“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.

“Digital Champions Training has enabled us to better support our patients!”

Guest Blog Post from Mandy, Social Prescribing Link Worker in Leeds

One of my patients reported feeling isolated and lonely in the first Covid lockdown which was having an impact on his mental health. He was shielding due to physical health difficulties and could no longer connect to the groups that he used to see face to face as he had no IT equipment and was not confident about his digital skills. His goal was to be able to use Zoom and be able to access video sessions to connect with people.

I contacted 100% Digital Leeds and we received digital champion training, it was incredibly useful and we were given information about the different services across the city that can offer digital support, where we can source IT equipment and how to support patients to overcome barriers to digital inclusion.  We borrowed an iPad from 100% Digital Leeds Tablet Lending Scheme and added apps to the tablet recommended by 100% Digital Leeds which linked to the patient’s interests and hobbies and what he wanted to use.

At the same time, I referred him to AbilityNet who have supported him to set up and use the iPad in the way that he wanted.   I also supported him with Learn My Way which I had found out about through 100% Digital Leeds, which has a section to support with setting up the NHS app for self-management and accessing GP services digitally.

The patient has shared how fantastic and life changing this has been and he has been able to use Zoom to have his weekly counselling sessions, and is intending to use this to connect with previous groups he attended in the community so he does not feel as isolated.   He said he feels more connected and is happier, as well as improving his digital skills as well.

“I feel less isolated and the iPad has been brilliant to link me to contacts and groups, I feel that I can connect with people now, manage my mental health accessing the courses and have my GP appointments on video”

I continue to motivate my patients to take their first steps online and see the benefits in digital, telling them about what support is available for them, this is really important for people to avoid isolation and loneliness and to improve confidence and self-esteem. This is especially pertinent as most services only have online and video available at the moment so I am really focusing on supporting people to access digital and identifying the reasons why they may not be able to engage and work to overcome these.  

I also have contacted Digital Access West Yorkshire which is another organisation 100% Digital Leeds signposted me to and they have supplied a reconditioned iPad to another patient who is shielding , this system worked well as I collected the iPad from the Hyde Park Book Club safely and delivered it to the patient safely.  

There are challenges as some organisations who provide digital support cannot do home visits within the current lockdown restrictions and have to provide help via phone calls and video.  I have always asked on my assessments with patients about their level of ability to use digital equipment, if they had equipment and if they wanted to develop their skills.  I now have more in depth conversations about this and have wider awareness of the barriers and where to link people to receive support or devices.

I am also going to start having conversations with anyone that I work with who has COPD to see if they are interested in using the myCOPD app which as a result of the Digital Champion Training I know is now available across Leeds which is great!

I am increasing my knowledge of what’s available and with the support of 100% Digital Leeds and the training I can fully ensure patients receive the right support and are also aware of the fantastic opportunities available to them.

Thank you 100% Digital Leeds, it’s making a difference to so many patients across our Social Prescribing Service!

How we collaboratively designed and built a toolkit in 12 weeks

Guest post from David Hampton – Interaction Designer and Developer at Croydon Council

If you’ve read our previous blog posts about the Digital Inclusion Toolkit project, you’ll know that Leeds City Council and Croydon Council have teamed up in partnership with AgeUK Croydon and TechResort. Why? We have a joint mission – to share a wealth of existing information about Digital Inclusion in a collaborative way.

In this article I am going to talk about some of the design and development decisions that have driven the Toolkit’s first iteration in just 12 weeks.

The design brief

Having worked as a designer and developer in both the private and public sector, I can tell you the initial design brief for this project was very open. I’d say the first challenge for a designer in a collaborative project like this, is there’s no single client or service to aim your questions at. For me this meant I needed to put the right questions to the whole team, before starting prototypes or designs. To help build a consensus on direction. A more focused design brief.

We used Slack and sprint planning sessions to discuss these wider objectives. It soon became clear to me that the collaborators were all open to each other’s ideas and expertise. Thankfully they shared an overall vision from the start.

Here’s what we did know:

  • There is a user need among councils and other groups, to find and share information about basic digital skills
  • We want the information to be open, encouraging contributions and discussion
  • The information should have a clear structure, be easy to navigate and search
  • We need to publish content created by multiple contributors quickly
  • We should develop something rapidly, within the constraints of the budget and team skill sets. We want to get something out fast, a first iteration that can be tested
  • The content should be accessible and mobile friendly

Design research

As a team we went away and looked at various websites offering a similar proposition – presenting lots of detailed information in a clear way that’s easy to navigate. Some influential sites were Gov.uk Service Manual, dxw’s playbook, policies.google.com, PayPal and Wikipedia.

We talked about what we liked and disliked. Here are some of the things we liked:

  • A focus on search and clear categories used for navigation on the Gov.uk Service Manual
  • Tabbing between ‘Read’ and ‘Talk’ on Wikipedia
  • A sticky menu of page contents that highlights your reading position in long pages, used on Gov.uk, dxw, Google and Paypal

So is it a Wiki, a website or a blog?

Before stepping too deep into design, being mindful not to design myself into any blockers in the development phase (I am the designer and developer on this project ). I encouraged the team to reach a decision on the platform early on. Although to some extent our choice was limited by the skill sets we have, a clear impetus was how open and collaborative contributions and discussion should be.

We explored a few routes. And thanks to TechResort we were able to fire up installations of these platforms for investigation.

Firstly we looked at CommentPress, a WordPress theme and plug-in designed to allow in page commenting at paragraph level. We decided this may be too detailed for us, we were looking for general discussion and contribution on the themes.

Not to take anything away from CommentPress – it does what it says on the tin. But from a developer perspective the complex UI potentially opens up a can of worms when accessibility testing.

Secondly we looked at MediaWiki, the platform that powers Wikipedia. Although designed for collaboration, we found the concept of a Wiki too open for us. Instead of any visitor being able to make new pages and live edits (like Wikipedia), we need more control over a content plan. To make the content as useful as possible to users we need to work with collaborators on a shared standard, in both content and style.

After playing around with an install of MediaWiki and looking at their Accessibility Workboard I was impressed. It’s an extremely powerful tool should you wish to create a true Wiki. The documentation is vast, and somewhat overwhelming at first. Saying that, if you put your mind to it you can get a working Wiki set up pretty quickly.

Lastly we looked at self hosted WordPress. We found some of the native WordPress publishing features suited the project goals. The built in comment functionality, and the user roles. From contributor users who can draft their content but not publish, to editors who can edit and reorder any content, and of course administrators who can set user permission level.

I have experience building WordPress child themes so I knew I could create something bespoke and fast, with limited days available each sprint and within the rapid turnaround for the first iteration. You can read more about the custom child theme I’ve created later in this article.

Based on the above we decided on self hosted WordPress as our platform.

Back to design

Now, with a steer on platform and a clearer understanding of the collaborative goals, it was time to begin prototyping a user interface for the toolkit. Based on the research phase I began drafting some mobile and desktop wireframes , first for the chapter content page. Designing in the features we liked – the ‘Read’ and ‘Discussion’ tabs, a contents menu, and a way of highlighting contributed content visually.

Time and resource permitting I start by hand sketching layouts then produce prototypes for user testing. All this before working on full colour designs. In this case due to time limitations, I worked up some basic sketches then moved to PhotoShop producing visuals that not only demonstrate the interface but the look and feel as well.

Chapter page wireframes
Chapter page desktop design visual
Sticky contents menu and highlighting contributed content
Chapter page mobile visuals including ‘back to contents’ button and search focus styles

This approach echoes the way I began my career in commercial graphics and web design. We always produced visuals that are an exact representation of how the finished product will look on screen, with an aim for ‘sign off’. I also find this process useful for defining font sizes across mobile and desktop, as well as seeing the colour palette in action. I make tweaks to colour combinations during the design phase so they have good contrast levels for accessibility.

Of course there was no visual identity defined for the Toolkit yet, it’s a new thing. So I sourced a friendly, accessible web font and defined a basic colour palette for the first iteration. It’s simple but a good start.

I should mention my knowledge of best practice web patterns gained through working as a designer on local authority pattern libraries (Brighton and currently Croydon), plays an important role in my design process. I’m a fan of re-using design patterns that have been previously tested.

The toolkit has a handful of other page layouts, namely the homepage, search, and category pages. I’m still in the process of finalising some of the interfaces, and can say they’re heavily influenced by Gov.UK search, and the Gov.uk Service Manual landing page. Again, if it’s already been tested why not make use of it as a starting point to build on?

An open source WordPress theme

A bonus outcome for the Toolkit project is developing the platform in an open source way that can later be shared and improved. This drove my decisions on the choice of WordPress theme.

For the parent theme I chose UnderStrap and here’s why. Understrap is a free open source WordPress theme, it uses BootStrap 4 as a framework. It’s very bare bones and lightweight to use as a starting point for the front end, which I like.

It took me a number of years to come round to using BootStrap as a front end framework, in fact I never used it in my own projects until a few years after the release of Bootstrap 4 in 2014. Now I’ve invested some time in learning how to use it properly, I find the re-theming capabilities, grid system, and pre-made components an invaluable time saver in front end development.

To customise the functionality and look and feel of the parent theme I’ve created a Digital Inclusion Playbook child theme. I won’t bore you with any more intricacies of WordPress themes but here’s the exciting part.

Both themes can be installed in WordPress using one Zip file upload. If you have a front end developer available you can change the theme fonts and colour palette by amending a set of variables. Failing that anyone with a basic CSS understanding can change the look and feel using the advanced CSS option in WordPress.

WordPress out the box can be limiting in some ways, especially the search, so I extended some of the WordPress functionality:

  • Improved search – to show matches relating to author and category names along with the chapter content
  • Comments in a ‘Discussion’ tab – something I’ve never seen on a WordPress site before. If you have please let me know.
  • Chapter headings and sections – Added as reorderable text blocks, simplifying the editing process
  • An automatic contents menu – dynamically generated by content section titles (h2s)

Keep an eye out for an update on the theme release soon, we’re open to sharing and collaboration on the development side of the project too.

“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!

Impact

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?

Summary

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.