Key Changes – London

We provide music engagement and recovery services in hospitals and the community for young people and adults experiencing mental health problems.


  • From start: Yes
  • During process: Yes
  • In evaluation: Yes


  • Peer: Yes
  • Academic: No
  • PP Collaborative: Yes

Find out more

What We Did

We provide music engagement and recovery services in hospitals and the community for young people and adults experiencing mental health problems.

We provide in-reach services for children, adolescents and adults receiving treatment on acute, intensive care, forensic and rehabilitation psychiatric wards in hospitals in London and across the UK.

Using the latest iPad music technology and apps our specially trained musicians and producers encourage patient engagement in music activities including DJ-ing, singing, MC-ing, songwriting, beatmaking, production, recording and performance. The sessions offer an accessible and energising mix of contemporary music styles including hip hop, soul, r’n’b, reggae, rock, folk, funk, dubstep and anything in between!

Patients are supported and encouraged to step up to the mic, have a go mixing on the decks, learn music technology, write lyrics, make beats, produce and record tracks or simply enjoy the sounds.

Our services in the community provide a structured pathway for musicians, singers, MC’s, and producers who are using mental health services. Our creative collaborative approach promotes recovery from mental illness and encourages progression to mainstream creative and vocational opportunities.

Our core service offers tailored one-to-one sessions in professionally equipped music studios with music industry mentors. Activities include song and lyric writing, composition, instrumental and vocal coaching, beatmaking, production, recording, and performance skills.

All skills levels are supported from beginners with little or no musical experience to people with extensive professional backgrounds in the music industry.

Live performance is a key component of our therapeutic approach. Performing original material produced in our studios at concerts and events provides a boost to service users’ confidence and self-esteem and is a powerful way of challenging stigma and discrimination around mental health issues. Our regular shows at mainstream venues and in mental health settings are energising and life-affirming for performers and audiences alike.

We also provide a weekly drop-in with football, table tennis, cafe, gardening, art and complimentary therapies and an open mic to address physical health and wellbeing inequalities amongst our group members.

During engagement we work with clients to to identify opportunities for progression to continuing training, volunteering, work experience and employment through our partnerships with community and music industry organisations, training providers and work programmes.

We also offer in-house volunteer opportunities that provide work experience placements for service users in a music setting with training and support.


Wider Active Support

The charity was set up in 1997 by a group of patients at Highgate Mental Health Centre in North London to provide music activities on the wards. We now work in partnership with NHS in-patient and secondary mental health services and statutory and voluntary sector health and social care agencies across the UK to provide services for over 3,000 people in psychiatric hospitals and the community each year.

Currently our health and social care partners include Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Tust, Barnet Enfield Haringey NHS Mental Health Trust, East London Foundation Trust, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. Community partners are diverse and include, for instance Amy Winehouse Foundation, St Lukes Parochial Trust, Greater London Enterprise and many others.



In 2010 the charity’s board formally adopted an aspiration to work towards co-production which has seen changes to our services through user-led planning, delivery, management and governance.
Management and service users initially came together to identify strengths and weaknesses in our service which led to a focus on delivering activities for young adults aged 16-35 and resulted in a completely new board of trustees being voted in at the Annual General Meeting.
The process is now embedded into our service. When new referrals are made to our service the starting point is asking the service user what activity they would like to do. We then work with the service user and their care team to shape a Personal Plan which offers access to both group and individual activities.
We apply the 10 Workforce Principles as follows:
Working in partnership: with specialist mental health community and in patient services, clients and their families and friends
Respecting diversity: treating service users equally regardless of background, employing a non judgemental approach and celebrating the diverse talents of our group
Practising ethically: adhering to statutory codes of good practise and following established clinical protocols
Challenging inequality: using our concerts and public appearances to address stigma around mental health issues
Promoting recovery: establishing service user insight into the therapeutic benefits of accessing the service and sharing our approach with health and social care professionals
Identifying peoples needs and strengths: thorough pre-start assessments and developing strong mentoring relationships during engagement
Providing service user centred care: always aware of the primary goal of recovery being service user led and supporting individual aspirations at every stage
Making a difference: providing robust monitoring and evaluation evidence for service users, families, health and social care professionals and the public
Promoting safety and positive risk taking: full compliance in facilities and resources used, whilst providing a safe place for service users to express themselves
Personal development and learning: regular supervision and ongoing CPD, sharing learning with peers, attending conferences and supporting journal contributions


Looking Back/Challenges Faced

Invested more resources into awareness raising for service users and training / CPD for staff and stakeholders around personalisation and Care Act related issues.

The activities we offer have been developed in response to concerns from mental health professionals about a lack of services relevant to “hard to reach” patients, particularly young patients from Black and Minority Ethnic communities who are over-represented in the mental health system.

Our approach draws on clinical therapeutic techniques. Led by a team of
specially trained music industry professionals we use culturally relevant music genres such as hip hop, rap, reggae, dubstep, d’n’b, etc. to engage patients in songwriting, music production and recording sesions.

Our musicians and producers (Music Mentors) receive training in mental health awareness and facilitating personal and social development through music. Pastoral support is a key feature and includes initial health and risk assessments, one to one support with progression routes to mainstream training and education opportunities.



Through establishing a cohort of role models from a demographic that is increasingly over-represented in the mental health system our service aims to become self sustaining and resilient to management changes.

We continually share learning gained from our service with the sector to inform the development of activities that are accessibly designed and culturally relevant.

Through partnership working with statutory secondary mental health services we aim to develop a delivery model that is self-sustaining in the long term through personal social care or health budgets.



We use session evaluations based on occupational therapy standards to
generate evidence which show how our work has improved self efficacy and resilience to challenging circumstances.

These record patient communication and progress, changes in appearance, mood or behaviour, and any issues or incidents. Comparisons of patient histories are used to measure symptom reduction, and improvements in mood, cognitive and motor function.

Relevant information is referred to clinical teams for recording on individual patients’ notes and may also alert staff to deterioration of health or possible relapse.



Feedback from service users’ experience of the service is routinely recorded through blogged interviews, film clips, photography, and audio recordings (with appropriate consents) which are disseminated on our website and social media.






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