Your Back Yard care homes project

Your Back Yard is a Leeds based social enterprise who work with local communities to support healthy lifestyles. Over the last nine months the organisation has delivered digital skills sessions across six care homes in Leeds. When working with care settings 100% Digital Leeds identified a gap in digital skills support provision. The team partnered with  Your Back Yard to address this issues, supporting the organisation to apply for Awards For All funding to improve outcomes for residents through digital inclusion and to explore approaches to digital support. Your Back Yard worked with the University of Leeds to further explore the outcomes of the digital sessions.

“Because of the age group of the people we look after a lot have never come across an iPad. Is there going to be a benefit? There absolutely is. Doing this and giving them new skills gives them a new lease of life, they’ve got something to aim for.”

Staff member, Rothwell Nursing Home

Your Back Yard

Your Back Yard is experienced in working with older people to support digital skills and confidence. The organisation has developed a digital inclusion offer within their core service. They have worked with 100% Digital Leeds on many projects, and have previously delivered digital skills sessions in sheltered accommodation schemes.

The 100% Digital Leeds team’s ongoing work across the care sector through the care homes key initiative has identified the need for digital support in care and the barriers to digital inclusion in those settings. These include:

  • Lack of suitable digital infrastructure.
  • Low levels of confidence with digital tools and technology.
  • Reluctance among people with care and support needs, or their carers, to use technology.
  • Lack of capacity and resource, and ineligibility for most funding schemes which are predominantly for the VSCE sector.

“I feel that a significant barrier for us would be that not everybody is IT savvy and it may take time to train staff. Our wifi system is not good enough and could go down.”

Adults and Health, Summary Digital Assessment of Care Providers in Leeds

Through conversations, test and learn projects, and relationship building with different parts of the care sector, 100% Digital Leeds sought to further understand the barriers that care settings face to engaging in a meaningful way with digital tools and resources. It was highlighted that the sector itself had limited capacity, resources, or understanding of the benefits to digital inclusion to deliver their own programmes of work. Because of Your Back Yard’s previous experience 100% Digital Leeds approached them to partner on this project, bringing capacity to the sector to address the need for digital skills support in care.

Tweet from Leeds City Council’s Care Quality Team.

Developing the digital skills support offer

100% Digital Leeds supported Your Back Yard to apply for funding from Awards for All to deliver digital skills sessions in care homes over nine months. The intended outcomes of the project were that:

  • Residents would develop their digital skills and confidence.
  • Residents would be able to connect digitally with families and friends.
  • Using digital tools and technology would give residents a feeling of being in a community, rather than alone.
  • The sessions would physically bring residents from within the homes together, into communal areas where they will learn together, socialise together and become a closer community.

The care sector in Leeds is large, with over 140 residential care homes across the city. 100% Digital Leeds worked with the Service Transformation Team in Adults and Health in Leeds City Council to focus Your Back Yard’s offer. They collaborated to identify care homes that would be more likely to take up the offer of support. The Service Transformation Team are providing some care homes in Leeds with funding to move from paper records to a Digital Social Care Record (DSCR). It was these care homes that were prioritised, taking a holistic approach by providing digital skills support for residents alongside the implementation of the care home’s new digital care tools. With a real shift towards digital becoming an essential part of a caregiver’s day to day responsibility, embedding digital inclusion into this process meant that care homes could see the further benefits of digital for staff and residents.

Over the course of nine months Your Back Yard worked with:

  • Dolphin Manor Care Home, in Rothwell.
  • Headingley Hall Care Home, in Headingley.
  • Horsforth Manor Care Home, in Horsforth.
  • Rothwell Nursing Home, in Rothwell.
  • Seacroft Grange Care Village, in Seacroft.
  • Springfield Care Home, in Garforth.

Your Back Yard bought iPads to support with the sessions and designed session plans for the residents covering practical and transferrable skills like emails, social media, and using virtual platforms such as Zoom.

The importance of a person-centred approach

Early on in the sessions Your Back Yard encountered issues with engagement. They found that residents attended the first session but then lost interest and did not attend future sessions. They explored the reasons for the lack of engagement with staff and discovered that the session themes being offered weren’t familiar to residents, who couldn’t see the relevance of the skills sessions to their own day to day life. Your Back Yard adapted the sessions, incorporating a more person-centred approach to further understand the residents’ needs and interests.

“Rachael at Your Back Yard played a pivotal role in explaining concepts with patience and empathy, contributing to overall positive outcomes. Despite instances of hesitancy and lack of confidence among some participants, efforts were made to address confusion and provide additional support.”

University of Leeds, Impact of Digital Inclusion Workshops on Attendees.

100% Digital Leeds and Your Back Yard visited the residents to chat with them about their hobbies and interests and to create relational connections with the group. Residents were shown jigsaw apps on the iPads as they were chatting and interacting, introducing digital in a very informal way alongside the residents reminiscing and talking about their lives. The jigsaw apps had already been successfully used by partners in the Older People’s Digital Inclusion Network and were known to be popular as they are fun and familiar.

This person-centred approach meant that sessions were now tailored to the interests, abilities, and needs of each resident. After adapting the approach and better understanding the need, attendance at the digital skills sessions became more consistent because the support was now relevant and appropriate to the residents. The key to this approach was a willingness to be flexible in terms of delivery and the ability to pivot based on residents’ needs and attitudes to learning during the session.

“It’s difficult to understand what type of sessions this group benefits from. Sometimes they work best with word and brain games, other times creative stuff, other times practical games. It’s hard creating sessions that cater towards everyone’s interests.”

Rachael Tierney, Digital Worker, Your Back Yard.

In some sessions Your Back Yard found that residents would be willing to try a new game, a new website or try a new skill that they had not done before, like taking selfies with the camera on the tablets. However the same group in the next week would be unwilling to try anything new and would want to go back to familiar games or websites. Your Back Yard were able to flex with the needs and interests of the groups at any one time which meant that residents stayed enthusiastic about joining in. This approach meant that the project could go at the appropriate pace for the learners without them feeling pressured to stick to pre-set plans.

Care home staff involvement was key to the residents’ engagement and participation. Staff already had a trusted relationship with each individual and could get them involved and enthused about the sessions in both the lead-up and during.

“Two of the people I supported were a couple. The wife lived independently in the apartment side and the husband was on the dementia ward. The wife came to some sessions and thoroughly enjoyed them, so much so that she brought her husband along to the remainder of the sessions. Despite struggling with dementia, her husband picked up the concept of iPads really quickly and found a lot of enjoyment in playing games. It was incredible to see them work together so closely and watch the husband learn from his wife, as she helped him and showed him how to play certain games. The digital sessions helped them to connect over something they both enjoyed, something they had struggled to do due to the husband’s dementia diagnosis. It was a real testament to the importance of digital sessions, as they were finally able to enjoy doing an activity together.”

Rachael Tierney, Digital Worker, Your Back Yard.

Exploring barriers and breaking down preconceptions

On an initial visit to one care home, staff were hesitant as they were concerned about their poor connectivity and what their residents would be able to gain from digital skills support. The care home had not received an offer like this before and didn’t understand the benefits. The wifi wasn’t strong and didn’t extend beyond the office and because of this, residents previously hadn’t been supported with digital activities.

Your Back Yard knew that a lack of digital infrastructure is a barrier to digital inclusion faced by many care settings and were able to provide iPads with inbuilt connectivity to support the skills sessions. Your Back Yard were able to allay concerns by providing examples of digital activities they could offer and what benefit this might have for staff and residents and the home agreed to host the sessions.

One resident supported was John, who was hesitant at first about his ability to use the iPad. John is fairly young in comparison to other residents at Mulgrave House, and he was particularly keen on becoming more digitally included. He had worked in a fire station but acknowledged that this was before the digitisation of the service so he had missed out on using digital tools and technology in his working career. John loved the digital sessions as he was supported to use digital tools he found interesting and useful. Your Back Yard showed John how to use Borrow Box, BBC iPlayer, and BBC Sounds. He was so engaged that he borrowed the iPad for six weeks and used it to read books, listen to podcasts, and watch films and tv shows in his own time.

“In our first session, I showed John how to use Google Earth, and we spent the entire session looking at different places of significance in his life. We looked at the place he went to university, the place he grew up, and other places he hasn’t visited in years. It was extremely encouraging to see John so enthused by something so simple and accessible. I think it was really interesting for him to see how much certain places have or haven’t changed in the years since he’s visited them.”

Rachael Tierney, Digital Worker, Your Back Yard.

Another resident who received one to one support was Bob, who suffers from Aphasia after having a stroke, which means he is unable to speak. Bob loves motorbikes, so Your Back Yard spent a few sessions with him playing motorbike games and watching motorbike related videos on YouTube. Bob eventually secured his own iPad from a speech and language therapist.

The apps on the iPad were mainly speech related. Through using digital tools for speech and language Bob regained the ability to have a voice, he could use the iPad to communicate. When he got bored or tired of doing these, Your Back Yard would play games with him on their iPads, which he loved. By using this approach, the digital work that Bob was taking part in to improve his health was broken up by more fun activities, ‘digital for work’ was tempered by ‘digital for fun’. By using digital for the things he was passionate about, like motorbikes, he not only consolidated his digital skills but ensured that he stayed engaged and more likely to use the speech and language apps in the future. 

Tweet from Your Back Yard.

Challenges overcome and lessons learned

Over the course of nine months Your Back Yard overcame many challenges, adapting the offer regularly to support the needs of each individual care home and resident. The key components to ensuring meaningful care home engagement were:

  • Delivering a welcome session with staff and residents to introduce the offer and understand the needs.
  • Building relationships with the care home and with residents.
  • Taking a person-centred approach.
  • Modelling positive digital behaviour with staff to ensure sustainability of the work.
  • Creating an engaging atmosphere by using fun and familiar digital tools, like games.
  • Working with residents in small groups, building in peer support opportunities.

In preparation for the sessions Your Back Yard researched free apps linked to hobbies and interests familiar to residents. They looked for apps free from potentially confusing elements such as pop-up ads. From this Your Back Yard created a recommended apps list that they found beneficial when working with residents.

“The positive impact of the digital inclusion sessions on residents’ social well-being also cannot be understated. All participants expressed satisfaction with the socialisation opportunities provided during the sessions. Not only do these sessions provide a platform for learning, but also are vital in fostering a sense of community and belonging among participants.”

University of Leeds, Impact of Digital Inclusion Workshops on Attendees.

Next steps

The Awards for All funding was for 12 months, finishing at the end of June 2024. While the Your Back Yard project was on a short funded timescale, supporting digital inclusion in care settings remains an ongoing focus for the 100% Digital Leeds team. Valuable learning and insights into the digital landscape in care acquired from the project will enable 100% Digital Leeds to better shape and define the offer going forward. This includes case studies that demonstrate the benefits of engaging with digital which could be used as best practice for other care homes interested in developing their own digital inclusion programmes.  

Rothwell Nursing Home expressed disappointment that the programme was coming to an end as it was clear that access to the iPad with support from Rachael was significantly beneficial to their members’ mental health and wellbeing.

“[The resident] was a much happier person when Rachael came every week to deliver the digital sessions. Seeing people’s reaction and change was amazing.”

Staff member, Rothwell Nursing Home

Since the programme ended the care home have received support from 100% Digital Leeds to borrow iPads from Leeds Libraries and the team have facilitated a connection with AbilityNet who are going to provide handover support across a few one-to-one sessions.

Other care homes have been motivated to buy their own equipment:

“Seacroft Grange residents have really enjoyed taking part in the digital sessions. We will be carrying on with this activity regularly.  We have recently purchased iPads to continue sessions with our residents.”

Activities Coordinator, Seacroft Grange Care Village.

“The residents have really enjoyed these sessions. We are hoping to have our new Samsung tablets in a couple of weeks to continue running the sessions in place of your visit.”

Activity Coordinator, Springfield Care Home.

This project forms part of a wider 100% Digital Leeds care settings initiative which contributes towards a Theory of Change model to help shape and design our care homes workstream, identifying priorities and how success is measured.

The four outcomes within the Theory of Change model are:

  • Care home staff have a greater awareness of digital inclusion and the benefits it can bring.
  • Care home staff embed digital inclusion within their service offer.
  • Care home residents use digital technology to support their wellbeing, inform their choices and increase/maintain social connections.
  • Care homes have increased digital resource and connectivity.

100% Digital Leeds will continue to explore the landscape of digital within the care sector. We will do this through increased relationship building, test and learn projects such as this one, further development work, assessing how to address the need, overcoming barriers to digital inclusion, and providing strategic support. The next step in the care homes workstream is the Arts in Care Digital Programme taking place in September.