Bringing digital support to residents of tower blocks in LS9

100% Digital Leeds and The Old Fire Station are working with Housing Leeds and Space2 to deliver digital inclusion sessions from communal spaces of tower blocks in Gipton. The sessions are bringing digital support to the doorsteps of older residents with frailty and mobility issues in one of the most disadvantaged wards in the city. ‘Brekkie and Browsing’ sessions are currently facilitated by staff from The Old Fire Station and Space2. The aim is for the groups to become self-sustaining in the near future, using a ‘digital champion’ model to encourage peer support within the group. The sessions have been successful in engaging and supporting residents less able to access existing community provision.

Taking a partnership approach to supporting digital inclusion in the York Road area of the city

Local Care Partnerships (LCP) bring together local stakeholders such as community organisations, NHS care providers, and elected members to facilitate joined-up working to address local health needs. The York Road LCP identifies digital inclusion as a local priority. As a result The Old Fire Station currently hosts an NHS funded Digital Inclusion Officer, matrix managed by 100% Digital Leeds, to work with partners across the York Road LCP footprint to increase the amount of digital inclusion support available to local residents.

At a recent York Road LCP meeting NHS Patient Care Coordinators identified that older residents with physical frailty and limited mobility find it difficult to attend digital skills sessions held by local community organisations. To address this, the Digital Inclusion Officer worked with the local Housing Leeds Tenant Engagement Officer to further understand local need and they identified older residents in tower blocks as a group that would find it most difficult to access existing digital inclusion support. Communal spaces in Denbigh and Brecon tower blocks were identified as suitable spaces to run sessions from, and the Digital Inclusion Officer worked with local community organisation Space2 to develop ‘Brekkie and Browsing’.

“As a community organisation we know that there are many local residents in East Leeds who struggle to access our groups and activities. We are fully aware that there are many who fall into groups that can go under the radar and may drop into the category harshly defined at times as ‘hard to reach’. People who may be lonely and isolated, face health issues, or having caring responsibilities. By putting on our Brekkie and Browsing group in residential spaces like these Gipton tower blocks we can show that people will come along, take the new opportunities to learn and enjoy the new company.”

Lawrence Glyn, Community Development Worker, Space2

Brekkie and Browsing sessions

‘Brekkie and Browsing’ sessions allow residents in the Denbigh Croft and Heights, and Brecon Rise tower blocks, the chance to come to a relaxed session to chat about and overcome their digital issues with support from those more confident with IT. The weekly sessions take place on Monday mornings and a free breakfast is provided. The sessions are promoted by Tenant Engagement Officers, Care Coordinator, and resident word of mouth, targeting those less likely to engage with support in the community.

Whilst some attendees are just starting their digital journey, others have used the sessions to add to their pre-existing knowledge but they may have previously lacked the confidence needed to build on that knowledge. Attendees are supported to get the most out of their digital equipment whilst keeping themselves safe online and avoiding scams. Attendees can bring their own devices or use the laptops provided.

“What got me interested and excited when I first saw the advert was that someone was willing to show me how to properly use my laptop and my smartphone. I have achieved some of the things most important to me, to help me use my devices much easier and in such a short time. No more struggling with things I use the most, and I’ve made new friends while learning.”

Resident at Denbigh Heights.

Support has included using and managing online documents, formatting spreadsheets, and using online price comparison sites to get better deals. Attendees have used their improved digital skills to help make their money go further, to improve their employability, to help with their volunteering, and to stay in touch with friends and family.

Attending the group has had the added benefit of improving attendees’ confidence and reducing loneliness. Some members have reported attending the sessions has helped them to focus after recent bereavements.

“It’s great coming to the group – getting up, out and about, and joining in with others. Thanks for putting it on.”

Resident at Brecon Rise.

Next steps

The ‘Brekkie and Browser’ sessions have been initially facilitated by staff at The Old Fire Station and Space2 and the aim is for the groups to become self-sufficient utilising peer support. Residents with more digital skills and confidence will be identified from existing group attendees and supported to become digital champions and take over the leadership of the sessions, with light touch support from The Old Fire Station and Space2. This will free-up the capacity of The Old Fire Station and Space2 to roll-out Brekkie and Browsers approach to other tower blocks and social housing settings in the LS9 area.

“Running the groups with Chris has proved purposeful, very effective, and clearly very needed. There are so many people out there with such varying levels of digital need, alongside socialisation, some far more isolated than many people realise. The sessions have quite quickly created quite a special group, bringing much needed learning to an older group who want to connect to the world, be that learning how to use their smartphone, log on to a network, set up a spreadsheet, upload a CV, or send an email. It is of great benefit to everyone involved and, at the same time, it builds its own community of like-minded people which is why the group has continued to grow into a social group keen to find out more.”

Lawrence Glyn, Community Development Worker, Space2