Our impact

Why we do what we do

There are over 17,000 children and young people in Norfolk with a disability or identified additional needs. Around 12,000 adults have a learning disability. An estimated 16,400 people are living with dementia in the county. In a recent report, leading disability charity Scope identified that “on average, disabled people face extra costs of £570 a month related to their impairment or condition”.

Day-to-day life for families living with disability is incredibly complex both in terms of medical/care needs and managing what might be otherwise considered as basic family logistics.  In a rural county it can be even more difficult to access mainstream services. Our model – of flexible, community based, accessible activities – helps to bring services closer to people living with additional needs and enhancing their feelings of integration and independence.

Musical Keys by numbers: what happened in 2018


Different services delivered in 20 locations in Norfolk and Suffolk



Individuals used our services



Hours of music created


Our service users tell our story best of all

“Musical Keys was the first place I accessed following my daughter’s diagnosis, and I found a very friendly, warm group, not only offering music and movement to my baby but also support and inclusion for the first time.

My daughter is registered blind and with going to Musical Keys regularly helped her to develop social skills. When you are blind any noise is startling and unsettling, but music and instruments in a safe environment helps children prepare for the outside world. The support I received from staff and parents was a lifeline. You often feel very alone and isolated, but they gave me a sense of worth and I felt I belonged.”

- Parent, Norwich Monday group

"I’m 16 and all my life I have found it difficult to fit in. I was taken away from my birth parents when I was less than a year old. When I was three, I came to live with my Mum. I had to say goodbye to everyone I had ever known. For a long time, nothing felt right. People didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand other people. I have some learning difficulties but I don’t count as disabled. There didn’t seem to be people like me. I had lots of people I knew, but I didn’t have close friends. But as I grew, my family grew too. I started to feel understood.

Last year, lots of things changed for me. We moved into Norwich and I started to go to Fast Forward on a Saturday morning. It is for people on the edge of disability. It was one of the first times I thought there was something for people like me. I didn’t have to struggle to fit in. I always seem quite confident on the outside, but I started to feel more confident on the inside. We did lots of interesting stuff. I can get to Fast Forward by myself and I started to feel I was leading my own life; I started to know who I was.

This summer, I left school. I didn’t get the grades I needed to do my course at college, so I was put on a different course. The past year made me confident enough to ring my Mum up on the first day and say, “This isn’t right for me. Please help me.” My Mum did some finding out. The next morning, I was at City College doing an audition and an interview and now I’m studying Performing Arts, which is one of those things I work hard at and am good at.“

- Participant of the Fast Forward project (run by Musical Keys, NANSA and OPEN)

“Musical Keys is a desperately needed resource for parents of children with special needs. Apart from the practical value of being an information sharing network, the opportunity to be with other parents who will understand the pressure of one’s situation and have experienced it themselves – simply to know that you are not alone – has been a major lifeline to many parents I have met.

Furthermore, the beneficial effect also supports the siblings of children with special needs. It is never easy for growing youngsters to come to terms with the fact that their brother or sister is “different” and they must frequently have priority in terms of attention. Meeting others in the same situation at Musical Keys has been a terrific support for my own family, and I know many others who would endorse this view.”

- Parent, Norwich

“This is a wonderful charity, offering opportunities for children and young people with additional needs to engage with music.

Since my son and I have been going to Musical Keys’ Saturday group, he has developed so much. He has begun to do pretend play, turn-taking, saying and gesturing hello and bye, and joining in a group. All the things he struggled with.

Not only has Santi benefited. This group has been very important to me too. During Santi's ASD diagnosis I was stressed, overthinking his future. A bit of music and silliness, a bunch of fab children, along with other understanding parents was just the remedy I needed.”

- Gabriela, whose son Santi who attends Norwich Monday group

Delivering quality services that people need

We asked our service users to name three things that Musical Keys sessions enabled them to do. Their top answers were:

Norfolk Arts and Wellbeing programme

Creative Arts East undertook a major arts and wellbeing research project, focused on four Norfolk-based organisations including Musical Keys, from 2013-2016. It aimed to identify barriers to participation and to help develop creative interventions for vulnerable people. They found that by taking part in the activities:

  • 63% felt happier

  • 73% said the activity supported them to feel less isolated

  • 62% said their experience helped to raise or maintain their confidence

  • 69% said they would like to do more arts or cultural activity

Find out more at www.61percent.uk

Focus on Jumpstart

Jumpstart was a two-year project funded by People’s Health Trust, using arts and creativity to build confidence and independence among a group of 49 vulnerable adults.

The sessions were a genuine collaboration with participants shaping the content and outcomes:

“Initially the group was very experimental but over time a ‘sound’ began to form and the group focused on working towards a full track. This offered a real sense of achievement and a sense of being part of something, bigger than themselves.” - St Martin’s Housing Manager

It delivered on its objectives:

  • 70% of participants said they felt more connected to their local community

  • 90% felt confident contributing ideas to the group

  • 80% said they met new people they previously did not know or connect with

“there’s an improvement in the emotional language of the group, they’re perfectly comfortable telling each other how they feel or why they’re writing that piece of music.”

And it helped Musical Keys to learn and develop new insights too:

“We learned that rehabilitation or significant progress in individuals can take many years and the incremental stages of improvement can be very small.”

a final word from our service users

A word cloud created using 68 individual testimonials from Musical Keys service users

A word cloud created using 68 individual testimonials from Musical Keys service users