100% Digital Leeds is working with the Leeds care sector to improve digital inclusion for staff and residents. Digital skills, confidence, and motivation are identified as sector-wide barriers to digital inclusion. In September 2023 the 100% Digital Leeds team worked with the care and arts sectors to curate a programme of free online arts and cultural activities aimed at care settings, as part of the National Day of Arts in Care Homes. The week-long programme saw 11 arts organisations deliver 13 sessions, attended by a total of 56 groups of care recipients, with hundreds of care recipients engaging with arts and culture activity across the programme.
Understanding the digital needs of the care sector
Engaging with care settings through participatory projects is a way for the 100% Digital Leeds team to further understand the barriers the sector faces to engaging with digital and to explore what cross-sector support we can offer at a strategic local authority level. The digital arts participation programme helps to position digital as an enabler to the care sector’s priorities, in a recognisable and accessible context. The formation of a steering group including representatives of care settings and key stakeholders such as Leeds City Council’s Care Quality Team has helped 100% Digital Leeds build closer relationships with the sector to better support digital inclusion going forward.
“Accessing the programme digitally is a way of pairing the familiar with the unfamiliar. Taking a game of bingo, a game that is often played in care settings and putting it online to be enjoyed as a group in the social space of a care home is an accessible, fun, but primarily familiar entry into a digital world, for both care staff and residents.”Jennifer Rhodes, Assistant Digital Inclusion Officer, 100% Digital Leeds.
Arts and creativity can motivate care residents to build their digital skills and confidence, leading to future engagement with digital learning. This can result in increased wellbeing outcomes through using digital to enable increased social interaction, engagement with the wider world, and the ability to access information and be empowered to make decisions about their own care.
“One of our members made the decision to access remote monitoring over going into a hospital for end-of-life care. He was only able to make that choice through the familiarity with digital devices that engaging with our digital offer had given him.”Rachel Wesson, Ascendance.
Access to arts and culture as a care sector priority, and a motivator for digital inclusion
Age UK’s Index of Wellbeing in Later Life highlights the importance of maintaining meaningful engagement with the world around you in later life, with participation in enjoyable and relevant activities being the biggest direct factor for wellbeing. Arts and culture can be utilised within care settings to facilitate multiple health and wellbeing outcomes and access to digital tools can enable those opportunities. Within the care sector access to in-person professional arts participation is at best infrequent and at worst non-existent, therefore the use of digital is an invaluable tool to increase opportunities for arts and cultural participation.
“I have never watched ballet or opera before. The ballet was beautiful and I would like to see one in the theatre now.”Lovell Park care resident.
The Department of Health and Social Care’s Next steps to put People at the Heart of Care paper sets out their recommendations to achieve their 10 year vision for adult social care.
“The People at the Heart of Care white paper recognised the transformative power of technology in improving the quality, safety and personalisation of care, while helping people who draw on care and support to live the lives they choose with greater independence.”Next steps to put People at the Heart of Care, Department of Health and Social Care.
However, the paper also recognised that ‘as many as 62% of care homes do not have a reliable internet connection, and 45% of providers express concern that care staff lack the necessary skills to adopt digital technologies with confidence’.
Care settings were invited to attend an Arts in Care Showcase event in May, which was used as a launch for the programme and as a way to showcase some of the arts and cultural work being delivered to Leeds residents in care. One of the steering group’s objectives was to build and nurture relationships between arts organisations and care settings.
The Arts in Care Digital Programme puts digital inclusion into a context that enables the care sector’s priorities and gives them the opportunity to engage with digital in a supported and facilitated way. Each care setting that engaged with the programme was invited to continue a conversation around their next steps relating to digital inclusion with 100% Digital Leeds. One care home that accepted this offer of further support has now borrowed iPads from Leeds Libraries, enabling them to offer the iPads to their residents on a trial basis before they commit to purchasing any. Another care home is now receiving digital skills sessions for residents from Your Back Yard using funding that 100% Digital Leeds supported them to apply for.
“The arts and culture sector is uniquely placed to champion digital inclusion to bring in new audiences to engage with work digitally, to upskill those facing barriers to digital inclusion, and to demonstrate the benefits of being able to access provision digitally.”Pam Johnson, Head of Culture Programmes, Leeds City Council.
Co-designing with a cross-sector steering group to ensure the programme meets stakeholder needs and objectives
The Arts in Care Digital Programme steering group is made up of care, arts and culture, and creative health professionals who provide their expertise and support to the team when designing and delivering the programme. Working with this group allows 100% Digital Leeds to ensure that the programme realises its objectives while addressing barriers to engagement from all involved.
For the arts organisations delivering the activities that made up the programme, the motivation to take part came from the need to forge links with care settings and make their activities more accessible to care residents. Taking part in the programme gives arts and culture organisations the opportunity to try something new in a low-risk environment and to test remote digital ways of working with audiences. This gives them the opportunity to reach audiences that they may not have worked with before, and audiences who face multiple barriers to accessing partners’ venues or the work they deliver.
“Partnering with 100% Digital Leeds, we Zoomed into [the] Care Home, offering a digital dance and movement class. Programmes like Arts in Care Homes Digital Week mean that, as an organisation, we are making a difference where opportunities to engage are small and where local communities need us the most.”Rachel Wesson, Ascendance.
Some of the organisations, like Ascendance and RJC Dance were already experienced in the delivery of programmes of digital activity but for some organisations digital was an unfamiliar prospect. The 100% Digital Leeds team offered support with the design and delivery of the sessions and were on hand to help facilitate if needed.
“The way I’ve been thinking about digital more and more is that it’s a tool. We could probably never on any sort of scale engage with [care] audiences except for digitally because we can’t really take our competition winner into a care home as they need a Steinway piano. So really the only connection is going to be digital.”Sally Egan, Leeds International Piano Competition.
The steering group identified a lack of funding as a barrier to arts organisations being involved and feeding their activities into the programme. Delivery partners for the programme were asked to take part through a call-out and advertising process, including the opportunity to apply for a small bursary through the Arts Together Partnership.
“The bursary offered with 100% Digital Leeds as part of Arts in Care Homes week was a brilliant opportunity to support creative work through digital means and enabled the recipients to explore or grow their digital offer for those who access care in whatever form. Arts Together supports, elevates and connects Arts and Communities across Leeds through the network and this work exemplifies everything the network stands for.”Lily Craig, Arts Together.
As part of our work with care settings 100% Digital Leeds continues to provide wraparound digital support alongside the rollout of the Digital Social Care Record (DSCR), the embedding of digital inclusion support, and wider digital transformation for the sector. Building on strengthened relationships with the care sector as a result of the Arts in Care Digital Inclusion Programme, 100% Digital Leeds has been able to have a more in-depth dialogue with care homes to further understand the barriers to engaging with the DSCR programme and digital transformation in general. Those barriers included:
- A lack of clear strategic direction about how engaging with digital will benefit the service, leading to lack of managerial buy-in.
- Low staff digital skills and confidence.
- A lack of suitable digital infrastructure and no money to provide it, or to prioritise it over other budgetary pressures.
- Lack of staff capacity combined with an absence of digital inclusion in their business strategy leading to staff finding it difficult to commit time, or free up time to support digital.
To overcome some of these barriers the 100% Digital Leeds team alongside Adults and Health will form a steering group made up of people invested in digital transformation in care. The group will explore the potential for applying for funding to address these barriers and will work together to agree priorities, approach, and messaging.