A perspective on delivering online arts and culture activities in care settings

This is a guest blog written by Geraldine Montgomerie, Partnership Manager at The Swan Song Project. Geraldine is a member of the cross-sector steering group behind 100% Digital Leeds’s recently announced digital inclusion and arts participation programme in celebration of Arts in Care Homes Day.

“Please Come Back”: a guest blog from The Swan Song Project

This year marks the fourth Arts in Care Homes Day since it was established in 2019 – and in Leeds we have been sharing good practice every year; bringing together different care providers and arts opportunities and hearing the difference arts can make to not just care home residents, but their families and the staff who support them.

At the Swan Song Project we work with people living with terminal conditions, planning the end of their lives or dealing with bereavement and help them to write their own original songs. The people we work with value having dignity, personal control and choice over their circumstances, feeling connected to other people, taking part in interesting and pleasurable activities. Our songwriting work meets these needs, and the people we work with tell us how proud they are of their songs and how much fun they had during the process. They say that the process has helped them come to terms with their situation and helped them articulate and communicate their feelings in a way they might not otherwise have done.

We have supported people to write songs virtually, enabling us to reach people who are unable to meet us in person.

Geraldine Montgomerie

During the pandemic we have supported people to write songs virtually, enabling us to reach people who are unable to meet us in person including people living anywhere in the UK. We continue to offer a weekly online singing group where we encourage people to relax and breathe as well as learning new skills and gaining confidence in singing. We are joined by people around the world who describe the group as helping them sleep better, feel less tense and generally improving their mood.

We started our project in hospices but as Covid-19 restrictions have lifted we have begun to bring our work into care homes and work with other care providers, celebrating people’s lives, making memories and leaving legacies through making new songs.

There are almost 200 care settings in Leeds, many of which have enjoyed touring theatre productions and opera performances, live concerts and poetry, dance classes and opportunities for craft and even immersive art installations such as changing a care home lounge area into a ‘park’. The benefits of these activities can be significant – for example dance classes have been shown to reduce frailty, increase activity levels and boost wellbeing.

“Despite the range of local expertise and the best efforts of wellbeing and activity coordinators, it can be difficult to provide a daily offer of activities that suit the tastes and specific needs of people needing care.”

Geraldine Montgomerie

Despite the range of local expertise and the best efforts of wellbeing and activity coordinators, it can be difficult to provide a daily offer of activities that suit the tastes and specific needs of people needing care. With staff shortages care providers have limited resources to build relationships with local arts organisations and to finance regular high quality, interactive sessions. Covid-19 is also still presenting challenges, with care providers still closing to visitors with very little notice, so it remains a great time to share how we have learnt to offer online and remote arts activities and to adapt them to better meet people’s needs.

“We have found care settings have been really open to working with technology.”

Geraldine Montgomerie

We are always looking for ways to improve access to our work including continuing to offer online songwriting sessions and singing groups. We have found care settings have been really open to working with technology – whether joining us in online sessions to share memories we associate with key pieces of music from our lives or allowing us to visit in person and connect care home residents and hospice patients to online resources.

In partnership with 100% Digital Leeds and other arts and health organisations, we are working on an Arts in Care Homes Day programme in September 2022 to support care providers to open up opportunities to residents through a mixture of in person and online activities, overcome barriers to accessing online activities and bringing technology into care homes to enhance experiences and build confidence.

We have learned so far that there is a huge appetite to experience and engage with arts and creativity… that with every session we offer in a care setting we are urgently invited to come back.

Learn more about The Swan Song Project

Learn more about the Swan Song Project by contacting their Partnership Manager – Geraldine Montgomerie – at geraldinem@swansongproject.co.uk or visit their website.

Learn more about the digital inclusion and arts participation programme

  • Learn more about the digital inclusion and arts participation programme in celebration of Arts in Care Homes Day.
  • The programme of activities will run from Saturday 24th September to Saturday 1st October
  • The final programme will be announced towards the end of August
  • Arts and culture organisations can submit their activities for inclusion in the programme by completing this form by Monday 1st August.
  • Care providers can request support to access the programme by completing this form at any time until Saturday 1st October
  • For more information about this project or how you can support contact amy.hearn@leeds.gov.uk

Call for partners for Arts in Care Homes Day digital arts programme

100% Digital Leeds are looking for arts and culture organisations to submit activity for inclusion in digital arts and culture engagement programming aimed at Leeds care providers in celebration of Arts in Care Homes Day

We are looking to curate a week-long programme of activity taking place between Saturday 24th September (Arts in Care Homes Day) and Saturday 1st October (International Day of Older People), including free interactive workshops in art forms such as song and dance, and performances from arts organisations across the city. Care providers will engage with the programming remotely via digital platforms such as Zoom, Teams, and YouTube. The programme may also include sessions delivered in care settings, but including a digital element.

The project aims to support care providers to bring more arts and culture activity into their settings by engaging remotely via digital, and to develop staff digital skills and confidence. It is hoped that arts and culture organisations will be supported to reach new audiences in care settings, expand their care setting offer, and to form lasting partnerships with care providers.

The programme is already looking exciting, with support from key arts organisations working across the city such as Yorkshire Dance, Opera North, and Ascendance. The final timetable of events will be available for booking by care providers in late summer.

Arts and culture organisations can submit their activities for inclusion in the programme by completing this form by Monday 1st August.

Care providers can request support to access the programme by completing this form at any time until Saturday 1st October

Project background

This project has been developed by a cross-sector steering group made up of people working across the public, cultural, wellbeing, and care sectors. The project is a result of the existing partnership between the Arts and Culture Digital Inclusion Network, Leeds Arts Health and Wellbeing Network, and Leeds Care Delivery Services, which saw development of a series of webinars bringing people together to explore how care settings can benefit from arts and culture online. Find out more about the work being done in Leeds with care settings and/or older people around arts, creativity and culture by reading the recent NAPA report, Arts and Culture in every care home?, celebrating the work of Leeds Arts Health and Wellbeing Network and their Creative Ageing Forum.

“Care home activities for residents have been an area that has particularly benefitted from the 100% Digital Leeds support, and it is enabling them to access a range of digital and virtual activities and improving health and wellbeing outcomes. This real, practical application of digital technology with the support of the team is helping to embed digital inclusion across the care sector in Leeds, with staff becoming more familiar and comfortable using digital technology which is a key step in the preparation for the move to even wider digitisation”

Richard Graham, Commissioning Programme Leader, LCC Care Quality Commission

Project launch

We launched the project on Friday 1st July with a 30-minute webinar which outlines the project, the benefits of partnership, and how organisations can get involved. The video features speakers from 100% Digital Leeds, NAPA, Leeds Arts Health and Wellbeing Network, Pyramid, arts@leeds, and Springfield Care.

Launch webinar

We’re looking for arts and culture organisations to submit their events, activities, and performances to be included in the week-long programme. We’re looking for care providers to take up the opportunity of signing up to programme activities.

“Residents in care settings have embraced any opportunities to take part in creative and cultural opportunities. Feedback surveys indicate that people would love to have access to more activities generally and have been delighted when they have taken
part (whether through in-house support to take part in craft activities or interactive Zoom sessions with museums and galleries, libraries, dance organisations, poetry, theatre or other arts activities).”

Catherine, Leeds Care Delivery Service

How arts and culture organisations can take part in the programme

Offering activity via remote access gives arts organisations the opportunity to reach audiences who may find it difficult to access programming delivered in cultural venues due to their reliance on care, difficulty with mobility and, more recently, the need to shield during Covid. Visiting care settings to deliver workshops and performances comes with its own difficulties for arts organisations but Covid has made it near impossible. 

Taking part in this programme is an opportunity for arts and culture organisations to develop their offer and trial new approaches for audiences such as older people, people living with dementia, people with learning disabilities, people planning end of life, and people with mental health needs. It is also an opportunity to forge lasting partnerships with care providers such as care homes, day services, supported living services, recovery hubs, hospitals, and hospices.

“During the pandemic we have supported people to write songs virtually, enabling us to reach people who are unable to meet us in person including people living anywhere in the UK. We continue to offer a weekly online singing group where we encourage people to relax and breathe as well as learning new skills and gaining confidence in singing. We are joined by people around the world who describe the group as helping them sleep better, feel less tense and generally improving their mood.”

Geraldine Montgomerie, Partnership Manager, The Swan Song Project

Read our guest blog by Geraldine Montgomie from The Swan Song Project, giving a perspective on delivering online arts and culture activities in care settings.

Arts organisations are invited to complete a short expression of interest form to submit activities like workshops or streamed performances to be included in the week-long programme. Details required include a session description, date and time, booking link, and what care providers need to participate. The form will be closed on Monday 1st August.

To be included in the programme activities should take place or be accessible between 24th September and 1st October and should be accessed remotely via digital platforms such Zoom, Teams, and YouTube. We will also accept submission of sessions delivered in care settings but including a digital element, however, face-to-face sessions are at risk of cancellation due to Covid.

To keep the programme as simple for care providers to engage with as possible events must be free at the point of access. We are not able to offer financial support but are happy to support any digital inclusion related funding bids. Organisations are welcome to submit suitable events and activities from existing programming, or pre-recorded content for streaming. We welcome taster sessions designed to showcase existing or future programming, or trial work with new audiences.

Support available to arts and culture organisations 

This project has been shaped by the Arts and Culture Digital Inclusion Network and the support of 100% Digital Leeds and network members is available for artists and arts and culture organisations looking to develop their digital offer or adapt their work to be accessible and engaging for different audiences. There is a section on the expression of interest form to request support.

100% Digital Leeds will be publishing a series of blogs over the summer sharing learning and practical tips from Arts and Culture Digital Inclusion Network members and care homes on how to make digital sessions as engaging and accessible as possible. Keep a lookout for these on the 100% Digital Leeds blog.

How care providers can take part in the programme

Offering care providers such as care homes, day services, supported living, recovery hubs, hospitals, and hospices the opportunity to engage with remote arts and culture programming helps them to support the arts engagement of the people they care for and all of the wellbeing benefits that brings. The programme also provides a supportive space for staff to develop the digital skills and confidence needed to support the digital inclusion of residents and service users, opening up the use of digital tools and services to connect with family and friends, manage health and wellbeing, and live more independently.

Taking part in this programme is an opportunity for care providers to explore opportunities to bring more arts and culture into their activity programming and to form lasting partnerships with Leeds arts organisations.

The final timetable of events will be available for booking by care providers in late summer.

Care providers are invited to complete a short expression of interest form to be among the first to be notified when the timetable is released. Alternatively care providers are welcome to look out for the release of the final timetable via the 100% Digital Leeds blog.

Support available to care providers

This project has been shaped by Leeds Care Delivery Service and Springfield Care as part of 100% Digital Leeds’s work with care homes. Care providers are invited to complete a short expression of interest form to request support from 100% Digital Leeds to develop their digital inclusion offer or to engage with the Arts in Care Homes Day programme. Support could include supporting your staff to develop their digital skills and confidence, advice on equipment set up, help to dial into Zoom or Teams calls, or something similar. 100% Digital Leeds are happy to have a chat and see how we might be able to support you.

“Having the support of 100% Digital Leeds has been fantastic for our care homes.  Not only support but also encouragement and excitement to use more digital resources in creative ways, that benefit not only residents’ connections with the community and their families, but digital inclusion also for staff, with training, increasing their motivation and confidence with digital resources.  100% Digital Leeds team are always available, approachable, open to suggestions, pro-active, bringing new ideas and we look forward to continue working together developing our digital inclusion offer, which is having such a positive impact for our care homes”

Iria Cunha, Wellbeing Development Manager, Springfield Care Villages

Summary of key information

  • The programme of activities will run from Saturday 24th September to Saturday 1st October
  • The final programme will be announced towards the end of August
  • Arts and culture organisations can submit their activities for inclusion in the programme by completing this form by Monday 1st August.
  • Care providers can request support to access the programme by completing this form at any time until Saturday 1st October
  • For more information about this project or how you can support contact amy.hearn@leeds.gov.uk

Reducing reoffending through digital inclusion

100% Digital Leeds are leading a project to tackle digital exclusion for prisons, prisoners and prison-leavers in Leeds.

Having digital skills, connectivity, confidence, and motivation means prison leavers are better able to success in the areas of their lives that make people less likely to reoffend:

  • Finding secure housing 
  • Managing finances and accessing benefits
  • Engaging with education
  • Accessing work
  • Managing their health and wellbeing
  • Reconnecting with family and friends and building positive support networks

The project is split in to 3 key strands

Taking a community and strengths based approach 100% Digital Leeds is working with partners already supporting prisoners and ex-offenders to embed digital inclusion support into their existing services. With each strand of the project we look at how we can remove the four key barriers to digital inclusion: skills, confidence, connectivity, and motivation.

  • Improving digital inclusion support for prisoners 
  • Improving digital inclusion support for prison leavers
  • Improving the transition between services in prison and for prison leavers

The cross-sector Steering Group

On 20 May 2022 we held our second steering group meeting. 24 people from 17 different organisations attended to share knowledge about the work that has taken place so far and help shape the future plans.

We heard from several partners about the digital inclusion interventions they have implemented as part of this project, with support from 100% Digital Leeds, and the impact that work is having: 

Improving digital inclusion support for prisoners 

Immersive digital inclusion pilot at HMP Wealstun

Mark Acaster from HMP Wealstun has implemented a digital inclusion pilot in the sewing machine repair workshop at the prison. He has secured new equipment, modernising the stock control system and opening up more opportunities for prisoners to engage with digital software and hardware for stock management and form completion.

Mark shared how giving prisoners the opportunity to engage with digital outside of a formal education setting had been effective in building their confidence and improving their real-life digital skills. Mark is able to signpost prisoners to further improve their digital skills by engaging with formal education programmes. This pilot has sparked discussions about how similar approaches could be taken in other parts of the prison. 

“I have really enjoyed improving my I.T skills as I know they are going to help me upon release.”

Prisoner, HMP Wealstun

Opening up access to Barclays Digital Wings for prisoners 

Steve Grix from Novus and Matthew Daniells from Barclays have been working on delivering improved digital learning on Virtual Campus by opening up access to Barclays Digital Wings. This will allow prisoners support with a wider range of transferable digital skills with real-world applications. Barclays are also working with the steering group to look at how the content of Digital Wings can be updated to further meet the needs of prisoners.

Improving digital inclusion support for prison leavers

Community Calling device gifting pilot with Leeds Housing Options and Barca

We reflected on the successes of the pilot supporting prison leavers with connectivity by working with Leeds Housing Options and BARCA to gift smartphones with data to selected prison-leavers through Hubbub and O2’s Community Calling scheme. We followed the progress of the people who have been gifted devices and shared case studies around its impact, advocating for connectivity support alongside prison release and exploring how we can take this learning and implement a more sustainable approach to gifting devices and data.

Digital inclusion support for perpetrators of domestic violence at Change Grow Live

Alison Barrie from Change Grow Live (CGL) has been working with 100% Digital Leeds to design a bespoke digital inclusion intervention for perpetrators of domestic violence, as part of their Integrated Offender Management service. CGL staff have taken part in multiple digital inclusion workshops with 100% Digital Leeds to co-produce an intervention focussing on providing digital devices and connectivity in a way that makes best use of the organisation’s resources with limited risk. CGL have upgraded their IT suite and started piloting a scheme of device gifting and lending using internal funds, alongside staff championing digital and signposting to further support. So far there has been no recorded reoffending from recipients of a device from CGL.

“It [having access to the internet] has made my house a home”.

Service user, Change Grow Live

Improving staff awareness of digital inclusion issues and approaches at CFO

Emma Leigh from CFO Activity Hub shared how the Digital Inclusion Awareness Workshop they had with 100% Digital Leeds helped their staff to understand the potential digital inclusion needs of their service users and identify further  practical opportunities for embedding more digital inclusion into their existing activities. 

Improving the transition between services in prison and for prison leavers

Understanding the support available from DWP

Donnella Carrier from DWP explained their support on offer for prisoners and prison-leavers including contacting employers, dealing with benefit enquiries, signposting and discussing support needs and barriers to digital inclusion on induction and release. 

Understanding the support available from Shannon Trust

Ian Merrill from Shannon Trust talked about how they provide peer-led basic literacy and numeracy in prisons via Learning & Skills Managers. He quoted that 57% of people coming through the prison system have a reading age of 11 or less. Shannon Trust’s literacy app based on phonics-based programme Turning Pages will be available later in 2022, as part of the Ministry of Justice’s Prison Leaver Innovation Challenge. 

Next Steps

  • Exploring further options to increase connectivity for prison leavers including encouraging partners to register with the National Databank and forthcoming Device Bank. 
  • Round table discussion with Digital Wings with an open invite for organisations to attend and give feedback on their curriculum and suggestions of gaps or improvements. 
  • Round table discussion with key partners looking at how women prisoners and prison-leavers experience digital exclusion and bespoke interventions that could be designed to meet those specific needs.
  • Offering Digital Inclusion Awareness workshops to support partner workforce development.
  • Next steering group – the date will go out in July. For an invitation email paul.wilkes@leeds.gov.uk

Community Calling Case Study

O2 and Hubbub launched the Community Calling campaign in Leeds in January 2021. The campaign gifts smartphones with free data, calls and texts to digitally excluded people. 100% Digital Leeds worked closely with Hubbub to coordinate the distribution of phones through our networks of community partners across the city. As well as working collaboratively with our partners in Leeds, we also worked with colleagues in the region to distribute phones across West Yorkshire.

In three phases during 2021, the 100% Digital Leeds team distributed 1,350 phones to organisations supporting digitally excluded people throughout Leeds. We also arranged for 500 phones to be distributed to our contacts in Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees. This has enabled people across the region to get online to keep in touch with friends and family, access digital services, learn new skills and participate in an increasingly digital world.

Project Delivery

To distribute and deliver the phones, the 100% Digital Leeds team identified community partners who support a range of people from different Communities of Interest. We asked those organisations to identify people who were among the most isolated or excluded so that the phones would go to beneficiaries who really needed them. Priority was given to service-users who did not have a phone, could not afford to get online or could not access the internet independently.

All of the organisations that received phones work with people who are more likely to be digitally excluded, many of whom face multiple barriers to getting online. We worked with organisations supporting a wide range of people including:

  • Care home residents
  • Gypsy and Traveller families
  • Older people
  • People living in poverty or on a low income
  • People who are homeless or at risk of homelessness
  • People with learning disabilities and autistic people
  • Refugees and asylum seekers
  • Women and girls

Over 80 third sector organisations in Leeds received phones through the distribution networks that we set up with our community partners.

100% Digital Leeds networks

100% Digital Leeds has a number of digital inclusion networks bringing together partners who support specific communities. 

The success of Community Calling in Leeds relied on multiple organisations working together to deliver phones to digitally excluded people. Thanks to our well-established relationships with partners in the third sector, 100% Digital Leeds could mobilise quickly to distribute the phones. This was important to ensure that the full 12-months of free calls and data could be used by beneficiaries.

The organisations have all supported each beneficiary to make the most of the device they’ve been given. This is a direct result of the work that 100% Digital Leeds has done with each of those partners to help them understand the person-centred approach to supporting people to become more digitally included.

100% Digital Leeds has excellent relationships with the organisations we work with, and they have trusted relationships with their service users. We can move quickly to coordinate device distribution at scale and ensure that phones go to people who most need them. The organisations we work with know their service users best, so they had the autonomy to choose the beneficiaries who would receive phones. Some organisations acted as distribution centres for smaller organisations who work with the same Communities of Interest.

Gifting or lending?

100% Digital Leeds has helped to set up dozens of device lending schemes run by different organisations across the city. Lending schemes are important, and a loan may be appropriate for some people as a short-term response or if they have an immediate need. But lending is unlikely to be a long-enough intervention for people with very low digital skills or for those who are the most digitally excluded.

There are additional benefits to beneficiaries being gifted a device rather than being lent a device. These include higher levels of:

  • Certainty – recipients of gifted devices are safe in the knowledge that their device won’t be recalled at the end of a loan period.
  • Security – recipients can fully utilise features that they may not feel comfortable using on a shared device. This could include keeping personal photos and messages on the device, installing their own apps, creating their own bookmarks and using websites and tools that store personal data and passwords.
  • Ownership – each recipient can take ownership of their own digital development. They are free to use the device in ways that are meaningful for them and learn new skills at their own pace over a longer timeframe.
  • Trust – giving a device to someone can strengthen the trusted relationship between the recipient and the organisation.  

Impact

Testimonials from some of the organisations who took part in the Community Calling scheme:

“I think the smartphones have been one of the most effective interventions we’ve done, not just because of the benefits of the device and data but the impact on clients’ self-esteem. One client was very socially isolated and was lacking the digital means to help address this. Since he has had the smartphone, he has been able to connect with friends on Facebook and set up an email to enable me to send him signposting information. The impact on his mental health has been very noticeable and he is very appreciative.”

Community Links Wellbeing Coordinator

“My client moved to the UK a couple of years ago to support her relative with childcare. She was reliant on her family for everything but was desperate to be self-sufficient. She also felt lonely and isolated due to being alone in the house during the daytime and was tearful and emotional during our initial conversations. This isolation caused her great anxiety, affected her sleep and she was taking anti-depressants prescribed by her GP”

Community Links Wellbeing Coordinator

“The Client told me that she felt happy, lighter, and excited about having her own phone. It meant that she could keep in touch with relatives abroad, look for jobs and it gave her a bit of hope for the future. She also felt liberated simply because of having her own phone and her own telephone number, so she could now access social activities, and be her own independent person. At the exit appointment the Client told me that receiving the phone was a turning point in her life, as she felt connected to the outside world and was able to take control of her life again.”

Community Links Wellbeing Coordinator

“One person could have been viewed as a high-risk donation, with the phone at risk of being sold or lost due to high levels of substance use. But she still has her phone after 12 months. She uses it to stay in touch with family, combat isolation and making calls for her appointments. Her wellbeing has improved over the past year and her substance use has significantly decreased.”

Basis Yorkshire

“SG is an Eastern European man sleeping rough and known to St Anne’s. He was given a Community Calling phone when he presented at a City Square food provision. He used the phone and data to contact his family via social media. He is now reunited with his family and living with his brother.”

St. Anne’s Community Services

“CH was an active heroin user and a St Anne’s service user for a number of years who had struggled to find and maintain secure accommodation. In March 2020 he was placed in temporary emergency accommodation and supported to engage with Forward Leeds. Saviour Trust were able to find him accommodation with a friend, but that relationship broke down. CH visited St Anne’s to use their PCs to bid on Housing Leeds properties. He was offered a Community Calling smartphone with data to allow him to spend more time active bidding and was able to secure a property. He no longer presents at St Anne’s but is often seen around town by staff and always stops to show them he’s still got his phone and to thank them.”

St. Anne’s Community Services

“KB and JB came to St Anne’s for support ending a tenancy. Having no access to a phone meant they needed to spend a lot of time at St Anne’s waiting for calls from Leeds Housing Options, who had no other way to contact them. Having a smartphone has allowed them to be less reliant on St Anne’s staff and more independent in managing their situation. They have now both been placed in temporary accommodation. KB struggles with low mood and is thankful to be able to use the phone and data to watch a film or listen to music, both of which help him manage his mental health.”

St. Anne’s Community Services

“RM has led a life of trauma and chaos. His past has affected his mental health and he struggles to control his emotions and temper. As a result, he has had frequent incidents at St Anne’s when he has been verbally abusive and physically threatening to staff and other service users. He was given a Community Calling smartphone to access tools that help him deescalate and manage his emotions, such as listening to music and watching films. He has since been placed in temporary accommodation and being able to access entertainment media at home on his phone has helped him manage his mental health and stay home and “out of trouble”. Since being gifted the smartphone RM has spent more time at home St Anne’s have seen him in fewer incidents.”

St. Anne’s Community Services

“Thank you for the gift, which helped me speak with my family back home in Africa. Talking with my family and community groups in the UK during the lockdown and beyond made me feel less isolated and more engaged without the stress of topping up. As a person with no income and not allowed to work, you can imagine how stressful not being able to meet or speak with people is. This scheme helped me a lot and I am very grateful for the support!”

Recipient of a phone via Unleashing Refugee Potential

Creative digital storytelling workshops with LEEDS2023

A series of creative digital storytelling workshops

100% Digital Leeds are pleased to be partnering with LEEDS 2023 to offer a series of free workshops to partners, making creative digital skills and software more accessible to Leeds communities, an idea born via the Arts and Culture Digital Inclusion Network. The workshops are free, assume no prior digital skills, utilise free digital tools, and are led by experts from across Leeds’s creative industries. Together, we break down the perceptions that digital software is difficult to use, expensive and inaccessible to anyone outside of creative industries. The various software packages highlighted are free, powerful and support the creation of high-quality content.

At LEEDS 2023 we are building up to our year of culture, letting culture loose across the city. These upskilling workshops are one of the ways we are supporting artists, creatives, organisations and anyone who wants to get involved to learn new skills. It has been great to partner with 100% Digital Leeds on this programme to ensure that it reaches people across the city. Every workshop is free, we are offering bus fare for anyone that needs it, and we are creating online versions for people who can’t attend. We want to make sure that these workshops are open to everyone.

Adam Sas-Skowronski, Creative Technologist, LEEDS2023

The workshop series covers tools needed for capturing, creating, and sharing engaging digital content with workshops on the basics of video editing, sound recording, image editing, and streaming. Each workshop gives attendees the skills and knowledge needed to share their stories, and the stories of the people and communities they work with and in, using free and easy to use digital tools.

The workshops to date

Two workshops have taken place so far: ‘Audio editing with Audacity’ and ‘Video editing with DaVinci Resolve’.

Our aim is to give workshop participants the basic skills they need to begin experimenting and exploring their creative skills. We have already run workshops on the basics of video editing, using the program DaVinci Resolve which was lead by Northern Film School academic Lee Robinson, and sound editing on Audacity, which was lead by BBC Radio Leeds Producer Dan Purvis. The overwhelming feedback is that we should run more.

Adam Sas-Skowronski, Creative Technologist, LEEDS2023

Attendance

We have seen a lot of interest and ‘buzz’ around the series and both the first and second workshops in the series were sell-out events, with the second workshop being a full house on the day.

Tweet from Amy Hearn

Across workshops one and two over 50 people have booked spaces and the workshops have seen a 70% attendance rate on the day. The in-person events in the city centre have attracted people from across Leeds with attendees travelling from Armley, Guiseley, Harehills, Kirkstall, Moortown, Woodhouse, and Yeadon.

Attendance has been cross-sector:

  • around half to two thirds of attendees represent community or third sector
  • around a third attendees came from the creative industries
  • a small percentage attended from the public and education sectors

We’ve been pleased to see engagement from some of 100% Digital Leeds’s most valued digital inclusion delivery partners from across Leeds and supporting a range of Communities of Interest, including Richmond Hill Elderly Action, Proverbs 31 Woman, People Matters, The Highrise Project, Drighlington Digital and GIPSIL – Our Way Leeds, and community arts organisations supporting digital inclusion such as Open Source Arts, Pyramid, and Space2. We have also had support from third sector infrastructure partners in promoting the workshops.

Tweet from Forum Central

Reasons for attending the workshops include:

  • an interest in podcasting
  • developing skills to be later shared with communities
  • creating engaging community learning resources
  • recording community history and creating digital archives
  • supporting hybrid working and delivery
  • capturing and sharing organisational impact
  • creating content, from fitness videos to sermons

Impact and evaluation

On a scale of 1 to 5, 100% of responders said the workshops delivered to date rated as a 4 or 5 in terms of being both engaging and user friendly. Attendees also rated as a 4 or 5 the likelihood of them recommending the workshop series to a friend or attending another workshop themselves. 

Tweet from Donna Waldron

Comments from attendees are similarly overwhelmingly positive:

“I have broken the fear of trying a new software so thank you. I am left with plenty of materials to practice on at home and cannot wait for the next workshop.”

“I liked how accessible it felt, I am completely new to using audacity and sound and this felt really user friendly

“I was nervous that it the session would be full of people that work in creative technology but such an interesting mix of people, professions, ages, and reasons for attending.”

It was great, I learned a lot – some of what I learned is going to save me a lot of time in my current work”

“I liked this workshop it was very engaging and I got to learn as I went along.”

“I learned loads and will definitely be signing up for another”.

Workshop attendees
Tweet from Highrise Project

Nearly half have of those who completed the evaluation commented that they would have liked the workshop to be longer so we have taken that on board and future sessions will last two hours rather than the originally planned 90 minutes. We will also ask attendees to arrive at the workshop 15 minuets before the start time to ensure we’re ready to start the workshop content promptly.

Future workshops

The rest of the series will see sessions on similar creative digital storytelling themes including:

  • Social media training for Twitter, Instagram, and Tiktok
  • Interactive storytelling on Twine
  • Livestream using OBS, Twitch, YouTube Live and Restream
  • Basics of video game making using Unity

Workshops are announced on a month-by-month basis and the next session, ‘Image editing with GoDaddy Studio’ on Wednesday 22nd June, is now open for booking via Eventbrite.

Tweet from 100% Digital Leeds

Keep an eye on LEEDS 2023 and 100% Digital Leeds social accounts for news of future workshops and follow 100% digital Leeds on Eventbrite to book free tickets when the events go live.

LGA Pathfinder Workshop Two

Leeds is one of nine councils awarded funding as part of the Local Government Association (LGA) Digital Pathfinders Programme, designed to support councils seeking to innovate and develop pioneering initiatives to advance digital inclusion, digital connectivity, and cyber security. 100% Digital Leeds have been funded to develop a Community-based Model to Increase Digital Inclusion and run a series of related workshops with five councils selected by LGA. Interested parties can follow our progress on the project Miro board. The resulting model will be published and launched in December this year.

Workshop two: Barriers, assets, and opportunities

The second workshop in the series of four broke down stage two of the community-based model. The session built upon the content of the previous, thinking about how we can understand the digital inclusion needs of the target community then use a strengths-based approach to identify potential solutions to overcoming those barriers.

We were joined by representatives from Coventry, East Riding of Yorkshire, West Berkshire, Plymouth, and London Borough of Bexley councils. These partners are working with us to sense-check the model, ensuring the content is useful for Local Authorities with a different geographical or demographic make up to Leeds, and councils at different points in their digital inclusion journey.

The session started with time for further reflection on workshop one. There were additional questions from partners on the background of 100% Digital Leeds, how Leeds City Council were motivated to take action on digital inclusion, and where the initial investment came from. These questions prompted us to include some additional context as a preface to the written model. This will take the form of links to existing pieces on the Digital Inclusion Toolkit, the site that will host the final model. Overall, partners reflected on  how content could be adapted to fit the needs of their council, and some have already begun to initiate changes in their practice as a result

“It’s changed my mindset on how to approach digital inclusion – rather than thinking about who is already doing it, I’m thinking about who has service users who could really benefit from digital within that setting?”

Workshop attendee

Stage two content and feedback

Stage two – Barriers, assets, and opportunities – has the following steps:

  1. Gathering information
  2. Identifying the barriers
  3. Identifying the assets
  4. Identifying the opportunities to do more

Discussions included:

  • understanding how we workshop with partners to gather insights needed to coproduce a community-based digital inclusion intervention
  • talking about barriers in the context of both the issues that cause Leeds residents to be digital excluded and the things in the way of community partners delivering more digital inclusion support
  • how we use a strengths-based approach to embed digital inclusion support into existing services in a way that is efficient and effective.

“The content is relatable and applicable, even considering the differences between a city like Leeds and a large, rural authority.”

Workshop attendee

The partnering authorities were overwhelmingly positive in their feedback but had some ideas on how the session content could be made even better. As a result of this feedback we will:

  • Include more example mini case-studies in the model, helping those using the model to understand how the principles might be applied in different contexts, such as with different communities
  • Emphasise the importance of digital inclusion awareness workshops as an opportunity to bring whole staff teams onboard from the start and have everyone’s voice heard
  • Include practical examples of how we collate information for signposting and keep organisations up to date with opportunities
  • Include more information on the importance of building and maintaining relationships with partners and workshopping ideas around resource-dependant maximisation of digital inclusion support to the success of digital funding bids

The workshop rounded off with time for partners to reflect on the programme as a whole and how working closely with the 100% Digital Leeds team has made an impact to date. We will showcase examples of how involvement in the programme has positively influenced the plans of partnering councils as part of the launch event which will take place towards the end of the year.

“It’s triggered questions for me about what this could look like in my authority and helped me to see how it could work within my own role.”

Workshop attendee

Digital arts participation project for Arts in Care Homes Day

100% Digital Leeds and partners are pulling together a programme of creative digital opportunities for care providers as part of Arts in Care Homes Day (24th September). This project brings together 100% Digital Leeds’s Arts and Culture Digital Inclusion Network and work with care homes.

The programme will support:

  • care providers to offer remote access to arts and culture activities
  • arts organisations to reach care provider audiences
  • arts organisations to form new partnerships with care providers
  • care providers to develop their digital inclusion offer

Care providers could include: care homes, hospitals, day services, supported living, recovery hubs, and hospices.

Improving arts and culture participation

Improved access to arts and culture programming supports the improved health and wellbeing of those who are cared for by care providers:

The Baring Foundation (2011) report An Evidence Review of the Impact of
Participatory Arts on Older People summarises some of the benefits:

  • Improving mental wellbeing, increased confidence, and increased self-esteem.
  • Embracing new and positive aspects to their identity and life role.
  • Counterbalancing the mental wellbeing difficulties associated with periods of loss which can increase the risk of low mood, anxiety and social isolation.
  • Improving cognitive functioning, communication and memory.
  • Increased sense of pleasure, enjoyment of life, and creative thinking.

The programme of events

The programme will be made up of events and activities that are:

  • Cultural, creative, or artistic
  • Free to access
  • Accessible remotely via a digital tool such as Zoom
  • Taking place on Arts in Care Homes Day or the following week (between 24th and 30th September)
  • Suitable for some or all people being supported by care providers – older people, people with dementia, people with learning disabilities, and disabled people
  • Suitable for care providers to engage with as a group in a communal area.

As there is no funding available to support this project we envisage that the programme will for the most part be made up of suitable events and activities from organisations’ existing programming, or taster sessions designed to showcase existing or future programming.

How to get involved

The project will be launched with a webinar on Friday 1st July, 10.30-11am, when we will release an expression of interest process for both arts organisations and care providers who would like to take part in the programme. The webinar will be recorded and shared online.

We’re keen to hear from partners who would like to help shape the project or share experience and best practice to help strengthen the project. There is a project steering group made up of representatives from arts organisations, care homes, and other relevant organisations which partners are also able to join. Contact amy.hearn@leeds.gov.uk

LGA Pathfinder Workshop One

Leeds is one of nine councils awarded funding as part of the Local Government Association (LGA) Digital Pathfinders Programme, designed to support councils seeking to innovate and develop pioneering initiatives to advance digital inclusion, digital connectivity, and cyber security. 100% Digital Leeds have been funded to develop a Community-based Model to Increase Digital Inclusion and run a series of related workshops with five councils selected by LGA. Interested parties can follow our progress on the project Miro board and we’ll publish an update blog after each workshop. The resulting model will be published and launched in December this year.

Workshop one: Focus and partnerships

 Workshop one took place in mid-April. As well as starting to get to know the partnering councils and understand their digital inclusion journey so far, the first workshop was an opportunity to break down the first stage of the model.

Stage one – Focus and partnerships – has the following steps:

  1. Understanding the concept of a community-based approach to digital inclusion
  2. Identifying the target community
  3. Identifying key partners
  4. Engaging key partners and keeping them engaged

Initial feedback on stage one from partnering councils was positive. Workshop attendees identified the concept of working in partnership with the voluntary sector as a good fit and appreciated the focus on practical solutions in relation to existing work. When writing the model, the 100% Digital Leeds team recognised that in comparison to many other councils across the UK, we have a well-established and resourced team. Capacity could be a potential barrier to other councils taking on the community-based model.

These concerns were mirrored by the partnering councils, with key issues being identified as:

  • Challenges with capacity for those with small teams, or without a team
  • The scope of the digital inclusion challenge and knowing where to start
  • Lack of funding and resource to support the development of digital inclusion initiatives
  • The need for a compelling offer to engage organisations with limited capacity

These are all issues that are addressed in the model but it’s clear that we need to put more focus on highlighting practical solutions in the final published version.

Free creative digital storytelling workshops

LEEDS 2023 are excited to be working on a series of free workshops in partnership with 100% Digital Leeds that aim to make creative software training more accessible to Leeds communities.

Each workshop will give you new ways to share your own stories and the stories of the people you work with using free and easy to use digital tools. They’ll cover easy video editing, sound recording, image editing, and other skills great for capturing and sharing the impact of your work and creating engaging content for your social media or website.

The same skills could be brought into your creative events programming and used to help the people and communities you work with to record and share their stories and creative work, upskill them and teach them new skills. These free workshops will be breaking down the perceptions that digital software’s are difficult to use, expensive and inaccessible.

Starting at the end of April, and hosted at ‘Platform’ near the Leeds Train station; these monthly workshops will focus on learning how to use free and simple digital tools, resources, and software, with each workshop covering a different skill. Don’t worry if you’re a beginner or not confident in your digital skills, the workshops will cover all the basics and everything you need to know to make the most of the software after the session.

The workshops are for anyone who is new to digital design software, people that want to learn new skills for themselves or to share with the people and communities they work with, or anyone who wants to explore new ways to make digital content. These workshops will enable you to make artworks and create digital content for your organisation or businesses, and will give everyone taking part new skills to use as part of LEEDS 2023 year of culture.

Open to anyone over the age of 18, all the workshops will be recorded and be accessible online with BSL translation shortly after the sessions. All participants will be given the option of claiming a free First bus Day rider if needed to attend the workshops.

Sign up to the events will open end the end of March with the first session running April 27th 17:30 – 19:00.

Please keep an eye out on LEEDS 2023 and 100% Digital Leeds social accounts for more updates, and follow 100% digital Leeds on Eventbrite to book free tickets when the events go live.

Digital inclusion and food poverty

“I’ve sent people to the library to access a computer because if they’re looking for jobs, I mean… everything’s online, they don’t accept written applications, it’s got to be online.”

Volunteer, St. Cross Church Food Bank in Middleton

People experiencing food poverty are likely to also be experiencing digital poverty. Organisations supporting people experiencing food poverty are well placed to identify digitally excluded people and signpost them to the help they need to get online.

Trussell Trust’s partnership with Vodafone on the ‘Vodafone Together’ scheme is a national example of how food banks and organisations supporting digital inclusion can come together to identify families living with digital poverty and offer them support, in this instance providing free connectivity for up to a year.

Similarly, 100% Digital Leeds has worked with Food Banks and other partners in Leeds, providing access to digital devices and training, equipping staff and volunteers to provide and signpost to digital inclusion support, and we’re keen to do more.

Understanding digital poverty

The pandemic has caused many people to use the internet in new ways. According to the Lloyds Consumer Digital Index 2020 saw 1.5 million people get online for the first time, with many others spending far longer online than in previous years. Many first time users of the internet during the crisis have been driven by need – nearly three-in-four are people now shopping online for groceries or clothing, for example.

However, the same report shows that 2.5 million people in the UK are currently without internet access, leaving millions of people cut off from engaging with the digital world. 55% of those offline earn under £20,000 and, while there are multiple barriers to digital inclusion, for those on low incomes affordability is often the biggest factor.  

29% of internet users come into the ‘very low engagement’ category, meaning they don’t go online much at all. Nearly half (44%) of this category earn less than £20,000 per year. Some of these have limited access to the internet because they are experiencing ‘data poverty’, meaning they’re not able to afford a sufficient, private and secure internet connection to meet essential needs.

For those on a low income, accessing the internet costs more and is less reliable. Many people can’t afford or don’t have a good enough credit rating to get a contract for WiFi at home, leaving them relying on mobile phones and 4G data. Those who can’t afford a high enough monthly 4G allowance may consistently run out of data and be left without the ability to get online for part of the month. Those who can’t afford (or are otherwise unable to access) a data contract at all are left paying for data on a ‘Pay As You Go’ basis – the most expensive and least reliable way to access the internet.  

Digital and data poverty means it’s much harder to apply for jobs online, manage money online, or quickly access essential services such as health and benefits. It means children can’t do school work online, or keep in touch with their friends. There’s an insightful blog post written by one of our partners, Leeds Asylum Seekers Support Network, about the data and cost involved when doing some things online like video calling.

As well as making it easier for people to access services and keep on top of things, being online actually saves people money – people with the most digital engagement also pay less for important bills such as utilities, saving an average of £228 per year – 2.5 times more than those internet users with low engagement.

The people who would most benefit from being online are, more often than not, those who find it hardest to get online. 100% Digital Leeds is working with partners across the city – including Food Banks – to identify people experiencing digital poverty and other forms of digital exclusion and get them the support they need. Here are some examples of our work so far:

Supporting Food Banks to provide devices and data

100% Digital Leeds has worked with Food Banks and organisations providing food parcel provision to support the connectivity of people experiencing digital poverty.

100% Digital Leeds’s partnership with Community Calling, a project by Hubbub and O2 to gift refurbished smartphones to people who need them, has meant that organisations like Woodhouse Community Centre and New Wortley Community Centre have been able to gift reconditioned devices with a year’s free 4G data, calls, and texts to those in need via food parcels as part of their role as Community Care Hubs, ensuring that the most vulnerable people in the city have had access to support during the pandemic.

As part of their development as Digital Health Hubs, in partnership with 100% Digital Leeds and Local Care Partnerships, community organisations like Hamara Healthy Living Centre and Holbeck Together are able to loan tablets with 4G data via their in-house Tablet Lending Schemes, or gift smartphones with 4G data via the Community Calling scheme to members of the community experiencing digital poverty, many of whom have been identified and supported when accessing food bank services.

Tweet from Holbeck Together

Supporting Food Banks to signpost to services

100% Digital Leeds worked with Leeds South and East Foodbank in 2019 to trial and then implement a scheme that meant their food bank volunteers have access to digital devices with data, allowing fast and efficient signposting to services as well as supporting the administration of food bank services. A similar approach has also been implemented at Hamara Healthy Living Centre, amongst others, to great success.

Say we’ve got someone who comes in with a food voucher, but he or she’s got other problems.  Say they might have a drink problem.  We don’t have a great deal of literature, but with [the iPad] we can go on and say ‘right, you need to go to Forward Leeds.’  Or look up organisations like the Citizens Advice Bureau, and it means we get reliable and up-to-date information.”

Barbara, St Cross Church Food Bank in Middleton

Supporting community organisations to signpost to Food Banks

100% Digital Leeds work with a wider range of partners from across all sectors, supporting them to better understand the potential digital exclusion of their service users and put the right support in place for them.

Nurture@Kentmere are a parent-led community support group breaking down the barriers of isolation that often come with parenthood. They have created a safe, non-judgmental environment for parents and carers of young children to come together and access various support services, including helping people to get online. Having access to digital equipment has allowed the group to support members to find out about and access the services they need, including Food Banks.

“We had a member contact us as their friend had no food or warm clothes, so we were able to coordinate with our local charity shop to organise some clothing, as well as making a referral to a food bank and getting as much information as possible.  The outcome of this was that we were able to provide the person with some donated clothes to keep them warm, food, and information on next steps.”

Member, Nurture@Kentmere

Supporting access to the newly digitised NHS Healthy Start Scheme

100% Digital Leeds is working with Zest to ensure that people in Leeds are supported to access the NHS Healthy Start scheme which will be digital only from April this year. Taking the scheme online makes it difficult for those without the equipment, skills, and confidence to apply for this much needed and under-utilised support. This on-going partnership has seen organisations across the city trained to support access to the scheme, including identifying digital exclusion and signposting to further support.

Next Steps

100% Digital Leeds is pleased to partner with Leeds Food Aid Network and we look forward to working more closely with network members to support the digital inclusion of people experiencing food and digital poverty.  Read more about the 100% Digital Leeds approach.