Nurture@Kentmere Helping Families in Boggart Hill

Nurture@Kentmere are a parent led community support group that aims to break down the barriers of isolation that often come with parenthood. They have created a safe, non-judgmental environment for parents and carers of young children to be able to engage and share. They run regular groups and community events such as crafts, educational groups, clothes exchange and other services that are needed in the area, including helping people to get online.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hopefully when we can run face-to-face sessions we can once again allow group members to use the tablets, but they know they can message us in the meantime and we will do what we can.  We had a member contact us as their friend had no food or warm clothes, so we were able to coordinate with our local charity shop to organise some clothing, as well as making a referral to a food bank and getting as much information as possible.  The outcome of this was that we were able to provide the person with some donated clothes to keep them warm, food, and information on next steps.  Without the iPad this would have been very difficult and it is this kind of thing that makes a massive difference to people’s lives.” 

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

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

Anita Goodman, Nurture

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

Tablet Lending at LATCH

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

LATCH

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

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

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

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

Tablet lending

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

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

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

Mark Stainton, Personal Coach at LATCH

Impact

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

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

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

Mark Stainton, Personal Coach at LATCH

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

Future plans

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

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

Mark Stainton, Personal Coach at LATCH

Online arts and culture for health and wellbeing webinars

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

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

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

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

Arts engagement can support improved mental health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arts and culture as motivators for digital inclusion

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

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

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

Amy Hearn, Digital Inclusion Coordinator, 100% Digital Leeds

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

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

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

A series of 3 lunchtime webinars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Becoming a Digital Champion

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

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

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

Delivering our Digital Health Hub through Lockdown

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

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

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

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

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

Developing our virtual offer of activities and digital support

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

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

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

Keeping Well at Home Course

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

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

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

Impact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Health and Wellbeing sessions

We then explored nutrition and recipes, members expressed:

“Cooking for one isn’t the same”

“I only eat ready meals since my husband died”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Developing further digital skills

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

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

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

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

For more information or to get in touch: Samantha@crossgatesgns.org.uk

“Supporting members to stay connected through the pandemic”

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

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

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

Digital Champions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sylvia, aged 78

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

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

Lending devices to members

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

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

Colin, aged 72

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

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

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

Joan, aged 68

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How we collaboratively designed and built a toolkit in 12 weeks

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

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

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

The design brief

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

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

Here’s what we did know:

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

Design research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to design

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An open source WordPress theme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Supporting our members through lockdown with digital”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guest post from Amanda and Amy from Memory Lane :

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

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

Developing the digital offer

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

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

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

Trialling Alexa’s

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

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

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

Digital Champions

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

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

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

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

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

Impact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Digital Inclusion Toolkit – Call for Feedback

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

What We’re Thinking About

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

What We’ve Been Doing

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

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

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

What’s Next?

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

Request for Feedback

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