“Supporting our members through lockdown with digital”

As we approach a second lockdown, Michelle at AVSED shares in this guest blog post how they’re adapting their services and using digital as a way of keeping their members connected and combatting loneliness. 

AVSED is a Leeds Neighbourhood Network based in Yeadon and we work with over 60’s in Aireborough (Yeadon, Guiseley, Rawdon and a small portion of Apperley Bridge). Our aim is to reduce loneliness and social isolation and this is “usually” done through social groups, exercise classes, day trips and meals out.

During COVID-19 our services have changed to welfare, food shopping, prescription delivery and befriending calls. It’s a very different service which has seen many of our members unfortunately slip back into loneliness and isolation. 

We have begun to develop our digital inclusion offer to support our most vulnerable isolated members with the support of 100% Digital Leeds. Rachel at 100% Digital Leeds delivered a Digital Champion workshop for the staff team so we could better understand just how to roll out digital services to the members of our community.

She introduced us to the Good Things Foundation and the Devices Dot Now initiative which has helped fund equipment for 8 different older people who have not had access to digital in the past, and has been a great person to bounce ideas off when we need to figure out our plans. Rachel also put us in contact with Samantha at Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours so we could have some advice and support from their experience with rolling out digital.

We have provided equipment for members who have never used digital before and who are now getting more and more comfortable with learning what google is, how to watch videos on YouTube which is great! We talk them through how to use apps, explaining everything in plain English such as the difference between a tap and a swipe, what a link looks like and this gives them the confidence to build a great foundation to learn from. Game apps are also good as a way of peaking their interest in using the devices as they enjoy games that link to their interests.

We have introduced Alexa’s to some members too who live alone and would really like someone to talk to, the Alexa’s play songs to them on request and even tell them a joke! We are at the end of the phone to answer any questions, we were planning to roll out 1-2-1 digital classes with members until tier 3 restrictions were announced last week, we will now look at ways we can support people remotely with these new lockdown measures.

We received iPads from the 100% Digital Leeds Tablet Lending Scheme which we have been able to share with our members in many ways. Our staff have been able to take members on virtual welfare visits to show them the facilities at certain care homes they were considering moving to. We have used them to teach our members how to film which is shown in our Dancing Through The Decades video for International Day of Older People which was such good fun and really lifted spirits! The iPads have also enabled members to join in with Zoom sessions, even with the mayor of Leeds as well as Zoom Bingo!

Carole one of our members has learnt to use her tablet to be able to video call and speak to her son who lives down south, and has been able to read more about her hobbies, as well as learning how to use Wikipedia to learn about the town where she grew up. She has grown in confidence and now problem solves her own issues with the equipment!

One of our other members has used the iPad for a video medical review following a car accident, and others are learning how to order prescriptions which is vital at this time, as well as learning how to online shop or google phone numbers for delivery services. This is increasing their independence and ability to access a wide range of services in lockdown that they wouldn’t be able to without the technology.

We have found the current situation challenging, rolling out training has been the hardest possible thing to face, with all the lockdown restrictions in place we could not go into a members home to do the training and we could not deliver them in the building due to members clinically shielding. The weather has not been good enough to be able to teach on the doorstep either so we have had to rely on phone calls and written manuals to help.

We continue to work to overcome the barriers and challenges which is having a positive impact for our members who are now able to access digital whilst in isolation which means so much especially at this time.

Thank you to Michelle and the team at AVSED for this update, it’s fantastic to see the impact that digital is having for your members especially in the current situation.

“Digital has been a lifeline for our members living with Dementia”

Guest post from Amanda and Amy from Memory Lane :

Memory Lane is a care company based in Yeadon designed to help older people in the community who are living with dementia. We do this by inviting them to attend our activity day centre for cognitive stimulation and uplifting activities. During the pandemic we had to close our day centre and lunch cafes and have looked to adapt our services to ensure we still support and reach our most vulnerable members.

We recognised a more urgent need during lockdown for people to connect with each other as visits from family and friends were restricted, we approached 100% Digital Leeds who we have worked in partnership with throughout their NHS Dementia Pathfinder project.

Developing the digital offer

We have had support to develop a virtual offer of activities for our members including regular Zoom meetings so that they can connect with others. Some people were able to connect easily as they had some digital skills, however many others had low skills and confidence and many without devices. 

We began to work with carers who visited members’ homes in PPE with iPads and offered digital support, this has enabled so many to now access the sessions, stay connected with their families and boost their mental wellbeing, keeping them stimulated.

There are additional barriers people living with dementia face when interacting with digital technology, how to guides and toolkits from 100% Digital Leeds have enabled us to tailor our approach to meet the needs of each member individually, building confidence and being mindful of their conditions.

Trialling Alexa’s

100% Digital Leeds lent 30 Alexa devices to us which we distributed to our most isolated members, especially those living alone, with low self-esteem and increased mental health, they have been so successful in combating loneliness.

“Dad just loves it, we’ve heard him asking about the weather and saying good morning to Alexa. He has been so lonely since my mum died and Alexa is now keeping him company. We have shown him how to get onto a quiz and ask for the latest news and also connected him to a music app so he can ask for the songs he likes and we also made him a playlist of his favourites. Personally I feel so much more reassured that he is not alone anymore and I can even have a face to face chat with him when I am at work – usually to remind him to have his lunch or hang up the washing. Thank you Memory Lane and 100% Digital Leeds – we are so grateful”

“My mum just loves Alexa! We’ve set reminders throughout the day to remind her not to go out or to remind her to take her tablets. When I ring mum in the evening she says she always says goodnight to me and then goodnight to Alexa – she is her new friend!”

Digital Champions

Digital Champions have been really supporting our most vulnerable members who live alone. We had one gentleman who was prone to wandering. He did not understand or remember that there was a deadly virus outside and he had to stay at home to stay safe and most days would take himself out to the shops without any PPE.

We called him every morning to remind him to wait at home as we were coming to see him. We supported him with learning how to use zoom and connected him into the weekly exercise session, virtual quizzes and singalong’s.

This kept him occupied and consequently we managed to help keep him keep safe and engaged in communicating with others. He thoroughly enjoyed learning new skills, he had a tablet of his own but hadn’t really used it before and had forgotten many of its features, this new reason to use it has encouraged him to learn even more and get the most out of its benefits. He is now able to use it and join the sessions independently which has made a huge difference to him.

“My dad has really enjoyed the exercise classes on Zoom – keeping him active during lockdown. He misses the day centre and is prone to wander around town – not understanding the pandemic situation at all. He used to be able to use his tablet very well but hadn’t been using it since his dementia got worse. But Olivia has been visiting him in full PPE – to help him get online and now he is facetiming us again, this is helping to keep him occupied instead of wandering so much. Thank you all very much for your support, its life changing”

We have helped many others in this way over the months of lockdown with these devices and helped many to connect with their loved ones who were unable to visit. Sons, daughters, grandchildren and friends were suddenly “in the room” with them. It has been a great success!


There were barriers we faced along the way which we’re working to overcome, as many of our elderly members had no prior knowledge of the internet, no devices or Wi-Fi in their homes, and in most cases no support network or anyone to show them how to use the equipment or how to do something online. Some were reluctant to try, and found their anxiety or depression was a barrier to their learning.  We have spent time getting to know our members and addressing these barriers sensitively using an informal approach to introduce them to the online world and sharing the wide range of positive benefits they will experience once they become digitally included, especially on their health and wellbeing.

Seeing so many now be able to access the zoom sessions is incredible and so many that have developed their confidence and can really reap the benefits, which has boosted their moods and made them feel less lonely.

We have found this has enabled members to now have the opportunity to join other groups such as church groups and choirs, and be able to check the news, weather and play game apps such as crosswords and Sudoku. 

As many of our members are now being offered digital video appointments with their GP’s, we’re finding many that are hard of hearing are struggling with the telephone appointments so we’re supporting them with these digital solutions. Looking at ways we can provide digital support to members enabling them to connect via the internet to a GP, Nurse or Adult Social Carer and more.

“Thank you to all at Memory Lane for keeping us all in touch on Zoom and for my afternoon teas, brought to me every week during lockdown. A very big thank you for your kindness, the Zoom meetings have given us something to look forward to and cheer us up.”

“I am missing the Day Centre and Cafe very much because they help me to have conversations and activities that keep me alert. I look forward to them. The online meetings have made a lot of difference. The chat is encouraging and the quiz helps me think and the exercises help me to stay active. It’s also good to see you all. I am very grateful for what you are all doing”

Thank you to Amy and Amanda from Memory Lane for sharing this update, we’re thrilled the support of our digital champion training and Tablet and Alexa Lending Scheme has enabled so many members to stay connected, and supported them in managing their health and wellbeing through the pandemic.

Digital Inclusion Toolkit – Call for Feedback

During Sprint 1, the Leeds and Croydon project to create a Digital Inclusion Toolkit came up with a draft chapter list for the Toolkit, intending to cover all the topics we think are important to include. We refined those headings during Sprint 2 and now we are looking for feedback on the structure of our Toolkit.

What We’re Thinking About

One of the main topics of focus is how we go about successfully creating a Toolkit that covers all of the information and experience our partners have gathered so far, but is also open to collaboration from other councils and organisations with their own experience of Digital Inclusion. We are considering the style that our content will be written and presented in, and also how community-generated content will be moderated and integrated into the Toolkit.

What We’ve Been Doing

Testing platforms – The team has been looking at the pros and cons of different platforms for what they can offer in terms of layout, accessibility and potential for collaboration. We are considering either a wiki or WordPress format, both of which have options for external users to contribute to the discussion, and we’ll be making a decision soon on which to use. We are looking for a final product which is easy to navigate, looks professional, complies with accessibility legislation and includes functionality for comments and collaboration.

Content – The draft chapter list that we developed during Sprint 1 is going to form the basic structure of the Toolkit. It needs to cover all of the content we want to include within an intuitive and easy to navigate structure. Below is the draft structure we have so far:

  • Getting Started
    • Identifying your users
    • Getting Buy-In
      • Internally
      • Externally
    • Funding
    • Supporting other organisations to do digital inclusion
  • Helping Individuals
    • Barriers to digital inclusion
    • Motivation
    • Access
      • Connectivity
      • Choice of Device
        • Laptops
        • Phones
        • Tablets
      • Lending schemes
      • Peripherals
      • Accessibility
    • Skills
      • Signposting
      • Sharing Skills During Lockdown
  • Helping Organisations and Businesses
    • Barriers to digital inclusion
    • Social media
    • Data management
    • Business continuity
    • Cloud tools
    • Accounting
    • GDPR
    • Sharing skills during lockdown
    • Skill-Up employees
  • Working Inclusively
    • How to listen
    • Understanding users’ needs
    • Understand the needs of organisations and businesses
    • Children
      • Safeguarding
    • Older people
      • Living with dementia
    • ESOL learners
    • Disability and sensory impairment
  • Staying Safe Online
  • Useful Kit
  • Case Studies

What’s Next?

The next task for the group is to begin the process of content creation for the Toolkit. This will involve translating all of the content we already have into an appropriate format to sit under the chapter headings we have drafted. We will also identify areas where we may be lacking in information and need to do further research and testing. Once we have some model content to work with, this will help inform our decisions regarding the look and feel of the Toolkit.

Request for Feedback

One of the primary aims for this Toolkit is for it to be useful to a wide variety of organisations, with different needs and in different stages of incorporating Digital Inclusion into their work. It’s also intended to be a collaborative project, therefore we are asking for feedback from the community on the draft chapter list we have compiled. If you have any views on the headings we have included or content that we may have overlooked, please give us your feedback using this form.

iPads and Alexa have been a lifeline at Leeds Recovery Hubs

During the pandemic the Recovery Hubs have borrowed iPads and Alexa’s from 100% Digital Leeds Lending Scheme.  Developing their customer’s confidence and digital skills has been a real journey and so many have embraced this, taking their very first steps online and it’s brought so much laughter and smiles.

Since lockdown their service users haven’t been able to have visits from family and friends and keeping in touch has been hard, the digital technology has been a lifeline and made such a difference to so many.

The difference a video call with a loved one can make is hard to put into words.     

The Digital Champions within the staff teams across the Recovery Hubs have been supporting the customers to use the iPads, to play their favourite songs, searching their favourite actor/actresses, learning how to research items of interest and even how to do their online shopping.

This has boosted their mental wellbeing and supported them to live more independently equipping them for returning to their homes beyond the recovery hubs.

They have loved to play game apps, jigsaws, quizzes, and even watched films.

“Staying connected with family has been a priority and being able to use the iPads to have daily zoom calls for many of the customers has been incredible.

Many of the family members were telephoning the service daily to receive updates on their loved ones prior to using the technology but now with the iPads they can hear their voices and see their faces which has reduced anxieties for both customers and families!”

The iPads have also been used to take photos, the customers have taken photos of themselves (selfies!) and digital champions have even supported many to email these to family members with messages of love.

Family members sent comments of thanks saying how much it has meant to them to have communication with their loved ones during the pandemic in the Recovery Hubs.

“Thank you so much, it’s been so lovely to see Mum face to face, great to see her room, the photos and notes and see she’s put weight on since she’s been in the Hub which is brilliant, thank you.”

As well as using the iPads to support customers to develop their digital skills, the Alexa’s borrowed through 100% Digital Leeds have been used daily to support social interactions and using music for reminiscence and mood boosting, as well as support with self-management.

“It’s great to find out those facts you want to know the answers to like how old the current prime minister is”

Digital has saved our customers through the pandemic, it’s been so invaluable, and it’s opened up so many more opportunities for them for the future, increasing wellbeing and independence. 

Video calls and afternoon teas! Thank you 100% Digital Leeds!

Using Alexa to support carers throughout the pandemic

Guest Post from Aidan Finney at Carers Leeds who shares Monica’s story:

We received several Amazon Echo Show’s from 100% Digital Leeds at the start of the pandemic which we were keen to get out to support Carers in isolation. Through working in partnership with 100% Digital Leeds on the NHS Widening Participation Dementia Pathfinder we had seen the benefits of voice technology for Carers especially supporting with self-management and mental wellbeing.

During the pandemic Monica was referred to Carers Leeds.

Monica told me about her caring situation, she cares for her mother who has a diagnosis of lewy body dementia and psychosis. Monica lives a number of miles away from her mother at the other side of Leeds, she has often needed to drive across to check on her mother when she was in crisis. She has found this a challenging aspect of her caring role balancing her own life and work and driving across Leeds on a regular basis.

When COVID-19 hit this wasn’t something Monica could do as easily and she became extremely anxious about how she would be able to care for her mother and stay in contact through the pandemic. At Carers Leeds we suggested she trial one of the Amazon Echo Show’s from 100% Digital Leeds, which would give her the opportunity to communicate with her mother while she couldn’t drive over to see her.

We set up the Alexa for Monica’s mother, Monica downloaded the Alexa app on her phone which connects to her mother’s device and we talked her through how to use it.

As a result of this, over the past two months through lockdown Monica has been able to link her phone to her mother’s Alexa via the ‘check in’ option and they have been able to see each other on the screen and chat to each other.

Monica has been so reassured by seeing her mother over the video call and her mother is able to be reassured through seeing her daughter and speaking to her through the device. This has given both Monica and her mother peace of mind as they can quickly see each other when needed rather than having to wait for Monica to be available to drive over for support each time her mother is in need.

During the current situation with the pandemic this has been invaluable and has supported both of them to develop their digital skills, increasing their confidence in using the devices and seeing the real benefits of using them.

Monica explained:

My mother has really enjoyed listening to her favourite songs on the Alexa and interacting with it for the social aspect in isolation, she finds this therapeutic. It boosts her mental wellbeing by having a nice atmosphere of music in the home and it puts my mind at ease knowing she’s not as down or feeling as low. It’s amazing that we can now have video calls I can’t describe how special it is.”

We’ve found music is often a really great way for people living with Dementia to enjoy reminiscing about times they can remember from their past and it’s a great tool to help with relaxation and relieve agitation.

This has been the case for Monica’s mother and changed her situation dramatically compared to how she was feeling at the start of the pandemic. Monica can’t imagine life without using the Alexa now, and feels calmer and happier knowing she can have that contact with her mother whenever she wants, she is thrilled it has really boosted her mother’s mental wellbeing and her own.

Thank you 100% Digital Leeds for giving Monica and other Carers through Carers Leeds the opportunity to use these devices which are making such an incredible difference to people’s lives especially in the current situation.

Leeds and Croydon are creating a Digital Inclusion Toolkit

Leeds City Council and the London Borough of Croydon have kicked off the first Sprint in our joint project to create a collaborative Digital Inclusion Toolkit. The project is funded by MHCLG as part of the Local Digital COVID-19 Challenge, and will be delivered in partnership with AgeUK Croydon and the Eastbourne-based company TechResort.

Leeds has a proven track record of delivering successful digital inclusion initiatives with the 100% Digital Leeds programme, and put forward a bid to share this experience in the form of a guide or toolkit to assist other councils wishing to set up and manage digital inclusion projects.

Croydon council was keen to test and develop new digital inclusion initiatives, including equipment lending and skills training, and to publish this learning in the form of a collaborative playbook. Together, the bids made an excellent fit for a joint project.

As we head into the first Sprint, here’s a summary of what we plan to achieve in the coming weeks.

What We’re Thinking About

Increasing digital inclusion plays an absolutely key part in ensuring that people who may be vulnerable and socially isolated are not further disadvantaged by the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

This toolkit aims to draw on the combined experience and learning of Leeds and Croydon councils to produce a comprehensive guide on methods for tackling digital exclusion, and also to create a collaborative platform where other councils and organisations can feed in their own experience and content.

So far, the team has begun outlining our success criteria for the project, with some refining still to do over the next Sprint.

Initial problem statement: “How can we create a single authoritative source of digital inclusion information that anyone can add to?”

Current project goals:

  • Publish the content we already have
  • Make the content easy to follow
  • Find the gaps and fill them
  • Provide basic commenting tools

What We’ve Been Doing

  • Getting to know each other – The run up to Sprint 1 was spent establishing communications channels and getting to know the project team
  • Getting used to agile – We spent some time going over the principles of agile project management to ensure everyone was comfortable with this way of working
  • Setting some goals – the first review meeting has been held, during which we set some Sprint 1 goals and established tasks around better defining the project

What’s Next?

One of the first tasks is to better define the nature of the toolkit, in terms of content, structure, and platform.

Content Development

In this Sprint we will be coming up with an initial outline for what chapters to include in the toolkit. This will need to cover everything we consider to be essential content for the final product. Initially it will draw on things learned over the course of the development and delivery of the 100% Digital Leeds programme. Defining the chapters we want to include will help us to identify any gaps in our understanding which we can go on to fill via research and discovery later in the project.

Current questions to answer:

  • What are some common technical questions asked by our audiences?
  • What devices and products does the project team already have experience with?
  • How effective are some of the 100% Digital Leeds approaches when trialled in another part of the country
Product Development

Work is already underway in searching for an appropriate platform to host the content. A suitable platform must present our content in an easy to navigate, accessible format. This project is also intended to be collaborative, with the ability for other councils and organisations to comment, ask questions and make additions to the content. We are in the process of identifying options to trial, and beginning to consider how external contributions to the site might function in terms of moderation and keeping the content streamlined.

Current questions to answer:

  • What platform options are available and how well do they suit our needs?
  • How can we make the final product collaborative, while also maintaining the quality and accessibility of the content?


Heading into Sprint 1 the primary focus is on defining what the toolkit will look like. Once a more concrete idea of what the final product should be is in place we can begin the process of creating and sourcing content, and also move forward with planning what research and testing work needs to be done.

We will be publishing regular update blogs on this project over the next couple of months, so keep an eye out for more info on our progress once Sprint 1 is complete.

Staying safe online

Links to trusted sites providing information and online learning to help people to stay safe online.

The UK Safer Internet Centre 

A great place to find out how to stay safe online. They have produced lots of useful guides that are child-friendly but useful for all, including this guide on how to stay safe on Houseparty 

The National Cyber Security Centre 

Advice for information and families including straight forward advice on common cyber problems like being hacked, receiving suspicious emails, and malware, how to ensure devices are secure, and safe use of social media. 

Get Safe Online 

Practical advice on how to protect yourself, your computers and mobiles device and your business against fraud, identity theft, viruses and many other problems encountered online. The site contains guidance on many other related subjects too – including performing backups and how to avoid theft or loss of your computer, smartphone or tablet,  safe online shopping, gaming and dating. Also a checklist guide for those new to the internet and a series of videos covering key topics. 

CIFAS: How to stay safe from online scams 

5 top tips on how to stay safe from online scams from the UK’s largest cross-sector fraud sharing association. Plus, a page highlighting the types of online fraud people are susceptible to during Covid-19

Friends Against Scams 

A National Trading Standards Scams Team initiative, which aims to protect and prevent people from becoming victims of scams by empowering people to take a stand against scams. They offer free scam prevention online training. and provide a downloadable leaflet on how to avoid coronavirus scams.  

Action Fraud 

The national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, including an A-Z of online fraud and scams, reporting cyber crime, and a chat function for tailored support. 

Age UK eSafety guide for older people  

Covering advice on online shopping, health scams, relationship scams etc. Also available as a printable PDF guide.