. This is something that Peter believes needs to change, as he explains.

“When you think about sports, there’s some really well known competitors that are known to all Australians. You think Kurt Fearnley or Dylan Alcott, they’ve become people that we celebrate as Australians and you’d like to see that we would have the same level of recognition in other areas of life.”

Peter believes that one way to increase the representation of the disabled in the arts is by connecting them with support workers who share their passions, including with artists who may not have ever seen themselves as being a support worker or having anything to offer the disabled. This is what Mable seeks to do.

Peter had the idea for the platform when trying to find suitable support workers for his parents, as he explains.

“My parents were elderly and living in country New South Wales and wanting to remain living at home like most people that are ageing do. They needed some support and the traditional model was a rostered workforce that was sent to their home, and often it was a different person every day and my father would say ‘these strangers keep turning up.’ He was a very private man and he felt that he had no connection with these people and had to explain that mum had dementia and was anxious.”

“For him to accept help, he needed to have some connection to the people coming, that it was more than just a job.”

For any artist, their craft is more than just a job; it’s a passion. By channelling that passion into helping the disabled, Peter explains, some art-loving support workers have not only changed the lives of their clients, but also deepened their own connection to the art forms that they love.

“Somebody we know quite well who is blind goes to art galleries with a support worker and they discuss the art work in great detail, and it’s a very intimate experience for the two of them and something that they really passionately enjoy.”

– Peter Scutt, CEO of Mabel

By having to convey the paintings and sculptures to his client, the support worker deepens their appreciation of the work, as Peter explains.

“They said ‘I like to look at that artwork from a distance and then up close because the way that it is described varies considerably in each of those experiences’, and it really makes you stop and think how the world can open up for people when they’re able to make these connections. I think that it’s a world that opens up not only for the person with the disability but also for the people who are able to support them in that way.”

Another Mable user, Shai, who is on the autism spectrum, has even been able to fulfil a dream by finding work on radio, as Peter explains.

“It’s a really amazing story because a lot of the time while growing up [Shai] really struggled with communication and yet he always had this desire to be on radio. As he’s grown older and been able to access a more diverse group of people to support him, he was able to meet a support worker who used to be a music DJ.”

“He’s been working with him on being comfortable in front of a mic, using a mic; this then transformed him from someone who occasionally had guest spots on radio to somebody who is regularly on Eastside Radio here in Sydney.”

We are stronger as a community when we are connected, when we can take what we have in abundance and give it to those who need it more. If you are brimming with passion for your art, imagine how many lives you could transform as a support worker on Mable.

You can find out more by visiting their website.

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