Evaluation of impact of arts and cultural activities on looked after children


OPM were commissioned by Creativity Culture and Education (CCE) to evaluate the impact of CCE-funded programme of arts and cultural activities on three groups of looked after children. The project, which was proposed and managed by the National Children’s Bureau (NCB), focused on activities delivered by three cultural organisations located in different parts of the UK:

  • Customs House, based in South Shields, Tyne and Wear
  • Pie Factory Music, based in Ramsgate, Kent
  • Whitewood and Fleming, based in Ulverston, Cumbria

The objective of the evaluation was to understand the impact and effectiveness of the various arts and cultural activities for the looked after children that participated. As well as understanding what impacts each of the projects is responsible for, the evaluation also focused on how each project created those impacts. Understanding how different elements of the projects have contributed to impacts identified is key to the sustainability of this line of work and will support the replication of projects beyond the three current settings.

What we did

Our evaluation team adopted a theory of change approach which built a clear understanding of how the programme worked, its intended outcomes and the extent to which its inputs, outputs and activities contribute towards these outcomes. The model hypothesised that four elements of the project – skilled artists, positive arts activities, involvement of foster carers and siblings in activities, and looked after children and foster carer focused planning and design – would, through a series of change mechanisms, result in the following outcomes:

  • Increased self-efficacy and empowerment
  • Increased confidence and self esteem
  • Strengthened relationships with carers, social workers, siblings and other looked after children
  • The development of new creative, life and social skills (e.g. leadership, communication and teamwork)
  • Increased and regular participation in arts opportunities.


In general the evaluation indicates that the arts and cultural activities did have a positive impact on the looked after children that participated at each site. In particular, the project has resulted in a marked improvement in the self-efficacy and empowerment of many of the children involved. Similarly, the project has also resulted in an increase in the confidence and self-esteem of many of the children.

This positive impact has largely been a result of the safe space created by the skilled artists, the use of positive arts activities and to the involvement of foster carers in the activities. There were inevitably variations in the extent of the impact across sites and between children.

The evaluation details those factors which contributed to the success of the project, identifies the challenges faced which varied significantly across sites, and makes a number of recommendations as to the design and delivery of similar projects aimed at looked after children.

For these reasons, the evaluation is an invaluable resource for those planning to deliver similar programmes for looked after children in the future.