Creating new cross-sector partnerships to support digital transformation

100% Digital Leeds is working with Voluntary Action Leeds and Leeds Community Foundation to explore how businesses in Leeds can support the digital skills and capacity of the city’s third sector.

Community organisations have expressed the need for help with capacity to support digital inclusion, and specialist tech skills to support the sector’s digital transformation. Businesses in the city’s digital and tech sector have expressed an interest in volunteering and doing pro-bono work to support community organisations.

In response 100% Digital Leeds, Leeds Community Foundation, and Voluntary Action Leeds partnered to host a roundtable event in June, bringing together representatives from across the tech and voluntary sector. We explored an integrated approach for brokering and delivering effective digital volunteer partnerships. As well as discussing barriers and potential solutions to forming and maintaining meaningful cross-sector partnerships, some organisations, such as Burmantofts Senior Action and Infinity Works, formed partnerships after meeting at the event.

Burmantofts Senior Action formed a partnership with Infinity Works

To continue the momentum, this September we will host a face-to-face networking event for community organisations looking for support with digital inclusion and digital transformation, and tech companies offering pro-bono support with skills and capacity.

Forming partnerships between businesses and community organisations

This event will create an informal space to have open and honest discussions about what good CSR and pro bono looks like and how it can build resilient communities, connecting those that have capacity and expertise with those that need it the most. The event will bring together third sector community organisations looking for support, as well as tech companies willing to offer voluntary and pro bono support. We want attendees to come away having made meaningful matches, leading to mutually beneficial partnerships.

“At VAL we know that there is so much energy and good will in both the private and VCSE sectors to make positive change for communities. Events like this bring people together to explore shared goals and forge the new relationships that will deliver that change.”

Rich Warrington, Social Action Manager at Voluntary Action Leeds

At the event we will explore issues such as:

  • Skills and capacity to deliver digital inclusion support for people and communities.
  • Scoping and developing digital infrastructure, web design, apps and other technical solutions, use of data analytics.
  • Developing digital strategies or planning for implementation of new software.
  • Help with technical or regulation requirements, compliance or transformation.

Next steps

100% Digital Leeds, Leeds Community Foundation, and Voluntary Action Leeds will form a steering group chaired by a representative from Leeds’ tech sector to further explore this issue. As well as hosting the roundtable event and networking event, we are collating a series of case studies sharing good practice from successful partnerships. Organisations that attended the roundtable event will form a focus group to feedback on suggested actions. For more information, or to offer your support, contact us.

Be Online Stay Safe (BOSS) project update

The Be Online Stay Safe (BOSS) project is a partnership between Leeds Older People’s Forum (LOPF) and 100% Digital Leeds. With the support of the DCMS Media Literacy Programme Fund the project aims to overcome the digital inclusion barriers older people in diverse communities face to accessing media literacy, tackling challenges set out in the DCMS Online Media Literacy Strategy.

The work is led by Samantha Haggart, Digital Inclusion Coordinator at LOPF, working alongside four delivery partners: Hamara, Feel Good Factor, Leeds Irish Health and Homes (LIHH), and Health for All. The BOSS project is now over halfway through the funded period.

“During the last four years of teaching digital skills to older people the biggest barrier is always fear, including fear of scams and fear of doing something wrong.  The Be Online Stay Safe course helps reduce that fear and increase learners’ confidence so they can enjoy the benefits of the online world whilst having the knowledge to help keep them safe.”

Samantha, Digital Inclusion Coordinator at Leeds Older People’s Forum

Themed digital skills sessions

The Digital Inclusion Coordinator has designed a series of digital skills sessions to support learners by building digital skills and confidence, increasing online safety and reducing fear, and developing a better understanding of what the internet has to offer.

The sessions are themed around topics learners are interested in, ensuring the content is relevant, engaging, and practical. The sessions take learners back to basics and cover the level of detail needed to ensure people feel informed and safe without leaving them feeling overwhelmed.

The session themes include:

  • Online safety.
  • Media literacy.
  • Using email.
  • Using the First Bus app.
  • Using the NHS website.

The Digital Inclusion Coordinator has established a skills framework for the BOSS sessions, serving as a guide on the essential subjects and themes covered. The framework helps ensure consistency across delivery partners and by reviewing these areas staff and volunteers can be confident they are delivering effective sessions.

“I am building confidence and doing things I never thought I would do… I knew hardly anything before these sessions and was scared of putting things on my iPhone. Now I can order medicine, make appointments, send photos as an attachment, I am practising emails, I can use an app to see when the buses are coming. I was worried about ordering online before, but I have started to do this with ones I can trust and got the apps. I am going to do the Tesco one next.”

Shiva, BOSS participant.

Developing further content

The BOSS project has highlighted the importance of finding the balance of supporting people with digital skills without overwhelming them with too much information. Once learners have gained confidence through BOSS they have the opportunity to explore more things they can do online, including developing their skills independently. A digital skills assessment has been created to evaluate learners’ progress and provide further learning options to explore.

Learners have expressed an interest in further BOSS modules supporting health literacy including how to use common tools such as the NHS app and PATCHs app. Lesson plans are currently being created to be trialled at Hamara.

“When Googling I realise you have to put the right things in. Now I tread more carefully as there are so many websites to look at. I only go on the high quality ones. The [sessions] helped me to know which sites are safer to look at. If I am looking at foods for rheumatism, or looking at [health] symptoms it will be the NHS [website].”

Karan, BOSS participant.

Next Steps

Looking forward, we aim to create a toolkit which includes BOSS modules and learning materials, to be available from early 2024 when this learning will be shared. 100% Digital Leeds continues to work closely with each of the four delivery partners to ensure they have the capacity to support digital inclusion and online safety for older people in future. This includes delivering digital inclusion awareness workshops, helping partners secure additional funding to increase staff capacity, and encouraging new partnerships.

Tackling data poverty in Leeds

In September 100% Digital Leeds is hosting two free events sharing the city’s approach to tackling digital poverty, as part of Leeds Digital Festival. Attendees will be able to find out more about our approach to gifting data, and how they can support people to access free data.

Data poverty means being unable to afford a safe, secure internet connection. Many people on low incomes can’t afford wifi and are unable to secure a mobile phone contract. This leaves them reliant on ‘pay as you go’ 4G data, which is the most expensive and unreliable way to get online. As the cost of living crisis continues to impact household budgets, more and more people in Leeds are finding they have to ration data to keep costs down or can’t afford data at all. According to a recent report by the Centre for Social Justice, 42% of those on low incomes without access to the internet at home are of working age. Alongside lack of connectivity, people experiencing digital exclusion often do not have a suitable digital device and lack the digital skills and confidence to make the most of the internet.

100% Digital Leeds has supported our network of hundreds of partner organisations delivering digital inclusion support across the city to provide thousands of people with free connectivity via schemes such as Good Things Foundation’s National Databank, Vodafone’s Charities Connected, and Hubbub’s Community Calling.

“Thank you so much for the data. It’s meant I’ve been able to call the perinatal mental health team and arrange a different appointment for my anxiety and depression. With four children, all of us in a one-bed flat, being able to keep in touch with people makes such a difference to me.”

Parent supported by a Family Support Worker

The scale of data poverty

In a cost of living crisis, paying for the internet is an expense many people are unable to justify. According to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, across the UK, an estimated 1 million people have cut back or cancelled internet packages in the past year due to affordability issues. A recent report by the House of Lords said 1.7 million UK households had no access to broadband or mobile data in 2021. People on Universal Credit are more than six times as likely to have disconnected compared to people not claiming Universal Credit. As well as those on low incomes, people living without secure housing or with a poor credit rating are especially likely to experience digital poverty.

Whilst there are no accurate figures to ascertain the number of people experiencing data poverty in Leeds it is fair to assume that a high percentage of people living in poverty or on a low income will be unable to afford connectivity.

According to the Leeds Poverty Fact Book:

  • In October 2022 there were 72,701 Universal Credit claimants in Leeds, 43,819 of whom were not in work.
  • In 2023 there are 105,554 people living in absolute poverty before household costs.
  • 41,703 people accessed a foodbank in 2021/22 and 65,829 food parcels were given out informally via other emergency food provisions.
  • In 2021, before the most recent cost of living crisis, 55,274 household in Leeds experienced fuel poverty.

Digital exclusion makes it harder for people to manage their finances and keep costs down. Those unable to get online can’t use price comparison sites to find the best deals, can’t benefit from the discount that often comes with buying goods and services online, and can’t use online banking and budgeting tools to manage their money.

“Nearly seven million people in Great Britain are paying multiple poverty premiums and this costs them nearly £500 extra a year for essential goods and services, including food, insurance, and credit. Digital exclusion is likely to increase the costs consumers pay as goods can be more expensive offline. Without internet access, consumers can pay as much as 25% more on essential goods and services.”

Left Out: How to tackle digital exclusion and reduce the poverty premium.

The worst-off financially are also more likely to be multiply disadvantaged due to disability, immigration status, physical and mental health issues, having caring responsibilities or being socially isolated. In an increasingly online world, digital poverty limits people’s ability to access housing, employment, health services, training and education, and stay connected with friends and family.

Taking a community-based approach to data gifting

100% Digital Leeds works with hundreds of partners across the city working with and within communities most likely to be experiencing digital exclusion. We work with those partners across many different settings – third sector, public sector, health and care – to strengthen the digital inclusion infrastructure in communities to increase digital access, engagement and participation. This means digital inclusion support is embedded within the services that are already used and trusted by the people in our city experiencing data poverty.

As well as offering support with digital skills and confidence, and access to equipment, many of our partners gift SIM cards providing free data, calls, and texts, to those who need it most. Coupling SIM gifting with digital skills support and the loan of equipment means that recipients are supported to make the most of the data. Beneficiaries are identified via services people on low incomes are likely to use such as food banks, welfare support, and employability services. Partners gifting SIMs include Community Centres, Libraries, Children’s Centres, GP surgeries, and banks.

“Giving out data has been a massive success for us, not only being able to give something to families that struggle on a daily basis with the cost of living but enabling them to make regular contact with services. We are keen to empower families and this really helps. Something so small really can make a difference to someone’s life.”

Elkie Jones, Family Outreach Worker

Learn more about the Leeds approach to data gifting

In September, 100% Digital Leeds is hosting two events focussed on data gifting as part of Leeds Digital Festival. Attendees will be able to find out more about our approach to gifting data, and how they can support people to access free data.

Tackling data poverty in Leeds: a community-based approach to gifting SIMs

Monday 18 September 2023, 1-2pm, on Zoom. Book your free ticket via Eventbrite.

This webinar will highlight our cross-sector strategic approach to data-gifting, and how this enables people struggling to afford connectivity to access the digital tools and services they need to support their health, employability, and social inclusion. We will share how the use of the National Databank supports the implementation of the city’s Digital Strategy.

Speakers will include:

  • 100% Digital Leeds discussing the importance of connectivity as a foundation of Leeds Digital Strategy and outlining the work they are doing to combat digital exclusion and data poverty.
  • Good Things Foundation discussing the National Databank.
  • Leeds Libraries sharing their experience of implementing SIM gifting as part of libraries’ digital inclusion offer and the positive outcomes that have come about as a result.
  • Positive Action For Refugees and Asylum Seekers (Pafras) talking about their experience with data gifting and the impact this has on the people who access their services.
  • Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust discussing how SIM gifting via the National Databank has enabled the 0-19 Public Health Integrated Nursing Service to support parents experiencing data poverty to engage with Baby Bubble Leeds.
  • Virgin Money explaining how, as the first bank in the UK to sign up to the National Databank, they became involved with SIM gifting and how that fits in with their corporate strategy.

Making the National Databank work for you: supporting effective SIM gifting

Thursday 28 September, 2-3pm at Leeds Central Library. Book your free ticket via Eventbrite.

This event at Leeds Central Library is aimed at partner organisations that are already part of the National Databank and looking for practical ways to improve their SIM gifting offer, those interested in joining the National Databank and looking for support, or those wanting to know more about SIM gifting in Leeds so they can signpost to existing support.

Speakers include:

  • 100% Digital Leeds outlining Leeds’s pioneering community-based approach to data-gifting and the work 100% Digital Leeds are doing to combat digital exclusion and data poverty.
  • Good Things Foundation sharing information about the National Databank, including demonstrating recent changes to the website that have streamlined the process. They will be on-hand to troubleshoot and offer advice on how to overcome any challenges to signing up to the Databank or gifting SIMs.
  • Leeds Libraries will share their experience of implementing SIM gifting as part of libraries’ digital inclusion offer and the positive outcomes that have come about as a result.
  • Virgin Money will share how and where organisations can signpost people to their SIM gifting service, and speak about some of the other services they offer to those looking to better manage their finances.
  • The Old Fire Station will talk about how they identify beneficiaries via services such as their community food pantry.

Partner profile: Royal Mencap’s Positive Changes Group

Royal Mencap’s vision is a world where people with a learning disability are valued equally, listened to, and included. Matt Bellbrough, Community Partner at Royal Mencap, has worked with 100% Digital Leeds to set up the Positive Changes group.

Royal Mencap is a member of the Autism and Learning Disabilities Digital Inclusion Network (ALaDDIN) and the Positive Changes group of community connectors are taking steps to make life easier for people with learning disabilities in Leeds, including supporting digital inclusion.

Developing the partnership with 100% Digital Leeds has been one of the best connections I have made with my role. Through the excellent ALaDDIN network I have been able to make connections with other organisations and from those create opportunities that I wouldn’t have been able to do before. For the Positive Changes group, 100% Digital Leeds have been there to offer advice, encouragement and directly work with the group so that digital inclusion plays a big part in the project.

Matt Bellbrough, Community Partner, Royal Mencap

Matt works alongside two paid employees with learning disabilities, Maisie and Robert, and a team of volunteers with learning disabilities. The group meet regularly to explore community assets in Leeds and to give out small pots of funding to organisations who are working with people with learning disabilities. Maisie, Robert and the Positive Changes volunteers are involved in all aspects of the group’s work. This includes deciding which organisations the group can offer funding to, planning and making digital ‘How to…’ guides, and helping to organise the Positive Digital Walks. Their work has enabled them to learn new digital skills, as well as passing these onto others.

After borrowing iPads from Leeds Libraries’ tablet lending scheme to explore how access to tablets could support the Positive Changes volunteers to bring more digital in to their activities, the group have received a grant which will be used to purchase digital equipment which the group will use for their activities in the future.

Digital ‘How to…’ guides.

The Positive Changes volunteers are keen to share their talents with other people with learning disabilities and to inspire others to try new activities. Matt has worked closely with several members of the group to coproduce short ‘How to…’ video guides which help people to learn new skills, from Zumba to sign language.

This work is important as traditional digital instruction guides can be inaccessible for people with learning disabilities. These ‘How to…’ guides are made by people with learning disabilities, for people with learning disabilities. The Positive Changes group are inspiring their peers to try new activities while building their own skills and confidence.

The Positive Changes group have worked closely with 100% Digital Leeds to make accessible guides which can help people to complete activities online, such as using google maps to plan a journey.

Follow this link to see the Positive Changes ‘How to…’ guides.

Video guide on how to use Google

Positive Digital Walks

Working closely with the 100% Digital team, the Positive Changes group organised Positive Digital Walks. These are an opportunity for people with learning disabilities to visit a new place in Leeds, get some exercise and to be social.

There are always a range of digital activities available for people on the walks, from using apps to identify bird songs to using apps which can count steps and help people improve their fitness. This means that staff and members can experiment with digital technologies in a non-threatening environment where there is support on hand.

There are many Leeds groups who attend the walks, including the Halo group from the Hamara Centre and the friendship group from LEEP One. The first walk was hosted at the Hamara Centre and was attended by over 70 people.

“It was really nice to see the Positive Changes volunteers helping our members to learn digital skills.  We are going to start using that app with the guys back at the house as I think they would get a lot out of it and it will help them to build their digital confidence.”

Staff member, Aspire

“I really enjoyed seeing a new place and learning something new.  I’ve downloaded this Seek app and I’m going to use it at home.”

Customer, Aspire


Royal Mencap are passionate about breaking down barriers to the workplace. In the United Kingdom, only 4.8% of adults with a learning disability known to adult social care in England are in paid work (NHS Digital, 2022).

One of the Positive Changes volunteers applied for his job with a video CV.  Matt has also worked closely with Positive Futures to ensure that Maisie and Robert receive the support they need to flourish in the workplace.

How to make a video CV

Next Steps

The Positive Changes project is funded until June 2024, and is working on securing funding to continue longer term. The project is looking to develop its work with a focus on supporting families and carers.

Royal Mencap will continue to work closely with 100% Digital Leeds to make digital activities fun, relevant and accessible for people with learning disabilities. They are currently working closely with Leeds City Council’s travel task group to create an accessible video guide which will show people how they can feedback on public transport.

There are also plans for more Positive Digital Walks, where people with learning disabilities will be able to enjoy a variety of digital activities.

If you would like to find out more, or are interested in working with the group, please contact:

Supporting employability for people with learning disabilities and autistic people

It is well known that having access to meaningful employment opportunities can make an incredibly positive difference to people’s lives. Being in employment usually means that people are better off financially and have access to workplace benefits such as pensions.  Furthermore, being in work can give people the chance to socialise and build their self confidence, and can offer people a routine and sense of purpose.  However, according to NHS digital, only 5.1% of adults with a learning disability known to their local authority in England, is in paid work. 

The 100% Digital Leeds team believes that digital inclusion can help people to gain and retain employment, and our Autism and Learning Disability Digital Inclusion Coordinator has been working closely with partners in our Autism and Learning Disabilities Digital Inclusion Network, and others supporting people with learning disabilities and autistic people citywide, to improve employment outcomes for their members. 

Embedding digital inclusion into Developing You

Developing You is a free, twelve week training programme for adults with learning disabilities and autistic people, which explores issues around wellbeing and work. The group takes part in a range of activities to learn about the world of work, identifying their own skills and interests, thinking about what jobs they might be suited to, and identifying the steps they could take to get there.

Hear how previous learners have benefitted from attending the Developing You course.

100% Digital Leeds has worked with Pyramid to ensure that digital skills have been embedded into the Developing You course.  Our Autism and Learning Disability Digital Inclusion Coordinator has attended sessions to ensure that bespoke digital interventions are planned to support the needs of students, and has worked closely with tutors in the planning of the course.  She has also worked with tutors so that they feel confident signposting members for further digital support where required.

“Nicky made lots of helpful suggestions for how we could make using digital devices fun for the group and it has been great to see their confidence grow when it comes to activities like taking photographs or sending emails. Nicky shared advice and an accessible video CV guide with us which will enable members of the group who struggle to read and write apply for jobs. She also demonstrated how to use the accessible ‘Through the Maze,’ and ‘Being Employed Leeds,’ websites. These will be very useful tools for the group to use to find further social and employability opportunities in Leeds.”

Wendy, Developing You tutor.

The fourth cohort is running from September 2023. The course is open to people in the Leeds area aged 18+. Attending will not affect any entitlement to benefits that they may have. For referrals contact

Developing a guide to creating video CVs

100% Digital Leeds has worked with partners such as the Involvement Team at Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (LYPFT) to help people create video CVs and application forms as an alternative way to apply for jobs. Making a video CV is not appealing to everyone, but it can remove barriers for people who struggle to read and write or who may be overwhelmed by traditional application forms. 

A written and video guide coproduced with people with learning disabilities has been created for people to use at home, or for organisations to use with their members. The guides can be accessed via the Being Employed Leeds website.

A video guide to creating video CVs

A member of the People Matters Employability Group, was recently successful in securing part time employment after creating a video CV:

“I applied for my job as a Community Connector with a video CV. We had a session at People Matters where we were taught about video CVs, and we were shown how to make them step by step. It was much easier for me to make a video CV than to make a written CV as it was quicker, and I didn’t have to worry as much about having to type up lots of words which takes a long time. I’d like other people with learning disabilities to learn about video CVs too as they can take away a barrier to getting a job, especially for people who can’t read and write very well. Having a job is important for me and it is incredibly important for other people with learning disabilities too. It means that I get out of the house, and I get to meet people regularly. It gives me a really good feeling to know that I am helping people. It also gives me money to spend on the things that I want and enables me to have a better quality of life.”

Robert, Community Connector at People Matters.

Inclusive employment film

Using money awarded from Inclusion International, 100% Digital Leeds worked with Pyramid and a team of people with learning disabilities to create a film to educate employers on how they can make their workplaces more inclusive, including supporting digital inclusion and improving access to accessible technologies.

The film, which launched in April 2023 with a screening at Leeds Industrial Museum, 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. 

Employment in Leeds video

Since its completion, the film has also been shared internationally at an Inclusion International workshop where it was viewed and well received by partners in South America, India, Africa and Europe. It was screened in Leeds market for Learning Disability Week and at the LEEP 1/Advonet Annual General Meeting (AGM).  It has since been shared with a range of local and national partners including REED, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and Touchstone. There are plans to screen the film at the next Leeds Inclusive Employment Forum. 

“The video not just for us, it is for all people. There are other people with disabilities who also want to think about getting jobs. We need a lot of help, everyone needs to be trying.”

Oliver, group member at Pyramid.

Future plans

100% Digital Leeds will continue to work on digital inclusion projects for people with learning disabilities, and will have a focus on projects that help people to manage their money and to access employment opportunities. Please contact our Autism and Learning Disability Digital Inclusion Coordinator if you are interested in working together or finding out more:

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