Working with the Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Community

Leeds GATE and 100% Digital Leeds are working together to increase digital inclusion and improve health and wellbeing outcomes for the Gypsy and Traveller community across Leeds. The average life expectancy of a Gypsy or Traveller in Leeds is just 50 years old. We know that digital inclusion can help people live happier, healthier, longer lives. Research from 2018 found that the digital exclusion rates among the Gypsy and Traveller community were more than double that of the UK national average. 


This work aims to: 

  • Identify and highlight the existing digital inclusion inequalities and barriers that Gypsies and Travellers experience and bring them to a wider audience.
  • Gather insights, evidence and case studies to illustrate the benefits of digital inclusion. 
  • Ensure people in the Gypsy and Traveller community can make the most of being online, improving their health and wellbeing, access to information and awareness of online services. 
  • Continue development of Leeds GATE staff as advocates for digital. 
  • Embed digital inclusion interventions and activities within services and projects delivered by Leeds GATE.


The lockdowns during the pandemic brought a sudden shift to digital working and digital-first access to services. Leeds GATE were very aware that their members were in danger of being further left behind. With adult literacy rates low, many people not completing a formal school-based education and 60% of community members having no qualifications, there was a real risk of the digital shift excluding Gypsies and Travellers.  

Leeds GATE conducted some initial research which showed that, of 71 people interviewed:  

  • One family had a tablet.
  • 68% of households had a smart phone.
  • 37% had wifi (of which 50% house, 50% trailer).
  • 62% had no internet connection or used mobile data.

There was a desire to have better digital access. Leeds GATE contacted 100% Digital Leeds and we worked together to explore digital exclusion in this community and remove some of the practical barriers Gypsies and Travellers. 

“I don’t have wifi at home and I have a lot to learn when it comes to digital technology. I did have a smartphone but just as I was getting more confident with it, it broke. I’d like to be able to use the internet for things like staying in touch with friends and family and shopping. Some of my family use the internet but I’m not sure what for, a lot of it is still a mystery to me.

I’d like to be able to book appointments, arrange doctors’ appointments and get emails. The more I use it the more confident I will get but it’s particularly tricky at the moment to get that consistency that I need to learn and pick up new skills. It’s an issue that most travellers have no access to the internet.”  

Volunteer at Leeds GATE

Digital inclusion workshops 

One of the first things GATE and 100% Digital Leeds did when their relationship started was to offer a series of collaborative workshops to GATE staff and volunteers. As many staff as possible are included in the workshops so that understanding of digital inclusion is shared across all levels and not confined to delivery staff or volunteers. The workshops are designed to take the organisation on their own digital inclusion journey that includes:

  • Understand the barriers to digital inclusion.
  • Identify how those barriers affect their service users.
  • Identify opportunities to remove barriers within existing service delivery.
  • Identify gaps in current offer and any additional resources needed.
  • How to fill the gaps and ensure delivery of digital inclusion becomes business as usual.
  • Regularly re-examine barriers, continue to expand understanding of current or changing user needs and build capacity to meet those needs.

The workshops also help the 100% Digital Leeds team to learn more about the digital inclusion challenges faced by organisations and their service users. Understanding this lived experience informs the 100% Digital Leeds approach to digital inclusion. The workshops are often the starting point for the ongoing relationships and partnerships between 100% Digital Leeds and teams, organisations and settings across the city.

Progress to date

Leeds GATE have:

  • Distributed 60 iPhones with free unlimited calls and texts and 12 months’ worth of data gifted to families through the Community Calling scheme. 100% Digital Leeds and Leeds GATE worked together to ensure the devices and data went to digitally excluded people and families who had no means of getting online.   
  • Received £3,000 from Amazon’s Community Donation scheme. This money went towards their community programme which is focused on providing support to children who need extra help in three core areas: Supporting basic needs and creating a positive environment; Developing skills; Providing career guidance and opportunities. All of these elements will have digital inclusion embedded in the delivery.
  • Secured funding and refurbished laptops for their communities. A list of families was drawn up and families in greatest need were prioritised. A particular barrier for families was home educating without a digital device. It was also found that families with young people had more digital skills so were also more likely to be able to use devices. Leeds GATE have provided 59 devices in total: 10 refurbished laptops provided by Lloyds Bank, 28 laptops purchased through Leeds GATE project funds, 21 tablets purchased through Leeds GATE project funds.
  • Incorporated building digital skills into all of their projects in a ‘Think Digital’ approach. They have been working to increase staff skills and confidence through one-to-one sessions and the team are now more confident in using Zoom, collaborating via Microsoft teams and making more effective use of Social Media. Leeds GATE are also developing individual learning plans for some of their members to enhance their digital learning. 
  • Registered as an Online Centre and set up an account on Learn My Way, giving their members access to online learning modules to develop their digital skills and confidence. GATE have been continuing to monitor laptop recipients and encouraging them to try the modules and develop their digital skills.
  • Delivered courses for their members such as sessions with Forward Leeds and Livewell Leeds promoting good health. More members having access to technology, devices and data has allowed larger participation in these programmes.

“I am home-educating my son and the laptop we borrowed has been fantastic and made a lot of things easier. My daughter has her own smartphone which she helps me to use too. She’s shown us Facetime via her phone and video chatting on the laptop so we’re able to keep in touch with family in London. It’s been handy for me to keep up with information that we receive via email from GATE such as health advice and important updates.

I think there are still big challenges in the Gypsy and Traveller community regarding the internet. One of my good friends who lives in a trailer has no internet and she can’t access a lot of things. For families living in trailers, I think it is a really good thing as there is not a lot of space for toys or paperwork so doing some of that online is a real practical help.” 

Family member at Leeds GATE

Next steps

  • 100% Digital Leeds and Leeds GATE continue to work together to develop the digital inclusion offer within the organisation so that more Gypsies and Travellers become digitally included.
  • Look for further funding opportunities to bring more investment into digital inclusion for the Gypsy and Traveller communities in Leeds.
  • Continue to embed digital inclusion activity into existing groups and interactions so that digital can be a fully functional part of people’s lives and not another barrier.
  • Develop the digital health offer within Leeds GATE to reduce health inequalities for GATE members.