An update on the Digital Inclusion Toolkit

The Digital Inclusion Toolkit has officially entered its next stage of development.

If you’ve been following our blogs on the development of the digital inclusion toolkit, you may have noticed that there has not been much news since the official launch of back in December 2020.

Our last blog summarised our progress so far, and touched on some of our plans for the continuation of this project. We are glad to announce that we have now secured follow-on funding from MHCLG for a further 6 months of development work, and have kicked off the next phase of work on this project.

What we’re thinking about

The next phase of development for the toolkit really needs to focus on making sure that it meets user needs, both in terms of content and accessibility.

With this in mind, we’ve set some objectives for the next phase of work:

  • Increase the number of organisations using the toolkit
  • Increase the number of active contributors
  • Gather user research to lead further development of the platform
  • Ensure diverse needs are accounted for
  • Secure long term support for the toolkit

We’ve also been considering what our process for collecting and curating external content will look like. Expanding beyond the content our partners are able to contribute is a key short term goal, and vital to making the toolkit a comprehensive resource.

What we’ve been doing

Much of the first few weeks has been focused on planning the next stages of work and refining our vision for the toolkit. Our current focus is on improving the platform in line with user needs, and finding ways to evaluate its success.


Developing a theory of change model has helped us to clearly express our objectives for the project and the actions needed to achieve them, including how we will monitor and evaluate the success of the toolkit. Our next job will include refining the outcomes and impacts we’re hoping to see, and setting some baselines to measure them against.

User modelling

Reviewing the types of questions we’ve received, both directly relating to the toolkit and as individual partners, has helped us frame some of the common questions and themes as ‘user types’. This is something we can use to make sure we are meeting our audience needs, and will continue to refine as we receive more contact from toolkit users and contributors.

We will be putting together some surveys for different user groups to begin collecting data within the next few weeks.

Platform development

We have started the next phase of platform development with updates we want to make to the site, including changes to improve article discoverability. Further development work will be led by upcoming user research.

Some of the things we know we want to improve include:

  • Notifications for new content and comments
  • Improved discoverability of relevant articles
  • More ways of browsing and searching for content

What’s next?

The next stage will focus on continuing to build our content base, further development work on the platform, and planning for future user research. We will also be refining our evaluation framework and setting some baselines to measure success.

As always we would love to hear from you if you have any suggestions or contributions to make. User research is key to the success of the project so any feedback on the site layout, content, functionality and accessibility would be gratefully received.

Our groups can now meet ‘virtually’ and there’s still laughs… and coffee!” – Digital Champions making a real difference in Breathe Easy Groups

100% Digital Leeds have been supporting Leeds Breathe Easy groups over the last year with access to myCOPD, a self-management app to support them in self-managing their conditions.   Delivering digital champion training with group members has enabled digital support to be embedded across the groups, which has supported members to develop their digital skills and confidence.  Since COVID-19 Breathe Easy groups have stopped meeting face-to face and with support from the digital champions, they have now being able to introduce virtual sessions via Zoom for exercise and a social to keep members connected and living well with their condition whilst in isolation.

Breathe Easy Groups meeting virtually

John, aged 72, is one of the trustees of the West Leeds Breathe Easy group, he’s been putting his digital champion training into practice these last few weeks, his skills, knowledge and confidence growing each week. 

He started by attending the weekly sessions hosted by Leeds City Council Public Health and 100% Digital Leeds with the aim to bring all the group leaders together to discuss what support they might need going forward.  At the first meeting John found his microphone had a crackle every time he moved, this got everyone laughing! But John wasn’t having any of it, he was determined to find a solution and soon got around to fixing it.   He then became more determined to gain more confidence in using Zoom and started navigating using the mute and interactive features.   

John has developed his digital skills and confidence in such a short space of time, he thoroughly enjoys the weekly zoom meetings and had been missing seeing the other members.  John, alike to many of the members has COPD and is missing life outside of isolation.

We all used to have a weekly coffee at Wetherspoons and now we can’t, it’s hard.  So I decided I wanted to offer the members something else, something to lift people’s spirits and give them something to look forward to every week, an opportunity for them to see their pals

John decided to put his new found skills into practice and empower other members who weren’t joining the weekly sessions to join in, he’s been providing 1-1 calls with each of them, supporting them to use their digital devices, access myCOPD and download Zoom to join in the video calls.  John says

The How to Guides for using Zoom on different devices have really helped, I don’t know every device but I can ask the members which device they have and use the guide to give them step-by step instructions to access Zoom and join a meeting

John is now hosting the weekly West Leeds peer support social meeting via Zoom and plans to get in touch with their exercise instructor so that they can start doing their vital exercise sessions again together on screen.

Being a Digital Champion isn’t just about giving people instructions and guiding them through the process, it’s about finding out what the ‘hook’ might be for people. Having patience and giving people the confidence to take their first steps online is really important. The opportunity that they will be able to see their friends after all this time is the real ‘hook’! The members feel really proud of themselves when they finally join the call, and they should be! I know it’s made a real difference, it’s having such a big impact on their lives right now.

John has embraced the role and challenges of being a Digital Champion, putting his training into practice and has enabled his fellow members to meet as they once did each week, his passion and dedication for peer support has been amazing and has enabled more of the members to join the Zoom social group.

Our Breathe Easy group might not be able to meet face to face, but we can still meet ‘virtually’, and there’s still plenty of laughs, support, advice and coffee!

Sue, aged 69 is one of the group leaders at the East Leeds Breathe Easy group and has used her digital champion training to the full.  Being one of the 4 exercise instructors she understands the importance of keeping active and has been keen to support the group members to meet virtually so that they can continue the support and exercise they had in their face-to face sessions. 

She has provided calls with members to show them how to use Zoom and has given so many of the members the confidence to access it, “If I can do it, you can do it!” she says.

Sue began the virtual sessions with a social catch up which consisted of plenty of laughs! Members found it hilarious that they could all see each other on the screen at the same time!!  She was then determined to introduce a virtual session to focus on the vital exercise they need to help manage their long term conditions.  She modified the choreography exercises and they began with a cool down, and then last week introduced circuits!

Doing the exercises together is real peer support and it motivates members to keep up with their self-management and it lifts member’s moods.  It’s been a long time now in isolation so having a guaranteed weekly laugh is so important

Sue, with COPD herself is also aware of how living with a long term condition and being isolated can have an impact on people’s moods and mental health and the importance of being socially connected with family and friends, the East Leeds group members have been meeting for nearly 10 years so to them; they are family!

Sue admits that she isn’t the quickest to learn new skills but she became determined to not only attend the Zoom meetings but to host her own so that the East Leeds group members can keep socially connected during these tough times.  Each week sees new members joining and Sue is able to use the How to guides, along with her skills, knowledge and confidence to talk members through the steps needed to join the meetings. 

She’s empowering and inspiring many members to take their first steps with digital, exploring a new digital world where attending a Zoom session becomes part of the everyday!

It’s hard to imagine what it would be like without having these virtual weekly sessions to take part in.  We don’t know how long this lockdown is going to last and due to having COPD we are in the cohort of people who will be shielded the longest, we need to make a long term plan just in case!

iPads and Alexa’s at Leeds Recovery Hubs during the pandemic have been a lifeline

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.

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. 

Lots of Video calls and afternoon tea’s! Thank you 100% Digital Leeds!

The Digital Inclusion Toolkit is Live

Digital Inclusion Toolkit is now live at

We launched the toolkit on Friday 11 December 2020. You can view a recording of the launch event at

This is just the beginning, and there is much more planned for the toolkit. It’s been a while since the launch, so here’s a reminder of what we’ve achieved so far.

About the toolkit

The toolkit is:

  • An online resource for anyone interested in finding out more about any aspect of designing and delivering digital inclusion projects and programmes.
  • A summary of the digital inclusion experiences of the project partners, including successes and challenges.
  • For staff and volunteers from councils and organisations of all sizes across all sectors.
  • A collaborative space where users of the site can add comments and questions directly to every post on the toolkit. They can also use the contact form to get in touch with the project team ‘behind the scenes’.

The toolkit is not:

  • A repository for handouts and document downloads. Our previous blog talked about the work we did to make sure the toolkit was accessible. We don’t want to add content that’s not accessible and we also don’t want to duplicate resources that are available online elsewhere.
  • A place to repeat existing resources and content. We don’t want to duplicate existing work and resources, even if those documents are accessible. Instead, we will link and signpost to existing tools, reports, directories and documents.
  • A list of definitive best practice and ‘How to…’ guides. All of our content is based on the experiences of the partners involved and written from our perspective. As we add more content from a wider range of contributors there might even be examples that contradict each other! Users can take the content that is most useful and meaningful to them and apply it in their context.

What have we done so far?

  • Launched the toolkit via a webinar that was attended by 188 people from across the UK and from different sectors including local government, health and care, third sector and private sector.
  • Published 44 articles on the toolkit with contributions from all of the project partners.
  • Structured the content using nine category headings and added functionality to read all posts by specific authors and keyword search across the toolkit.
  • Developed a content plan and editorial guidelines for future content.

What’s next?

More content

There’s more content to come from Leeds, Croydon and TechResort. Some of the topics still to cover include:

  • Digital inclusion in health and care: our experiences of working with Local Care Partnerships, working in care homes, reducing health inequalities and increasing access to digital health services through digital inclusion.
  • Understanding digital inclusion: links to national research and how we supplemented those reports with local data to define the people and places that are more likely to be digitally excluded.
  • Working inclusively: taking a furthest first approach to ensure that no-one is ‘hard to reach’, focusing on different communities of interest, developing the right interventions with professionals and practitioners, staff and volunteers, and people with lived experience.

Improving the platform

  • User research: we plan to get a deeper understanding of the needs of our users, and test the toolkit with likely users to make sure it meets their needs.
  • Site development in response to user research: as the site grows, more content is added and the number of articles increases we will need to develop the structure and functionality of the toolkit. Ideas already discussed include sub-categories for the main chapter headings, increased user interaction options such as Likes or ‘up-voting’ for comments, questions and answers plus options to subscribe and receive email alerts.

Call to Action

The toolkit is designed to be a platform for discussion and collaboration. We have already received dozens of questions and comments from the launch event and since the launch. Some of these will be posted directly to the site with answers. In other cases we are talking to the people who commented and working with them to turn their comments into longer articles for the toolkit. 

We want the digital inclusion toolkit to be a platform where people can engage with others who are working on digital inclusion initiatives. It doesn’t matter where you are geographically or where you are in terms of the scale, scope or maturity of your digital inclusion programme. Whatever your role, whatever sector you’re working in and whoever you’re working with, the toolkit should be relevant to your digital inclusion project. But you can make it even more relevant by adding comments to articles, asking questions, responding to other people’s comments and answering their questions from your perspective. Tell us where the gaps are, where do you need more information and what have you found most useful from the content that’s already there?

If you have experiences to share and you’d like to add content to the toolkit, use the contact form to get in touch with us and we can work with you to write an article. We can also facilitate conversations outside of the toolkit and bring people together around common themes or to collaborate on joint articles. 

Combatting social isolation through digital

Health for All (Leeds) Ltd is a Leeds based charity working to change people’s lives and transform local communities.  Their vision is Health & wellbeing for all, Equipping people with the confidence and skills to live happy, healthy and fulfilled lives. Supporting vulnerable older adults, children, carers, young people and families. 

At the beginning of the pandemic Health for All partnered with 100% Digital Leeds and worked to embed digital inclusion within their organisation and services to support their service users at risk of social isolation and who were most vulnerable. 

100% Digital Leeds Tablet Lending scheme enabled Health for All to lend tablets out to their service users most in need in lockdown:

“One iPad supported a 69-year-old woman we work with who has mobility & health issues who was referred to us by Linking Leeds due to a deterioration in her mental health in the first lockdown.   

She was feeling even more isolated as she didn’t have as much contact with one of her son’s & no contact at all with her other son, due to him being in a care home.

I had a doorstep visit with her and we went through the log in process & the basic functions of the iPad.  I talked about things she likes to do, we downloaded YouTube & shared the wide range of things she can access on YouTube like music and the news.  We also downloaded a jigsaw puzzle app and a crossword app. 

Her confidence, skills and motivation in using the tablet has developed so much and it’s impacted massively on improving her mental health, keeping her socially connected and able to stay healthy through the pandemic”

Health for All staff took a real holistic approach in supporting their members with digital, with support via 100% Digital Leeds Digital Champion Training, the tools and resources they used and by taking a person-centred approach has encouraged their members to take their first steps online and to overcome barriers.  This has inspired other members to see the benefits to being online and overcoming fear and worries about the online world. 

“I also supported her with downloading reading apps, facetime and Skype which enabled her to connect with others, seeing her sons on the screen!  It’s incredibly life-changing and so special, the improvement in her mental health has been very apparent and she is now encouraged to join zoom sessions and engage in activities. 

She “has a bash at using it every day”, which is building her confidence and digital skills, she says the best thing is that it helps her stay stimulated throughout the long days.  

She plays digital games, (Who Wants to be a Millionaire) and wants to now learn how to look at photos and history of her local area Hunslet.   

She has low confidence and felt that she was not very good with technology but is surprised at her learning and how it’s changed her life.  She says she has the radio on the iPad now and enjoys this as “it breaks the silence”.

Thank you to Health for All for sharing this case study, it’s great to see the impact of introducing digital into someone’s life, this support is enabling many other older people within Health for All to develop their digital skills and confidence especially through this hard time.

Nurture@Kentmere Helping Families in Boggart Hill

Nurture@Kentmere are a parent led community support group that aims to break 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 be able to engage and share. They run regular groups and community events such as crafts, educational groups, clothes exchange and other services that are needed in the area, including helping people to get online.

Before the pandemic hit they were working from Kentmere Community Centre in the Boggart Hill area of Seacroft, Leeds.  This is a priority area for 100% Digital Leeds and the wider Council as it scored highly on the national Indices of Multiple Deprivation statistics, based on measures such as health outcomes, crime rates, income and education, making it in the top 1% of most deprived neighbourhoods in the UK.

Anita Goodman and Vicki Gibbs run the group with help from other volunteers and they contacted 100% Digital Leeds in January 2020 asking to borrow two iPads to help them with their operations as well as being able to use them for digital inclusion with local families.  In the following year they have been used extensively and had a real impact in the local community.  As a busy mum herself Anita has been using one of them with her own family too and talked about how it has been great for the group, as well as for her personally, during the pandemic.

“There were several reasons we applied to borrow iPads, such as to run our Nurture peer support group, our Facebook page and group, designing and creating our marketing material, researching activities, finding support for people, emailing and keeping in contact with service-users.”

“In our face-to-face sessions we allowed users of our group to access the tablets if they needed it for any purpose. For example one member used it to look at her housing options as she wanted to move, and they were very useful to let the children have a little play or watch a YouTube video if their parents or carers needed to speak to us.  It’s a great option for giving the adults a bit of time out to relax and chat to other adults.”

“Another positive experience was when we used them in a listening project, both to read and share the questions within the group and also to make notes so that we could write up what had been discussed.”

“Obviously everything changed with the pandemic and we were no longer able to run face-to-face groups, but thanks to the connectivity we were able to adapt to running an online support group so people could stay in touch, as well as running separate Zoom sessions.”

“Vicki is working full time on the front line at St James’ Hospital, and due to the pandemic she changed her hours to do twelve-hour shifts at the weekend so that she could home-school her four children and still put everything into running and promoting Nurture during the week.”  

“Due to the pandemic I’ve not been able to loan them out, my colleague has one and I have had one at home with me and it has been a lifesaver to be able to use it with my children.  We’ve been using it for homeschooling and as a wind-down tool which has been a big relief in a very stressful time.” 

“My children either take turns to use it to complete work, or, as they are twins and in the same year, do work together.  My son especially did not cope well with lockdown so we used it for him to be able to make contact with family through video calls, games, videos and music.  It was very beneficial, it gave me more options for keeping the children entertained as well as up to date with their learning, and in the evenings I could still keep up with my Nurture work and manage my emails and the Facebook group.”

“We have been able to run a few face-to-face sessions. I use the iPad as a register to keep up with who attends, how often etc. which enables me to reach out if people have disengaged to check that they are ok.  We do a lot of work on the iPad, emails being a big one, and having the 4G data gives us opportunities and peace of mind.”

“We have taken part in several campaigns, most recently we took the lead on the White Ribbon Domestic Abuse 16 Days of Action.  This involved many Zoom meetings with our local councillors, children’s centres and other stakeholders, as we ran an online campaign where we would use our social media platform daily to relay key information.  It’s been really helpful to reach out to people and let them know we are able to support them or at the very least signpost them.  I even did a radio interview with East Leeds FM and had the iPad to hand with all my key talking points and relevant information on.”

“Hopefully when we can run face-to-face sessions we can once again allow group members to use the tablets, but they know they can message us in the meantime and we will do what we can.  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.  Without the iPad this would have been very difficult and it is this kind of thing that makes a massive difference to people’s lives.” 

“The tablets and the help we’ve received from 100% Digital Leeds has been fantastic and it has made what we do so much easier at a time where everything is more difficult.  Vicki is working full time on the front line at St James’ Hospital and due to the pandemic she has been working twelve-hour shifts at the weekend so that she could home-school her four children.  It’s the sort of punishing schedule that is the reality of so many mums and families in this area so any assistance is massively appreciated and the tablets have been a huge help.”

“Even though we only borrowed two iPads the impact they are having is invaluable to families in Boggart Hill, many of whom are living in precarious situations and have barriers such as debt, health problems, housing issues and a multitude of other needs, to be able to avert crisis situations and get the help that they need.” 

Anita Goodman, Nurture

You can find out more about Nurture via their Facebook group.

Tablet Lending at LATCH

At 100% Digital Leeds we believe that our partner organisations are our greatest asset, and through our tablet lending scheme, we are able to provide them with devices and data to reach digitally excluded people all across Leeds.  LATCH is one such organisation who are working with us to ensure that those they help are better informed, more independent and less isolated through being online, particularly during what is an uncertain and trying time for many.


LATCH stands for Leeds Action to Create Homes.  They are a unique charitable organisation that refurbishes derelict and run-down houses in the Chapeltown, Harehills and Burley areas of Leeds.

When they’re fully modernised and furnished, their properties provide supported housing for people who are homeless or in housing need and are ready to make a positive change in their lives.

Most of the renovation work is done by LATCH staff and volunteers.  Some have building trade experience already, while others learn new skills as they work on site.

“We don’t just create houses… but somewhere you can really call home.”

Tablet lending

In June of this year LATCH successfully applied to 100% Digital Leeds for a loan of some iPads.  These were loaned to some of their tenants who were experiencing financial hardship and would benefit from access to the internet as a way to address some of their other support issues. 

Alan is one of LATCH’s tenants.  Alan has a long history of mental illness, which leaves him socially isolated.  He is on Employment Support Allowance and also has periods of financial hardship as he tries to contribute to financially supporting his three children who reside with his ex-partner.  

We became aware of the impact of lockdown on some our most socially and financially excluded tenants, who would have experienced social isolation and an inability to access online services, which would have greatly impacted on their mental wellbeing.

Mark Stainton, Personal Coach at LATCH


LATCH provided Alan with an iPad through the 100% Digital Leeds tablet lending scheme in June.  Alan has a keen interest in bike maintenance and through using his iPad he has expanded his skills significantly through online learning and research.  This has enabled Alan to carry out repairs and earn some additional money through servicing and upcycling old bikes.  This has given him a great deal of confidence and his mental health has improved significantly.  

The iPad has also enabled him to have much more contact with his children through FaceTime.  Through his interests, learning new skills, and contact with his children, Alan’s levels of social isolation have greatly decreased.

Through 100% Digital Leeds, tenants have used the iPads to connect with family and friends, access online services such as banking, participate in learning and educational opportunities, and entertain themselves during an unusual time.

Mark Stainton, Personal Coach at LATCH

Sadly, Alan has recently suffered a stroke and has been in hospital for a number of weeks. He has experienced an impairment to his speech and this has made communication very difficult, particularly when trying to use the phone.  Due to Covid-19 restrictions he is not allowed visitors.  His iPad has been a lifeline.  By using apps he has been able to see family members and, most importantly to him, his children.  He is working with an occupational and speech therapist and they have directed him to useful online tools on his iPad that Alan has been using to aid his recovery.

Future plans

After seeing the positive effects that digital access and support have had on the lives of people like Alan, LATCH are currently looking to install broadband connections in their shared occupancy tenancies, so that tenants can share Wi-Fi within a block and are not digitally excluded because of data costs. 

LATCH is now planning to make digital inclusion one of key areas of our support work and service development as we recognise how crucial this is to our tenants.

Mark Stainton, Personal Coach at LATCH

Online arts and culture for health and wellbeing webinars

100% Digital Leeds have partnered with Leeds Arts Health and Wellbeing Network to host a series of 3 free 30 minute lunchtime webinars this month showcasing the range of engaging and accessible online tools and resources available to those who would like to explore arts, culture, and creativity from their own home during lockdown.

Leeds Arts Health and Wellbeing Network (LAHWN) was launched in 2019 to enable different sectors to work together, supporting Leeds residents to enjoy fulfilling lives. Our aim is for arts and creativity to support Leeds’ ambitions to be a healthy city, where people who are the poorest improve their health the fastest.

Over 2020 we have seen brilliant and innovative work across Leeds to work differently – arts organisations, like theatre Slung Low, have been involved in Leeds response to Covid-19, running foodbanks and supporting people with the essentials and across Leeds we have seen creativity everywhere from the rainbows in windows to exhibitions, groups and classes moving online. With many people in Leeds making more use of digital technology LAHWN and 100% Digital Leeds wanted to collaborate to share examples of what is on offer in Leeds and beyond – an opportunity to explore what is possible online, try something new or access something important.

Geraldine Montgomerie, Project Support Officer at Leeds Arts, Health and Wellbeing Network

Arts engagement can support improved mental health

Following the government’s Creative Health report in 2017, the World Health Organisation published a review of existing research on What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being? in 2019 and new research has begun in 2020 on the role of arts in looking after our mental health. We know that arts and culture has many benefits from supporting a healthy routine to connecting with other people, from learning new skills to having a distraction during challenging times… and we are seeing a range of specific health benefits from arts engagement, music and dance in managing and recovering from health problems.

It’s widely known that the pandemic has had a negative effect on the nation’s mental health. According to Mind, more than half of adults and over two thirds of young people said that their mental health has gotten worse during the periods of lockdown restrictions. Restrictions on seeing people and being able to go outside, and worries about the health of family and friends, are the key factors driving poor mental health, with boredom and loneliness being further contributors.

We know that making and experiencing arts and culture can transform a person’s quality of life and research from Arts Council England shows that people who engage with ‘arts on prescription’ schemes’ experienced a 68% improvement in mental health symptoms as a result. 

With social distancing, travel bans, and the closure of most face-to-face arts, community, and leisure facilities for much of the previous year, it has never been more difficult to engage with arts and culture. For many people activities like going to the theatre or watching live music, taking part in drawing classes, or visiting galleries are enjoyable activities that are sorely missed. 

Geraldine Montgomerie, Project Support Officer at Leeds Arts, Health and Wellbeing Network

Engagement in the arts is more difficult without digital skills and access

The pandemic has pushed lots of people to look to digital means of entertainment to keep them busy.  TV streaming has surged during lockdown and loans of online e-books, e-magazines and audiobooks were up an average of 63% in March 2020 compared with the previous year. The arts and culture sector were quick to respond, with lots of big names making streamed content available online for free.

In Leeds we have seen a huge effort from community and arts organisations to work together to adapt to the pandemic, creating ways to engage in the arts from home. From musicians and poets performing outside care homes and DAZL Leeds’ Garden Groovers offering socially distant dancing, to online groups and activities, to arts by post; across the city we have tried to offer something for everyone. For some, including those who might have found the cost of travel prohibitive, these innovations have made things like West End Theatre more accessible.  

But new way of connecting isn’t open to the city’s more digitally excluded citizens. More than 20% of UK adults lack the basic digital skills necessary to make the most of the internet and 7% are completely offline. Digital skills can be a lifeline for people and are even more likely to be at this moment in time. Of those with good digital skills and access, 44% say it helps them to manage physical and mental well-being and 55% say it makes them feel more part of a community.

Arts and culture as motivators for digital inclusion

Although lack of equipment and skills are key factors, for many motivation is the key barrier to doing more online – over 30% of those offline say the internet ‘doesn’t interest me’. For these people, just knowing more about the kinds of things they can do online can make all the difference. When lack of digital skills and confidence is a factor, word of mouth awareness becomes an even bigger factor, alongside support and encouragement. 100% Digital Leeds have trained more than 200 Digital Champions, all of whom are encouraging and supporting the city’s residents to understand the relevance of digital to them and to build their digital skills and confidence to make the most of the online world. 

When it comes to motivating people 100% Digital Leeds encourages Digital Champions to help people discover something digital that they’re interested in, that’s less likely to cause stress, and that is hard to get wrong. Exploring arts and leisure digitally can also support people to have some normality, opening up opportunities through online resources and tools to experience some of the things enjoyable things they’ve not been able to do because of the pandemic and in the most recent third national lockdown, promoting independence, quality of life and supporting to combat social isolation.  

It’s about finding things that people feel able to ‘give a go’. Arts activities like drawing apps, accessing music on YouTube, or live streaming theatre can be accessible ways for people to do more with digital, developing their digital skills and confidence along the way. 

Amy Hearn, Digital Inclusion Coordinator, 100% Digital Leeds

Raising awareness of how to engage with the arts and be creative digitally 

With community centres, museums, galleries and other venues currently closed, the internet is now the place where we can still enjoy arts and culture, however the digital world develops at pace and can be overwhelming to navigate. This has been all the more apparent during the pandemic as organisations that have previously relied on face-to-face engagement have worked quickly to adapt their services to be delivered online. 

Online tools, classes, and services are popping up all the time and it can be difficult to keep up. Arts practitioners across the city have reported finding it difficult to make sure people know about their new online services. People that are more digitally excluded are less likely to be reached through social media advertising or sign up to email newsletters. It’s this problem that sparked 100% Digital Leeds and LAHWN to partner up to develop a series of free 30 minute lunchtime webinars, telling people about some of the easy, accessible, and fun ways for people to engage with arts and culture digitally, from home. 

A series of 3 lunchtime webinars

The webinars are aimed at anyone who would like to know more about what’s available for people looking to engage with the arts over the internet and are perfect for Digital Champions or anyone else looking to support people to access and do more with digital.

Each of the webinars will showcase a range of the websites, apps, and online events, focussing on tools that are accessible and suitable for a range of audiences, including older people, people with learning disabilities, those likely to be suffering from the effects of isolation, and those with low digital skills and confidence.   

All three webinars are free, via Zoom, and bookable at Eventbrite:

Wed 13th Jan, 12.30 – 1pm: Online arts and culture for health and wellbeing: tools for individuals

Focussing on online tools that people can use to explore the arts independently in their own homes. We will give practical hints and tips on how people can access free and affordable content from home including streamed performances, podcasts, eBooks, and creative courses.

Wed 20th Jan, 12.30 – 1pm: Online arts and culture for health and wellbeing: connecting with others 

Sharing engaging and accessible ways people can come together digitally to explore the arts socially and as part of an online community. We will highlight a range of online groups, classes, events, and other digital tools and spaces where people can engage with the arts communally and connect with like-minded people.

Wed 27th Jan, 12.30 – 1pm: Online arts and culture for health and wellbeing: tools for groups 

Showcasing the variety of engaging and accessible ways existing groups can explore digital arts and culture together. This session is ideal for anyone facilitating online groups and meet-ups who would like practical hints and tips on how to bring arts and culture into your meeting. Tools and resources recommended will be accessible and of interest to online social groups of all kinds, including those aimed at older people, people with memory issues, and people with learning disabilities.

All sessions will be recorded and shared on our website, along with links to the various tools and resources shared.

Becoming a Digital Champion

Digital Champions inspire others, improve people’s confidence and help raise awareness of the online world. It’s not about being a computer expert, it’s about being supportive, encouraging and patient. If you’re active in your local community – through your paid work, as a volunteer, or as a resident – and you understand the importance of everyone having the opportunity to be online, you’d make a perfect Digital Champion.

100% Digital Leeds offers free training to anyone looking to support Leeds residents to do more with digital. Sessions are delivered remotely via Zoom or your preferred platform. Sessions last around 90 minutes and work best in a group setting. Session content is tailored to reflect the support needs of your service users and your team. 

To organise free Digital Champion training for your team fill in our online form and someone from 100% Digital Leeds will be in touch to make arrangements.

Delivering our Digital Health Hub through Lockdown

An update from Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours Scheme CIO, working in partnership with 100% Digital Leeds creating better Health outcomes through Digital Inclusion

After the success of our Digital Health Hub launch in September 2019 working in partnership with 100% Digital Leeds we were successful in securing funding from Good Things Foundation to continue our Digital Health Hub offer which has been a lifeline and vital to so many of our members especially within this current time.

A lot has changed due to Covid-19 since we started our Digital Health Hub and the impact within our centre and for our members has been huge.  We have adapted all of our services to support our members remotely and increased the digital support we provide to ensure members stay connected and mentally well whilst in isolation.

We have also changed the way we are delivering our digital sessions as part of the Health Hub  taking into account the effect of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions, we have increased our support calls and handed equipment over on doorsteps just to ensure members are able to still develop their digital skills and aren’t excluded.  

Nearly all of our members have reported a decrease in health and fitness due to long periods of shielding and isolation and loneliness. Their wellbeing is a huge concern for us as lack of mobility and fitness means that they are doing less, are more prone to falls and a lot are reporting that they just feel older this year in their bodies. 

Developing our virtual offer of activities and digital support

We are providing a full programme of virtual sessions now for our members to boost mental wellbeing and keep members stimulated and connected.  Bingo, quizzes, virtual coffee mornings and more!  We developed the first Virtual Coffee Morning in Leeds back in March and have continued to develop more virtual activities with a different selection every week!

We provide support for them to order their prescriptions online, access GP appointments digitally and have video consultations for their long-term conditions.  There are still lots of our members not online and we’re continuing to support them to overcome barriers such as confidence, fear and not having a device. 

We have a lending scheme with tablets which we lend out with data on so members can get online and we motivate and encourage members which boosts their confidence and skills. 

Keeping Well at Home Course

Focusing on Health and Wellbeing we have just started delivering a virtual programme to address the issues of fitness, boredom, motivation and mental health.   We put together the Keeping Healthy at Home Course which is a 4-week course for up to 10 members run via Zoom and we focus on a different theme each week.  Members are encouraged to do activities in between the sessions and report back on their progress each week.  This is in partnership with Active Leeds using their Keeping Well at Home resources for older people.

Martin Lee from Active Leeds supports us with their Keeping Healthy at Home Booklets and videos demonstrating their Strength and Balance exercises.  Each member received a resource pack before the course started which also included information and leaflets on scam prevention and staying safe. 

The first round of the course has been such a success and made a massive difference to all the attendees seeing an increase in their mental wellbeing and mobility.  It became a support group for members to express how lockdown is making them feel and give tips and tools for staying active and happy in isolation.  


Here are some of the experiences of our members throughout the Keeping Well at Home course:

Dot, one of our members researched exercises on YouTube and found The Green Goddess exercise videos which she enjoyed doing as well as following the chair exercises.  Harrold is We then focused on hobbies and interests and how learning can improve happiness and mental health.   Dot enjoys family history and Irene is just starting hers.   We paired Dot and Irene up and now Dot is sharing how she did it online with Irene and the website’s she used.

Susan wanted to learn the Ukulele and David who plays is going to give her Ukulele Zoom lessons.  She is nervous and excited about learning something new. David is looking forward to sharing his passion and knowledge of playing the Ukulele with someone else. He really misses his Ukulele weekly group and the meet ups which he used to go to.  One of our members has donated a Ukulele for Sue to use in her lessons!

Irene is struggling with not going out she used to come into the centre 5 days a week and misses the social side. Hopefully starting her family tree with Dot will give her something new to focus on, and she is becoming more confident with being online!

Frank wanted to learn how to do Maths and would like to access Open University one day so we sent him links to free Maths courses to get him started.  He is looking forward to learning more, he is developing his digital skills and said this is helping him and giving him a reason to get up in a morning.

The Members are all using Learn My Way to complete courses on how to access NHS services online and most didn’t realise how much information was on the NHS website and will continue to use it in future.  Where face to face services are more restricted, this is improving their self-management and making it easier for them to have appointments and stay well in lockdown, using symptom checking and more.

“I had used the NHS website before but only to find out about some ailments, symptoms and treatment.  I had no idea there where so many other areas covered, now I can have video appointments with my GP practice and order my medication online it’s great!”

Health and Wellbeing sessions

We then explored nutrition and recipes, members expressed:

“Cooking for one isn’t the same”

“I only eat ready meals since my husband died”

“I am not eating as well as I did due to lockdown snacking “

Some cook for something to do and to have a purpose to the day instead of sitting all day, others find it hard to stand and cook long recipes. 

We discussed meal planning and batch cooking, we explored the many recipes online and all the free apps that will help them find tasty meals to make that are simple and easy.  It was really successful and members felt afterwards so much more motivated to ensure they were eating well and enjoying to make meals.

“The Keeping Well at Home virtual course has focused my mind in my overall health and I have started adding more fruit into my daily diet and begun the balance exercises online.  My ‘daily’ walks have been a bit intermittent but I am now much more committed.”

The final session we themed around Safety and falls prevention.  The exercises around strength and balance in week 1 were vital to help prevent future falls as well as ensuring the home environment is safe this winter for members.   We started with an online group quiz which included questions on smoke detectors and Carbon Monoxide detectors as well as electrical safety.

We then took the group through a home safety checklist to see if they needed to change anything at home to keep them safe.  As a result, some needed to fix their outdoor lighting, check smoke alarms and address other outstanding jobs.   The resources online really helped them with this and they could share with each other top tips.

Developing further digital skills

The group continue to improve their digital skills using Learn My Way and we check in with them regularly to see how they are progressing with the things they have learnt on the course.   Digital has been a lifeline and has made such a difference.  The course has brought everyone together on to the zoom call and connected people, given them hope and motivation to keep going.  We discussed how hard it is through lockdown but as one of our members said it is about finding joy in new activities, and we continue to provide these to enable our members to stay well. 

“I had never made appointments before using system online and have now taken responsibility for ordering my repeat prescriptions on the website and I can now make appointments on the NHS app!”

There will be a light at the end of the tunnel!  We’re glad we have virtual bingo, virtual blockbuster games, virtual groups and ways to support our members digitally which is so important at this time for their health and wellbeing. Thanks to 100% Digital Leeds for your continued support.

Leeds Older People’s Forum and 100% Digital Leeds are launching a Digital Inclusion working group for Neighbourhood Networks this month so we will be sharing our learning and resources across the city with other organisations too, all working together to tackle the digital divide and creating positive outcomes for our older members through the pandemic.

For more information or to get in touch:

“Supporting members to stay connected through the pandemic”

An update from Seacroft Good Neighbours on the impact of becoming Digital Champions and receiving equipment via the 100% Digital Leeds Tablet Lending Scheme, which has supported them to develop a digital offer for their members.

At Seacroft Good Neighbours our aim is to reduce loneliness and isolation of older people living predominately in Leeds LS14 area, as well as improving the quality of their lives by enabling them to live independently, safely and healthily.

Through the pandemic 100% Digital Leeds have supported us develop a digital offer for our members, which is supporting members mental wellbeing and enabling them to stay connected through lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions.  

Digital Champions

We received digital champion training which was really useful and informative and has enabled us to motivate and engage our members to take their first steps online. Many have low confidence and had previously not seen a need in using digital, so tips in the training have helped us support members to overcome these barriers and develop their digital skills.

We have now begun to develop virtual activities for our members which is combatting loneliness and increasing social connections.  We are providing digital support for members, so more are able to access these sessions.

Our volunteer digital champions have utilised the digital platform Zoom!  During the pandemic there has been an increase in the need for telephone befrienders. We have now setup a weekly space via Zoom where the befrienders can meet and offer each other peer-support and debrief following their calls. In addition, there is also an opportunity for any of the members and volunteers to join a prearranged Zoom meeting each week.

“Thank you! I am now using Zoom on a regular basis thanks to the support from Seacroft Good Neighbours and the 100% Digital Leeds scheme for providing me with a lovely tablet.

When I first got the tablet I didn’t know where to start and because it was so different to anything I had used before, I was anxious about making mistake. But thanks to the patience from the workers they took time out to do individual telephone sessions focusing on one subject each session.

Now I am using social media, which has allowed me to contact family and friends. I have download some applications that help me manage my diet and health appointments”  

Sylvia, aged 78

Providing face to face one to one support has not always been possible due to social distancing and shielding restrictions. In some instances, we have been able to provide over the phone telephone support however this has had its limitations due to some members having poor hearing and us not being able to see the device in person to identify issues. 

We are sharing best practice with other Neighbourhood Networks through the new Digital Inclusion working group to find out the best ways to support people remotely using apps such as Team Viewer.

Lending devices to members

100% Digital Leeds loaned us iPad’s and Alexa’s which we have then lent to our members who have no WI-FI or devices which has given them a wide range of opportunities such as facetiming friends and family.   

“I am a volunteer for an Older Person’s charity and was lucky enough to receive a tablet via the 100% Digital Leeds scheme.  Through the help of the project worker and my family, I have now managed to download some applications, set up an email address and manage my bills!”

Colin, aged 72

We have had ongoing support regarding the setting up of the technology and training information from 100% Digital Leeds which has really helped us, as this has been a new offer for our service and we are developing our own staff skills and confidence too!

“Some of my friends have tablets and often spoke about keeping in touch with their family and friends. I thought it sounded interesting and would help me to see my family during shielding.

This scheme has offered me the opportunity to try things out.  At first, I was supported through the basics of using the touch screen and apps and have progressed on to video calling! I still do have things to learn but thanks also to my grandchildren, who are now helping me play my favourite games and go on to Facebook to speak to family and friends!”

Joan, aged 68

Thank you to Neil, Kate and the team at Seacroft Good Neighbours for this update! It’s fantastic to see the impact this is having for your members, especially at this time.