Partner profile: Belle Isle Tenant Management Organisation

Belle Isle Tenant Management Organisation, BITMO, is a tenant-run organisation that manages housing and estate management. Their vision is to build a stronger, safer community for the residents of Belle Isle. Not only do they support tenants with housing issues, they also provide advice, training, and employment support services. The sense of community within the BITMO GATE building is ever present; residents can get involved in activities such as volunteering, a wellbeing group and children’s summer holiday activities.

Supporting skills with Digital Together

Digital inclusion support at BITMO is led by Tracey McGarry, a Community Development Officer. Upon receiving funding for becoming a Digital Health Hub in 2020, BITMO purchased tablets for lending, gifting and use on site, and set up MiFi for internet access in communal spaces. They are part of the National Databank, and gift SIM cards to community members experiencing data poverty. Residents come to BITMO for foodbank vouchers, and during these interactions staff ask questions about connectivity to see if a free data SIM could improve their day-to-day lives. This kind of support is proving more and more vital during the cost-of-living crisis: nationally, around a million people have had to cut back on broadband packages due to lack of affordability. People can access digital skills support at BITMO via one-to-one digital support sessions and weekly ‘Digital Together’ group learning sessions. Some learners without their own functioning laptop or tablet have been gifted equipment, if they have shown commitment to the course by attending three or more sessions.

Coproducing course content with learners

The content of BITMO’s ’Digital Together’ sessions is co-produced by the group so that the skills and tools covered reflect the needs and interests of the attendees. Tracey informs and inspires the attendees on the possibilities, and they share ideas about what they would like to get out of the digital world, which decides the direction the course will take. The group then uses the free digital skills platform ‘Learn My Way’ to support learners to develop their essential digital skills.

A ‘digital wishlist’ was produced by learners in a group ideas sharing session, ensuring sessions cover the knowledge and skills wanted and needed. Suggestions ranged from using voice commands, to learning a new language on Duolingo, to buying and selling on ecommerce sites like eBay and Vinted.

The discussions were divided into six main elements:

  • Recognising and celebrating what learners can already do.
  • Keeping in touch.
  • Developing new skills.
  • Travel.
  • Managing money.
  • Mental health support.

“The conversation that came out of that in 20 minutes was unbelievable…. They’re excited, they’re enjoying doing it, they’re liking doing Learn My Way.’’

Tracey McGarry, Community Development Officer, BITMO

BITMO have worked with Leeds Libraries to raise awareness about the vast array of online services accessible for free to those with a library card, such as Newsbank, a collection of global online newspapers, MediciTV, a classical music channel, Ancestry Library edition, and Driving Test Theory practice.

Sessions end with a 15 minute YouTube video related to their interests, such as a virtual tour of the Natural History Museum. The tenants have been encouraged to do this at home which they call ‘travelling from their sofa’, experiencing the world via their screens using tools like Google Earth, Google Maps, and YouTube.

Tweet showing Digital Together planning documents

Learners are also supported to use council digital services to make their lives easier. One attendee wanted to book a bulky waste collection for his garden waste. He travelled to three separate locations to try and work out how to access this service, including a One Stop Shop, who all advised him to go elsewhere. Tracey was able to show him how to go online to book a collection without leaving his home, saving time, frustration and effort.

Celebrating learner progression and building a sense of community

BITMO does a fantastic job of recognising learner success by printing certificates and documenting these in personal portfolios, increasing confidence and motivation, two main barriers to digital inclusion.  Tracey has plans to further celebrate learner progression with the creation of a display board tracking content covered in sessions.

“The learners said, Imagine in a year’s time if we’re in here with our graduation caps and we are able to do all these things!’’

Tracey McGarry, Community Development Officer, BITMO

The group of Belle Isle residents that regularly attend the sessions have built a sense of community, friendship and peer support, and they now even meet up over a coffee outside of planned sessions to continue learning and sharing together. The group has also had open and honest conversations around mental health and grief. Moving forward, they will learn about how to access digital tools and services to support themselves, such as meditation and healthcare apps, forums and entertainment. Being able to share their experiences whilst learning has been a central part of the group’s success, helping to tackle isolation and loneliness in the community.

“They’re all smiling, they’re all coming back.”

Tracey McGarry, Community Development Officer, BITMO

Next steps

Tracey is keen to capture the momentum and motivation that the learners have. BITMO has been supported by the 100% Digital Leeds team to come up with innovative ideas, build connections with other organisations that are championing digital inclusion, and fully integrate digital into the vital services that BITMO provides. They are also looking to broaden engagement to support younger people with digital by connecting working-age adults who access employability services to digital support, and parents and carers who need support to help their children stay safe online. BITMO has achieved the sometimes daunting task of showing digitally excluded people that not only is the digital world entirely relevant to them, but it can also improve your wellbeing.

New additions to the 100% Digital Leeds team

Over the last couple of months 100% Digital Leeds has been pleased to welcome three new Assistant Digital Inclusion Officers to the team. Each of the new team members brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the programme. Jason, Amy, and Rachel are excited to see the team expand, meaning that we have even more time to work with our hundreds of delivery partners to build more capacity to increase digital inclusion across the city.

Meet the new team members


“I have worked within the arts and cultural sector for the last 20 years, administrating grants schemes and designing arts development projects. This work was geared towards upskilling and empowering the sector to enable financial resilience, sustainability and the development of their arts practice. I found out about the amazing work that 100% Digital Leeds do while co-chairing the Arts and Culture Digital Inclusion Network with Amy and I’m now absolutely thrilled to be a part of the team! I’m excited about the opportunity to continue working with the arts and cultural sector in Leeds to engage with digital inclusion initiatives such as the Arts in Care Digital Programme and I can’t wait to see what partnerships and projects can come about through our team’s engagement.” 

Jen Rhodes, Assistant Digital Inclusion Officer


“I recently transitioned from my role within the Strategy and Innovation team in the Integrated Digital Service to join our wonderful 100% Digital Leeds team. After spending several rewarding years within the NHS, I have been given the incredible opportunity to embark on a new chapter in my career. It has been a couple of months since I joined this amazing team, and I am filled with excitement as I look forward to acquiring new skills and knowledge. The opportunity of working across different organisations and collaborating with different groups is really important for the work we are doing. Embracing this dynamic environment will undoubtedly open up countless opportunities for personal and professional growth. Here’s to a fantastic future filled with innovation, collaboration, and endless possibilities!”

Natasha Hill, Assistant Digital Inclusion Officer


“I am really excited for the opportunity to join the 100% Digital Leeds team! Having come from supporting Forward Leeds service users through various barriers to digital inclusion as an Employment Specialist, I am looking forward to seeing how we can overcome barriers for the most isolated communities who will benefit the most from accessing digital resources. In my previous role I also worked with employers, discussing how they can simplify recruitment processes for people in order to increase accessibility to employment and tap into new talent pools.”

Alice James, Assistant Digital Inclusion Officer

Call out for submissions for Arts in Care Digital Programme 2023

In September the 100% Digital Leeds Team will be curating a week long programme of events over digital apps such as Zoom and Teams that carers and staff working in care settings can access for the benefit and entertainment of their care recipients. Taking place from Monday 25 to Friday 29 September, the week will follow on from the National Day of Arts in Care Homes which this year is on Sunday 24 September. Care settings can include, but are not limited to care homes, day services, supported living services, recovery hubs, hospitals, and hospices.

We would like to encourage arts and cultural organisations to submit activities for inclusion in the programme by completing this expression of interest form by Friday 18 August. Arts organisations can also apply for a small bursary from our partners, Arts Together, to support this activity by completing this short application form.

Care providers can request support to access the programme by completing this this expression of interest form at any time until Friday 29 September.

“We enjoyed being part of a national celebration event and it gave us an opportunity to offer ’something extra’ outside of our programme.  Also, it felt good to be a part of something bigger with an online presence.”

Artlink West Yorkshire, Arts in Care Digital Programme 2022

The programme was launched at the Arts in Care Showcase event that took place in May, aimed at care providers to highlight the wealth of arts and cultural activity taking place across Leeds that activity coordinators (and similar roles) could access within their settings.

Programme aims

The programme has been formed by a steering group of partners from a variety of sectors from health, culture, libraries and care and was a project that came out of the Arts and Culture Digital Inclusion Network. It aims to foster meaningful relationships between arts and cultural organisations and care settings, to give care staff the experience of hosting digital sessions within their space and to give arts and cultural organisations the opportunity to reach new audiences, work with new technology and for everyone to have a joyful and uplifting experience in the process! We hope that through this programme we can help to tackle some of the barriers to inclusion in arts activity faced by care recipients and staff, developing their digital skills and confidence.

‘Access to culture is a human right, as much in residential care as when living in the community. The benefits to health and wellbeing of participation in arts and culture, including in older age, are well established.’

Baring Foundation – Every Care Home a Creative Home, 2022

How to get involved: arts and cultural organisations

Our aim is to spread the call out for activity far and wide, to arts and cultural organisations, local community groups, charities, third sector organisations. If you’re interested in delivering a session as part of the week please complete this short expression of interest form to tell us about what you would like to do and to also give the opportunity to ask for support from 100% Digital Leeds. The form also includes a section that asks if your organisation is able to offer peer support if you feel that you have the resources, time and knowledge to help another organisation.

On the 28 June we held an informative webinar aimed at arts and cultural organisations to discuss more about how and why to engage with the programme. Speakers included 100% Digital Leeds, NAPA, The Performance Ensemble, RJC Dance and Leeds City Council’s Adults and Health team. 

Arts in Care Webinar

‘The arts and culture sector is uniquely placed to champion digital inclusion to bring in new audiences to engage with work digitally, to upskill those facing barriers to digital inclusion, and to demonstrate the benefits of being able to access provision digitally.’

Pam Johnson, Head of Culture Programmes, Leeds City Council

Support from 100% Digital Leeds

You may not have worked in digital, or delivered to an audience in care before, there are resources available to support. This project has been shaped by the Arts and Culture Digital Inclusion Network and the support of 100% Digital Leeds and network members is available for artists and arts and culture organisations looking to develop their digital offer or adapt their work to be accessible and engaging for different audiences. There is a section on the expression of interest form to request support and 100% Digital Leeds will contact you to have a conversation about what those needs are and how we can provide assistance.

There are also resources available around working with older participants like the Leeds Playhouse’s Creative Ageing Treasury of Leeds and the Baring Foundation’s Treasure of Arts Activities for Older People.

Funding Leeds is a database of funding opportunities both locally and nationally, once you have created an account and saved a search you will receive regular updates on your specific funding area of interests.

“It was good to be involved in a wider event which enabled us to market our provision and see who else are working in the sector. We would like to extend our zoom provision in the future and this gives us confidence that they is a demand to keep moving forward with our digital at home programme.”

Ascendance, Arts in Care Digital Programme 2022


Our partners, Arts Together, are this year dedicating their bursaries towards organisations and individuals delivering work as part of the programme.  Four bursaries of £250 are available to support a piece of work for the programme. The bursary could go towards paying an artist for their time, buying resources for the session or facilitating partnership working. Please complete this Google form to apply.

How to get involved: care staff

100% Digital Leeds can offer help to your care setting, please complete this short expression of interest form if you would like us to get in touch with you to have a conversation about your support needs.

Our partners Leeds Inspired will curate a special page on the Leeds Inspired website dedicated to the programme which will enable all of the events to be looked at and booked on the same webpage. Our aim is to make the booking and access process as straightforward as possible to enable care settings to feel confident in the programme and in their ability to make it work in their setting.

Summary of key information

  • The programme of activities will run from Monday 25 to Friday 29 September.
  • The final programme will be announced towards the end of August.
  • Arts and cultural organisations can submit their activities for inclusion in the programme by completing this form by Friday 18 August.
  • Care providers can request support to access the programme by completing this form at any time until Friday 29 September.
  • For more information about this project or how you can support contact

Growing Talent Digital Leeds

100% Digital Leeds has partnered with Ahead Partnership as part of their Growing Talent Digital Leeds programme on a social action project focussed on digital inclusion. Young people from Mount St Mary’s Catholic High School, Leeds and Bishop Young Academy were called upon to help 100% Digital Leeds understand how families local to the York Road area of the city might experience digital exclusion and to help shape the digital inclusion support offer available at local community venue The Old Fire Station. We were joined by a BBC journalist who interviewed workshop facilitators and students with coverage expected to feature on BBC Radio Leeds.

“Ahead Partnership’s Growing Talent Digital Leeds programme aims to inspire more young people into a career in digital and tech, helping to close the skills gap that exists within the sector. This social action project focused on digital inclusion, a key issue that is at the core of bridging the skills gap and levelling the playing field within tech and digital.”

Suzie Bell, Growing Talent Digital Leeds Project Lead

Understanding digital inclusion locally

29 young people from year 8 attended two workshops at The Old Fire Station supported by volunteers from StantecPlusnet and Willmott Dixon.

In the first workshop the young people explored the importance of digital skills, connectivity, confidence, and motivation and how all four barriers can impact on the digital inclusion of a community. The students mapped out their typical day and counted the number of times they used their smart phone or the internet, reflecting on how digital exclusion might impact on their day-to-day life. Some impacts highlighted included finding it more difficult to communicate with friends and family, issues traveling around the city, and struggling to access information.

The students also learned about the digital inclusion support currently available at The Old Fire Station such as the gifting of sim cards with data for those experiencing data poverty, weekly digital drop-in sessions for those looking to develop their skills, and free wifi in the café. They considered some of issues that might impact on the accessibility of the offer for local people and communities such as knowledge of the support available and lack of confidence accessing it.

Surveying levels of digital inclusion

The young people used their knowledge of the barriers to digital inclusion to design a questionnaire surveying the levels of digital exclusion experienced by their peers. Between workshops both groups took the questionnaire back to school to be completed by the whole year 8 cohort.

Whilst the survey found that the majority of the young people surveyed do not face digital exclusion a significant number face one or more barriers that stop them confidently making the most of the online world. Some of the issues shared include lack of access to equipment, running out of data, and concerns over catfishing and cyber bullying.

A full report will be produced but some of the headline figures show that, of the 310 year 8 students surveyed:

  • 38.9% rated their computer skills as ‘ok’ or ‘poor’.
  • 1.6% do not feel confident in their ability to use a digital device.
  • 10.1% only have access to a digital device a couple of times a week or less.
  • 1.8% don’t own any kind of digital device.
  • 4.9% said their parents don’t have access to a digital device at home.

Shaping the digital inclusion support available locally

In the second workshop the students completed a presentation boot camp so they had the skills they need to use the survey findings and other research to paint a picture of local digital inclusion levels. They presented their findings to a panel of experts, as well as sharing their recommendations on what The Old Fire Station’s digital inclusion support offer should look like.

“We were so impressed with the students from Bishop Young Academy and Mount St Mary’s Catholic High School who had a wealth of ideas on how to break down barriers to accessing digital resources and engage people from all generations. Including young people’s voices in actions and decision making around topics that affect their communities is at the heart of what we do at Ahead Partnership to improve social impact, so we’re really pleased that The Old Fire Station and 100% Digital Leeds will review the students’ ideas and proposals.”

Suzie Bell, Growing Talent Digital Leeds Project Lead

Next steps

The Old Fire Station has recently received NHS Health Inequalities funding to support the recruitment of a Digital Inclusion Officer to support the development of digital inclusion support initiatives locally. The insights gathered from the young people will help shape the digital inclusion offer at The Old Fire Station and other local organisations.

The Leeds Digital Inclusion Fund

100% Digital Leeds is working with Leeds Community Foundation and the city’s tech sector to increase the amount of funding and resource available to build the capacity of third sector partners and increase digital inclusion for people and communities across Leeds.

The Leeds Digital Inclusion Fund supports the development and delivery of sustainable digital inclusion interventions in Leeds. Grants of up to £10,000 are available to community organisations aimed at ensuring that individuals and communities in Leeds have the skills, support, and equipment to be active online, now and in the future. Leeds Digital Inclusion Fund 2023 is open for applications, with the application window closing on 4th July.

This year’s round was launched with a briefing webinar and the 100% Digital Leeds team is currently offering support to prospective applicants to develop their bids. To book a 30 minute consultation slot with us please contact us.

The Leeds Digital Inclusion Fund briefing event

Members of the 100% Digital Leeds team will be coming together with colleagues from Leeds Community Foundation, Leeds Digital Ball Board, and the third sector, in August to form the funding panel, and the list of successful applicants is expected to be announced in September.

Funded by the proceeds from the Leeds Digital Ball

The Leeds Digital Inclusion fund was launched last year a permanent grant funding stream administered by LCF in partnership with 100% Digital Leeds and supported by the Leeds Digital Ball, an annual charity event to raise money from digital and technology companies in the city. The charity ball organisers are made up of a board of members and advisors from across the Leeds region who came together as a collective to help represent the local tech community in supporting digitally excluded communities and driving positive change. Proceeds from the 2023 Ball are yet to be announced but the amount is forecasted to be 50% higher than last year’s funding pot.

The inaugural Ball took place in 2022 and saw £60,000 raised and donated to Leeds Digital Inclusion Fund, with grants going to five community organisations. One of the successful organisations was The Highrise Project who received funding to support the embedding of digital inclusion into their existing creative skills and mentoring offer for people in Armley, including the purchase of equipment.

“I tell everyone that I am not good at technology and no one believes me until I fail to open a file they send or can’t send something from whatsapp to Facebook. I have also felt less creative since having two children and not finding the time to apply for exhibitions that would bring the opportunity to sell the drawings I make. It makes me feel like I’ve left a part of myself behind sometimes. I would definitely benefit from learning more about producing digital artwork. It would up my earning potential and help me reclaim a bit of my old pre-child me.”

Artist and learner, The Highrise Project

The Leeds tech community: investing in digital inclusion

Earlier this month partners came together to deliver a webinar as part of Digital Leaders Week, exploring how Leeds’s tech, public, and community sectors have formed a unique partnership, working together as one city to ensure that no one in Leeds is excluded from the digital world. We share how the creation of Leeds Digital Charity Ball and Leeds Digital Inclusion Fund is increasing the amount of funding and resource available third sector partners, increasing digital inclusion for people and communities across Leeds who need it the most. Representatives from Leeds Digital Ball Board, Leeds Community Foundation, and 100% Digital Leeds explain how they made it all happen. The Highrise Project share how their £10,000 grant from the 2023 Digital Inclusion Fund has helped them embed digital inclusion into their work, supporting digital inclusion for people in Armley.

The Leeds tech community: investing in digital inclusion

Partner Profile: Carers Leeds

Carers Leeds is an independent charity that gives specialist and tailored support, advice, and information to unpaid carers over the age of 16. A carer is an individual who, without payment, provides help and support to a friend, family member, relative, or neighbour who could not manage without their support. This could be due to age, physical or mental health issues, substance misuse, or disability.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Carers Leeds has been committed to reducing digital barriers for unpaid carers through their digital inclusion service. Their aims are to reduce social isolation and loneliness by ensuring all carers can confidently access online resources essential to their caring role and own wellbeing.

“I am not only proud to see the progress we’ve made over the last three years, but I am overjoyed with how far our carers have come on their digital journeys. For a lot of unpaid carers, access to online services is a real lifeline, so it’s great to see the positive impacts it’s had on people’s lives. The sense of achievement people get when they overcome barriers they never thought they would initially get past is great to be a part of.”

Holly Wilkins, Digital Inclusion Coordinator, Carers Leeds

Taking a person-centred approach to digital inclusion

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Carers Leeds identified a large proportion of unpaid carers to be digitally excluded due to a range of barriers including affordability of equipment or internet, lack of confidence, and lack of knowledge or support available from friends or family. With all services closed at this time, the only contact some carers had was with the individual they care for at home. Unpaid caring and digital exclusion are both risk factors for loneliness and isolation, meaning it was paramount their service users were able to engage with online activities, support groups, and online services, to prevent poor outcomes and increased isolation from society.  

‘I’m loving trying to learn to use my new tablet. It helps that I have Holly with the patience of a saint! A big fat thank you to everyone at Carers Leeds for what they do.’

Carer supported by Carers Leeds

Carers Leeds worked in partnership with 100% Digital Leeds to develop their new digital inclusion service and received funding to purchase IT equipment and recruit Holly, their Digital Inclusion Coordinator, to oversee the project. The team quickly recognised that each carer’s digital needs varied from one another, suggesting the need for holistic and person-centred approaches when it came to offering digital support. Carers Leeds did this by developing a digital assessment tool, which is used to help identify the carer’s goals, motivations, and interests for getting connected. This helps shape their support sessions and enables the impact of the project to be evaluated by comparing confidence, standardised loneliness measures, and experience levels at baseline to the end of support. Their goal has since been to integrate digital throughout their organisation to ensure staff are confident in having positive conversations about going online and can identify carers with digital needs.

Digital support as a means to reducing social isolation and loneliness

Over the past three years the Digital Inclusion Coordinator has carried out various means of digital support to digitally excluded carers. Whilst face-to-face services were closed, Holly posted sim-enabled devices to carers with tailored ‘how to’ guides to suit their needs, and offered one-to-one support to carers remotely, via telephone, video, and TeamViewer. Some devices were set up prior to postage to support carers with additional digital support needs e.g. by changing accessibility settings, downloading apps, and posting accessories such as styluses or keyboards.

Since restrictions have lifted, Holly has offered tailored one-to-one and group digital support sessions to carers in various settings:

  • One-to-one home visits.
  • One-to-one community visits.
  • One-to-one telephone support.
  • Group digital cafes.
  • Blended digital and non-digital social events.
  • Online support groups with a digital focus.

Digital support sessions have always had the focus of reaching the carer’s goals from the initial assessment, and have included supporting carers to:

  • Feel more confident using their device.
  • Keep in touch with friends and family.
  • Use technology to enrich individual hobbies and interests.
  • Access essential digital health resources e.g. booking GP appointments and self-managing health conditions.
  • Independently and safely use the web to search for information or shop online.

Key learning points

The digital support offered has had a real positive impact on carers. Carers Leeds have found that the ability to offer tailored one-to-one support has made a difference as it ensures carer-centred approaches have been adopted throughout. Consistent and focused digital sessions have increased confidence and momentum, so carers are more likely to continue using online resources independently once support comes to an end. They have found that, amongst carers, one-to-one support has been the most effective way to deliver support, compared to group digital cafes. One of the main barriers of the digital cafes has been that some carers are unable to leave the house for prolonged periods of time to access group sessions due to caring demands.

“Google has been wonderful as I can search for new carpets and gas fires. Carers Leeds gave me a tablet with free internet and helped me with what to do! The tablet opened up new worlds for me and helps me keep in touch with others. Now I use WhatsApp all the time. I love it!”

Carer supported by Carers Leeds

Carers Leeds have also recognised the most successful digital support comes from keeping things fun and light-hearted. People are much more likely to engage if they see the immediate benefits of technology. For example, The Digital Inclusion Coordinator has supported carers to use various games apps like Wordle, start their family tree with Ancestry, practise mindfulness with yoga guides and videos, and has supported carers to enjoy personal hobbies such stamp collecting.

Over the past few years, Carers Leeds have put on several events which incorporate blended activities. This has included fun nature walks to popular Leeds parks, incorporating an introduction to digital skills and the use of tablets into the sessions by using apps to identify plants and bird songs on their way. Other digital events have included blended arts and crafts workshops supporting carers to create online scrapbooks using Canva, and coffee and digital games mornings.

‘This digital support has been perfect as now I can draw, do something else just for me and it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to do something like that.’

Carer supported by Carers Leeds

Becoming a Digital Health Hub

After working closely with 100% Digital Leeds to secure NHS Health Inequalities Funding Carers Leeds are developing the organisation as a Digital Health Hub. According to the State of Caring Report (2022), carers were more likely to feel that remote monitoring, voice-assisted devices, digital ways of keeping in touch with family, online patient records, and the NHS app made their caring role easier. These findings highlight the potential to adopt digital health-related technology as a means of improving outcomes for carers and is why Carers Leeds is an advocate for digital health as an organisation. Digital health is already incorporated into the digital support on offer at Carers Leeds:

  • Support using self-management tools for health conditions such as COPD, diabetes, and mental health.
  • Help accessing online health services such as booking GP appointments, ordering prescriptions, and submitting e-consultations.
  • Help to confidently search for key health information online and avoid misinformation.
  • Support in accessing peer and online support groups relevant to their caring role.

Digital inclusion befriending service

Following the success of the work to date, Carers Leeds have recently been granted funding from Good Things Foundation, enabling them to expand their digital inclusion service with the addition of a voluntary digital inclusion befriending service. The role involves volunteers offering up to twelve one-to-one digital befriending sessions to carers in their homes or in the community, with aims to build confidence using IT equipment, different apps, and digital health services.

This befriending service has been developed to coexist alongside their traditional befriending service as the volunteers adopt shared training, resources, and peer support groups. Carers Leeds have found this has worked well and enables the two befriending services to share knowledge and experience with one another.  Some of the main positives of the befriending project so far have been:

  • Welcoming and reaching new volunteers from different communities around Leeds to get involved in the role.
  • Widening resources and capacity for the organisation to network more and maintain key partnerships around Leeds.
  • Increased consistent support sessions for carers.
  • Consistent advocacy for digital health offered by volunteers.

Carers Leeds plans to further expand their digital inclusion befriending service over the next year.

Arts in Care Showcase and digital arts programme plans

On Friday 19 May 100% Digital Leeds hosted an interactive event at Leeds Central Library showcasing the amazing work that is currently being delivered in care settings by arts and cultural organisations including Yorkshire Dance, Leeds Playhouse, and Ascendance.

During the session 100% Digital Leeds introduced the plans for the Arts in Care Homes Digital Arts Programme 2023 and attendees were encouraged to offer feedback and suggestions for the programme as we work towards removing any barriers to taking part and making it as beneficial and rewarding for both the staff and care recipients as possible.

“Access to culture is a human right, as much in residential care as when living in the community. The benefits to health and wellbeing of participation in arts and culture, including in older age, are well established.”

Baring Foundation, Every Care Home a Creative Home

An opportunity to sample some of the arts activities open to care homes

The event was attended by care staff who work in an Activity or Wellbeing Coordinator role and attendees took part in taster sessions of the various arts opportunities available to care homes in partnership with local arts organisations. The attendees were able to get a feel for what it would be like to experience the workshops as a participant and also had time to have further conversations with the arts organisations to discuss how they can work together in the future.

Yorkshire dance

Yorkshire Dance ran a movement to music session from their In Mature Company project which saw everyone move and stretch and tap their toes to the rhythm of the music, strengthening and warming up muscles and waking up our bodies. In Mature Company run regular online Zoom sessions allowing staff and residents in different homes to connect and share in a joyful experience with each other.

Leeds Playhouse

Leeds Playhouse introduced us to the work that they do with participants with learning disabilities, using sounds, smell, music and some very exciting props, they brought the theatre journey to life through imagination and interactivity. Leeds Playhouse also run Heydays which is the largest and longest-running arts programme for older people in UK theatre.


Ascendance had us up on our feet, moving to the music with some very snazzy footwork. Their mission is to provide exercise, creative and performance opportunities for individuals with neurodisabilities and those over 55, improving physical and mental wellbeing, coordination, balance and social cohesion. They are committed to supporting the digital inclusion of participants and have worked with 100% Digital Leeds to embed digital inclusion throughout their service. Read more about Ascendance’s work supporting digital inclusion.

Carousel of arts and cultural organisations

There was also the opportunity for participants to speak to other organisations about their work with Leeds’ communities, we were privileged to welcome RJC Dance, Leeds Libraries, Maria Kapsali, The Performance Ensemble and Leeds International Concert Series.

Arts in Care Digital Arts Programme 2023

This year’s Arts in Care Homes Digital Arts Programme 2023 will take place from Monday 25 to Friday 29 September. The programme will be a series of free arts and creative events and activities with a digital element delivered by arts organisations and available for care providers, following on from the national Arts in Care Homes Day on 24 September.

If you are an organisation that would like to submit an interactive digital activity to be included in this year’s programme then get in touch with 100% Digital Leeds and book on to the webinar where we will give more information about how to get involved. The webinar will be recorded and video will be circulated to attendees after the event.

If you are working in a care setting please contact us and we will be able to give you more information about how to take part in this year’s programme.

Arts in Care Digital Arts Programme Webinar

Wednesday 28 June, 12:30 – 1:00pm

Aimed at arts and cultural organisation and any other organisation interested at submitting an activity for inclusion in this year’s Arts in Care Digital Arts Programme. This webinar is an opportunity to hear more about the proposed plans for Arts in Care Homes Day in Leeds, to find out how they can get involved and to also hear about the difference that being involved in creative activity can make to people in care.

New Digital Inclusion Officer in East Leeds

The Old Fire Station recently appointed a Digital Inclusion Officer who will not only offer support to those who come to the Old Fire Station, but also help the organisations along the York Road increase their capacity and ability to support digital inclusion for anyone living in the York Road area of the city. The 12 month post is supported by NHS Health Inequalities Funding to support the development of the local Digital Health Hub Network.

Chris, the new Digital Inclusion Officer, is passionate about why digital inclusion matters so much in today’s world:

“The pandemic and lock-downs really highlighted the need to help people with their digital knowledge and confidence. Giving people the ability to stay in contact with loved ones and access information about local organisations and healthcare is such an important aspect in terms of health and wellbeing. If we can help people become more confident online – we can open up a whole world of possibilities for them.”

Chris Bamber, Digital Inclusion Officer at The Old Fire Station.

Increasing digital support at The Old Fire Station

The Old Fire Station in Gipton opened its doors as a new hub for the community in 2017 after significant investment and renovation. It now houses six different not-for-profit organisations which, between them, offer support to a huge number of people in East Leeds. The Old Fire Station is proud to be one of Leeds’ Digital Health Hubs, offering a safe warm space, free wifi, access to digital equipment, and a variety of support to improve digital skills and confidence.

Chris has started weekly digital drop-in sessions at the Old Fire Station on Thursdays between 10am and 1pm, offering support to anyone with any queries about how to use a device they have or just want to get started. As well as help and advice, people can make use of free wifi, access laptops and other devices, and be gifted sims with free 4G data. These drop-ins are supported by the Leeds City Council mobile Community Hub which is parked directly outside and can offer assistance regarding benefits, housing, and other council transactions.

From chatting to the different organisations running groups from the Fire Station, it became clear that there were a few big issues that people raise when discussion their digital exclusion and reasons behind it. Costs, the overwhelming nature of the topic, online safety and fear of scams are all areas which Chris wants to help people overcome.

Increasing digital support across the York Road area

Alongside the help sessions provided at the Fire Station, Chris works as part of the 100% Digital Leeds team building organisational capacity to deliver digital inclusion support across the York Road area of Leeds. He is working closely with all current Digital Health Hubs in the area to help expand or improve their digital sessions as well as to bring in other local organisations who want to join and themselves become Digital Health Hubs. Operating as a network across the York Road area means the organisations can highlight best practises and share resources and information.

“Having the ability to link up and share knowledge with other organisations so we can all help each other is wonderful. It means we can all do as much as we can to give our members the maximum amount of help.”

Burmantofts Senior Action

Challenges and opportunities ahead

Chris has spent his first weeks in the role meeting organisations delivering digital inclusion support in the local area, meeting with organisations like Richmond Hill Elderly Aid, St Vincent’s, and Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours. The common theme across all network partners is that, while demand and necessity for digital inclusion support is growing all the time, the capacity of organisations to deliver is stretched to the maximum.

Over the coming months Chris will be working with organisations to secure further funding to support increased access to equipment and capacity to support more people with their digital skills and confidence. Chris is also working with a corporate partner to explore how their corporate social responsibility volunteering offer could offer organisations working across the area support to deliver their digital skills support sessions.

If you work with people living in the York Road area who would benefit from digital inclusion support and would be interested in hearing from Chris Contact us.

Partner profile: Leeds Irish Health and Homes

Leeds Irish Health and Homes (LIHH) have been providing services to the Irish and wider community in Leeds for over 25 years.  Their services range from outreach support to regular luncheon clubs and tea dances, health and wellbeing support, digital inclusion support and more specialist unemployment, bereavement, and mental health support.

“Seeing people’s digital skills increase and broaden their learning is a real sense of empowerment for them and gives LIHH a real sense of pride. People are no longer afraid to ask questions, they have achieved both self-belief and achievement in their learning. It’s great to see the difference it’s making to their lives.”

Sarah McBride, Services Manager at Leeds Irish Health and Homes

Digital inclusion in response to the pandemic

During the pandemic in 2020 LIHH knew that they needed to respond rapidly to needs highlighted during lockdown and enable people to be digitally connected across the city. They were astonished at the demand for digital, especially from many older people in their communities. Through conversations with their members they knew they needed to develop an offer of digital skills support and look at providing many with equipment.

LIHH began working in partnership with 100% Digital Leeds when a successful funding bid from the Emigrant Support Programme meant they were able to recruit a Community Digital Inclusion Officer.  The demand for digital inclusion support was high across the Irish communities in Leeds and LIHH looked at ways the new role could support digital inclusion and build and develop their offer.   

The Community Digital Inclusion Officer, Anne, began delivering online groups, sparking engagement with sessions themed around topics of interest such as culture, Irish radio, online chats and quizzes.

“We have witnessed people emailing each other rather than calling each other which has been wonderful, and carrying out shopping trips online rather than going out to do a grocery shop.”

Sarah McBride, Services Manager at Leeds Irish Health and Homes

She has since then fully developed a face-to-face digital skills offer with a variety of sessions delivered each week.  These are very well attended and are within the LIHH centre, or at community locations around the city such as The Old Fire Station in Gipton. LIHH also have several tablets they use in sessions and lend to members, helping people across the city who don’t have access to a device or wifi.   

Digital access has helped support members’ mental health

The number of people attending the sessions has increased thanks to the fun digital tools and apps during the sessions. Apps like Wordle and Waffle have supported many of their older members to overcome loneliness and isolation and helped them to stimulate the brain. The Memory Lane app has been immensely popular, especially great for members living with Dementia, where they can access lots of resources for reminiscence. Through Anne’s ongoing commitment and hard work, the number of people now accessing digital support through LIHH has increased and demand continues to be high.

Anne also offers one-to-one digital support in the community for those who are not confident in a group setting or who may be unable to leave their property due to challenging physical health issues.

“Having that personal touch always makes a huge difference to our service users and encourages further learning.”

Anne Pearce, Community Digital Inclusion Officer at Leeds Irish Health and Homes.

One member who had struggled with lifelong depression now attends the LIHH Digital session every Friday and it has given him a sense of purpose and something to look forward to each week. Another gentleman who was really struggling with both loneliness and grief was supported by Anne to create a digital book as a legacy for his family. The sessions continue to be life changing for so many, one member in her 80s can now use her tablet to access online mass which means so much to her.

“We have seen people’s confidence grow, friendships develop through Zoom, and online activities delivered. People are feeling less isolated and lonely. People have seen an improvement in their mental health. The eagerness to learn and be digitally connected has been very impressive. We like to be able to offer Zoom and face to face to give people the option and support those that are less mobile.”

Sarah McBride, Services Manager at Leeds Irish Health and Homes

Key partnership projects

Leeds Irish Health and Homes are a key member on the Older Peoples Digital Inclusion Network and regularly share tips and tools in best supporting older people with digital.  This network has created strong working relationships with LIHH and many other organisations across the city supporting older people with digital, which has helped them with resources, sharing ideas and building confidence in delivering digital support sessions. Being a member of the network means they have partnered with 100% Digital Leeds on a number of projects.

Becoming a Digital Health Hub

LIHH are part of the Central North Local Care Partnership and with the support of 100% Digital Leeds are developing as a Digital Health Hub.  There is high demand across their members for support with online prescriptions and self-management apps, and LIHH are really excited to be able to help people manage their health and wellbeing with digital. 

“It’s so empowering to be able to help people manage their own appointments and prescriptions and giving them access to their own care record.  We don’t want anyone to be left behind or excluded.”

Sarah McBride, Services Manager at Leeds Irish Health and Homes

Be Online Stay Safe

LIHH were successful in joining the BOSS project which is a partnership project between 100% Digital Leeds and Leeds Older People’s Forum focused on supporting members to improve their media literacy skills and feeling confident and safe online. This project will run until January 2024.

The sessions have started, and they’ve received such positive feedback on how much they are needed and how much more confident members feel after receiving support around online safety and how to avoid scams. The fear of being online has previously prevented many members from using digital but these sessions are giving more people the confidence to go online and feel safe in doing so.  

Looking forwards

The current challenge across LIHH is capacity as the demand for more digital inclusion support remains high. They are working with 100% Digital Leeds to look for further funding to recruit a second digital inclusion worker. This would enable them to reach further communities in the city and provide more digital support for those that need it. They would like to expand their Digital Health Hub offer and provide more at home support too.  Recruiting this second worker will be vital to supporting so many more people across the city with digital inclusion, enabling them to do the things they want and need to do online

A case study

W, aged 79 is from the West coast of Ireland and has lived in Leeds for 60 years. He is socially isolated and lives, by choice, alone without a TV. He was also digitally excluded. When Anne visited, he explained that in the past he has not wanted to go out and does not want to get like that again, describing himself as a loner. He enjoys reading and is very proud of his Irish roots. He is also conscious that his spelling is poor and this was a barrier to him learning. Together he and Anne worked on building confidence around this and using a keyboard. They also found that a stylus helped with what W referred to as his “workman hands and large fingers”. 

Anne showed W some YouTube videos on her mobile phone and he loved listening to the music. He has a banjo which he would like to learn to play properly. Anne explained about YouTube tutorials and how he could learn at home and develop his skills. This hooked him and through Barca’s Men’s Health Unlocked project Anne secured him a tablet with a data sim. 

Anne visited W and showed him how to use the tablet to access YouTube and she found an Irish tutor who has free tutorials to play the banjo. W uses the tablet every day and it gives him a purpose. He watches videos to learn where to place his hands then practises. Having a tablet makes a difference to him and he enjoys using it. He uses up the data allowance each month as he spends so much time playing. 

W is very practical, having spent his working life doing manual work. He loved using the tablet to find out how to make items from wood and metal and recycling. He was also studying how to fix a battery and how to pick locks. He uses the internet to find information such as song lyrics, he was looking for Rod Stewart.

Feedback from W is that he is loving the tablet and his learning journey. He has a supportive family but does not want to bother them at work, so the tablet occupies W during the day. He is not interested in an email address yet but is discussing it with his daughter moving forward. He has also been introduced to Zoom.

W has gained a lot of confidence using the tablet and is very engaged as a result. When he speaks to his family on the telephone he has conversation to share and is building up his skills. 

Inclusive employment film project

Using money awarded from Inclusion International, a team of people with learning disabilities have created a film to educate employers on how they can make their workplaces more inclusive.

The film explores what’s already happening in the city, how organisations can remove barriers, and how workplaces can benefit from having people with learning disabilities as part of their team. 

Nicky Lines, Autism and Learning Disability Inclusion Coordinator, applied for the funding for this film and supported throughout the making of the film.  100% Digital Leeds’s Autism and Learning Disabilities Digital Inclusion Network has been exploring how digital inclusion can help people with learning disabilities to gain employment and to thrive in their roles.

Inclusive Employment Film Project

The film was successfully launched with a screening at Leeds Industrial Museum attended by funders, partners, and contributers.

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