A Community Campus Partnership for Health

CommUNIty is an initiative that builds sustainable partnerships between voluntary/community organisations and Leeds Beckett University with an emphasis on projects focused on health and wellbeing. The overarching goal is to find new, more effective ways to improve health and reduce health inequalities in communities.

Combining the resources and knowledge of community organisations with those of the University creates benefits for both partners: it improves knowledge exchange and gives staff from both sectors access to different sources of expertise, widens participation and opens up opportunities for students and research.

CommUNIty is part of the Institute for Health & Wellbeing, Leeds Beckett University and reflects the Institute’s ambition to be a centre of excellence for applied research that makes a difference to people’s lives.

Hamara/Leeds Beckett University Partnership

The Institute for Health & Wellbeing has recently established a strategic partnership with Hamara, a healthy living centre in Beeston, South Leeds, which aims to address health and wellbeing issues and social exclusion in this multi -ethnic community. Hamara is involved in a number of projects with a focus on health and wellbeing, older people, women's empowerment and youth work in addition to promoting community cohesion and inter-faith work. The centre also provides a range of culturally appropriate services including a community gym and cafe.

Links between Leeds Beckett University and Hamara were established in 2001. Since then the two organisations have worked closely together to form a strong partnership which has been effective in developing a number of initiatives including:

  • A collaborative evaluation of Hamara centre (2007), where staff from both organisations worked together to design the evaluation and undertake data collection.
  • ‘Bringing People Together’ – a Reflective Conference (2008) where Leeds Beckett University supported Hamara to hold a high profile community conference to celebrate Local Community Champions.
  • The Leeds Cab Drivers project (2012) a Pfizer funded joint project between Hamara and the Centre for Men’s Health, Leeds Beckett University aimed at helping taxi drivers overcome barriers to having healthy lifestyles.

The strategic partnership will develop a joint programme of research and enterprise focused on finding more effective and innovative ways that impact on health and health inequalities in the local communities that Hamara serves. Further benefits will be the identification of useful volunteering and placement opportunities which not only enhance the student experience and enable students to develop academic, employment related and personal skills but also contribute to Hamara’s growing agenda.


Leeds Cab Drivers Project

The Leeds Cab Drivers project (2012) is a Pfizer funded intervention that engages with taxi companies to deliver a culturally appropriate health education programme targeting South Asian male taxi drivers, a group which suffers high levels of chronic disease due to sedentary lifestyles, poor diet, long working hours and stress.  The 12 week programme, which is based on the Active Lifestyle Model (recognised by British Heart Foundation as a model of good practice) uses sport, culture and the arts to disseminate positive health messages while simultaneously getting people involved within physical activity.  Institute staff are working with Hamara to explore the potential effects of the intervention on the health behaviours of cab drivers and their families.

[Read more]



Haamla is part of the Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust and provides a unique service with essential ante-natal and post-natal support for women from Black and Minority Ethnic communities (including asylum seekers and refugees). Staff from the University have worked with Haamla since 2009, facilitated two "Vision for Haamla" events which brought together professionals, service users and partners to provide feedback on the achievements of the service and help identify a vision for strengthening the service. Leeds Beckett University acts as an independent facilitator, supporting a partnership forum and disseminating information about Haamla.

[Read more about Haamla]


A series of policy and practice workshops will be held in 2013 to promote knowledge exchange between local community organisations and the University.

Each workshop will focus on an emerging policy area, identifying the practical implications of these policies for the community organisations and jointly producing a briefing paper with implications and recommendations for the key sectors.

One set of seminars will be delivered in cooperation with Involve Yorkshire and Humber starting in May 2013. The first event will bring together representatives from Yorkshire’s new Health Watches and their local authority commissioners to discuss the opportunities and challenges involved in setting up local health and social care consumer organisations.

ESRC Festival of Social Science: Valuing Volunteers in Health and Social Care. What does research tell us?

As part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science, on 7th November 2013 Leeds Beckett University held a seminar presenting recent research about the scope of volunteering in health and social care. The well attended event considered the preconditions for building a thriving volunteer base and what current research shows about volunteering trends. The discussion also focused on what organisations can do to get citizens involved in the delivery of services and the role of national policies to support volunteering. The event featured presentations from recent research on volunteering carried out by Leeds Beckett University, The King’s Fund and the Institute of Volunteering Research. Presentation slides can be accessed via the links in the downloadable event briefing below.

Networking Seminar with Involve Yorkshire and Humber for Health Watches in the region and their commissioners – 16 May 2013

The event was an opportunity for representatives from the recently created local Health Watches in the Yorkshire and Humber region to meet with their commissioners. Attendees shared their experiences regarding the challenges of setting up these new organisations, which act as the local consumer champions for health and social care. The seminar enabled Health Watch staff and commissioners to identify development needs and a programme for future seminars to address them.

Workshop with Locality: Strengthening the voice of neighbourhoods – 17 July 2013

The workshop considered the implications of NHS reforms in England, in particular the setting up of CCGs and local Health and Wellbeing Boards, for neighbourhood organisations and the communities that they serve through capturing the experience of Locality members who are working in health and social care. Given that a central objective of the reforms is to foster greater responsiveness to local needs, working with the community and voluntary sector (CVS) should be a top priority for CCGs, HWBs and local authority public health professionals. Attendees were asked to comment on and improve a draft briefing paper that researchers from Leeds Beckett have been writing in conjunction with Locality.

News and Events

Sustaining a Thriving Third Sector - Thursday 23rd April, Hamara Healthy Living Centre, Leeds.

Measures of austerity adopted by the coalition government have resulted in significant cuts to local authority budgets. This in turn has resulted in a drop in funds available to third sector organisations to deliver core services. What’s more as local authorities seek to streamline existing services in order to balance the books, many third sector organisations are seeing a greater demand for the services they provide. In order to survive in these testing economic times charitable organisations are tasked with diversifying their streams of funding in search of a more resilient and sustainable model of income generation.

With the aforementioned backdrop, Community organised an event on 23rd April, designed to promote learning and debate around a range of developmental models which could help make local third sector organisations more resilient in times of austerity. The event commenced with a networking lunch, provided by Hamara. Then, after a formal launch and introduction, representatives of local charities and partner agencies who have adopted new and innovative ways of working presented the models which they have adopted. Models showcased included, Asset Based Community Development, Social enterprise and Cross-Sector Partnership building. A table debate and break followed, in which each table were asked to consider the models put forward and develop questions to put to a panel of experts. The event concluded with a panel debate.

New report authored by Leeds Beckett Professor shows Communities are key to health and wellbeing

A new guide, authored by Jane South, Professor of Healthy Communities within Leeds Beckett University’s Institute for Health and Wellbeing, which highlights the importance of communities to the improvement of health and wellbeing in the UK, has been published by Public Health England (PHE) and NHS England.

The guide has identified how local government and the NHS have important roles in building confident communities to improve health and reduce inequalities. Professor South has been working with PHE in the role of expert advisor on community approaches. It states that the move to a new health system, including the transfer of public health to local government, has created opportunities for public health and healthcare to become more person- and community-centred. The report and briefing, prepared by Professor South, is the culmination of a joint project between PHE and NHS England aiming to draw together and disseminate evidence on community-centred health programmes. A team at the Institute for Health and Wellbeing also contributed to the background research.

Professor South commented: “When it comes to health and wellbeing, communities matter. That's why the guide calls on local health partners to consider how community-centred approaches can be used to improve health and tackle health inequalities. These cover strengthening communities, increasing volunteering, involving citizens in local planning and improving access to community resources. The guide describes a wide range of UK models and signposts to sources of evidence. It's been great to have had the opportunity to work with PHE and NHS England to develop this guide, which I hope will now be used as a resource for public health planning and practice.”

Professor Ieuan Ellis, Dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences and Pro Vice Chancellor at Leeds Beckett, added: “'Authoring of this key national report from Public Health England and NHS England is further recognition of the major contribution and national impact of the research of Leeds Beckett's Professor Jane South. Jane provides inspirational research-informed thought leadership which is informing policy and transforming best practice through valuing the effective engagement of individuals and communities for health improvement.”

Professor South has led a number of national studies on peer and volunteering interventions in health. She is part of a team of academics who deliver real-world research focused on community health and inequalities.

The Institute for Health and Wellbeing at Leeds Beckett University has a strong track record of research, evaluation and public engagement on community engagement and volunteer roles in health, working with partners across local and national government, the NHS and third sector to build the evidence base and support effective practice. Our innovative Community-Campus partnership is a flagship initiative which aims to identify ways to bring academic and community knowledge together to improve health and wellbeing in local communities.

To read the full report, please see

The Community Champions Fair - 3rd November, St. George's Centre, Leeds.

CommUNIty is organising an event as part of the ESRC's annual festival of social science The event is titled 'The Community Champions Fair' and will be held at the St. George's Centre in Leeds on 3rd November, 2014. The fair will provide a lively and vibrant forum for debate and knowledge sharing about Community Health Champions and similar lay health approaches.

The event will seek to address the key questions:

  • Who are Community Health Champions?
  • What is the value of Community Health Champion approach?
  • How can the Community Health Champion approach contribute to the mix of statutory and third sector provision in health and social care?

Drawing on findings from research on community champions conducted at Leeds Beckett University, the event will present high-quality social science research as a resource for community members; a tool for application of national policy at community level; and a means of complementing experiential knowledge of what works at grassroots level.

The event will feature stalls managed by Community Health Champions; ‘soap box’ presentations; demonstrations and performances showcasing the work of Community Health Champions; and a panel discussion with an opportunity for questions.

The event is aimed at voluntary and community organisations, volunteers, and the general public; and may also be of interest to health and social care practitioners and commissioners.

You can register for the event through Eventbrite

Influence NICE guidelines on community engagement – your chance to be involved!

The Centre for Public Health (CPH) at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is updating its guideline on community engagement – the updated guideline is expected to be published in January 2016. For more information please see the scope:

Leeds Beckett University and the University of East London have been commissioned to produce a mapping report looking at current and emerging community engagement policy and practices in the UK.

In particular, we want to find out about what is happening in practice. We have set up a Register of Interest, where we are inviting individuals and organisations to give brief details of any current/past community engagement projects. We are also interested in any published or unpublished material (from 2000 onwards) that you may have in relation to your project around community engagement. We will then review this as part of our mapping of activity.

There is also an opportunity for you to register your project as a potential case study. We will be selecting case study sites based on early findings from the mapping review.

Please follow this link, and scroll down the page, to access the Register:

If you are having any problems filling in the online form or would rather deal with somebody directly please get in touch with Dr Anne-Marie Bagnall ( or Dr Joanne Trigwell (

Men’s Health Week at St. George’s Crypt - 9th -15th June 2014

At St. George's Crypt from Monday June 9th to the 13th there will be a series of events to mark International Men's Health Week for homeless men in Leeds. It will include music, theatre, chiropody, physical fitness, massage, manicure, food and meditation. Through the week health workers from a variety of services will share information and seek conversations (rather than consultations) to deliver positive health messages. The event is a partnership between St. George's Crypt, York Street Health Practice / Leeds Community Healthcare, Leeds Beckett University and Leeds City Council. The Crypt is a major centre of welcome and well-being for homeless people. John Walsh, Service Manager from York Street said, " This is a sign that we are committed to celebrating men's health week by making sure that some of the most vulnerable people in our city receive a week that brings positive activities and information that can they can both enjoy and engage with. This city has a great Health and Well-Being vision that seeks to make Leeds a healthy and caring city where the poorest receive healthcare the fastest. During this week we will work to ensure a well-being experience for the poorest and most vulnerable. It's significant that the local authority, education, health, the third sector and faith sector have come together to make a difference for the better. It shows how we can in difficult times create a coalition of care for those of our people who struggle."

community events

Putting ‘the public’ back into public health - Building the experience of citizens into public health evidence

Conference Presentations

Community health fair at Hamara – 6 November 2013

The community campus partnership has also secured funding from the ESRC’s Festival of Social Science to hold a community health fair at Hamara Healthy Living Centre on the 6th of November to showcase the School of Health and Wellbeing’s research. Researchers will be literally ‘setting out stall’ for their respective fields. The event will be followed by a debriefing session with interested members of the public to gather opinions about the school's work and to determine any gaps in the research programme from the perspective of a non-academic audience.

Conference: Supporting women at higher risk of infant death – 26 September 2013 Pudsey Civic Hall

The number of children who die before the age of one year in the UK is much higher for women in some minority ethnic communities and for teenage mothers than amongst women in the general population. Increased support and improved services are important ways of reducing disadvantage. This conference presents an international perspective on maternal and child health outcomes along with findings from a University of Leeds research study exploring support that women receive during maternity and after birth.  To book a place please email Philip Rowley:  Leeds Institute of Health Sciences, University of Leeds.

People Power and Communities: Policies for the 21st Century – 22 March 2013

Staff from Hamara and the School of Health and Wellbeing delivered a joint teaching session for students from the MSc in Public Health - Health Promotion programme. The seminar covered the rationale for promoting an assets based approach and the implications for practitioners, whilst giving students an invaluable opportunity to learn from the experience of a voluntary sector organisation with a track record of delivering services for the communities of South Leeds. Feedback indicated that students valued the opportunity to visit a grassroots community organisation.

People Centred Public Health - 15 February 2013

Celebrating the official launch of Jane South, Judy White and Mark Gamsu’s book People Centred Public Health, the Institute of Health and Wellbeing hosted a lively event on the 15th of February, 2013 which brought together public health professionals, academics and representatives from the community and voluntary sector to discuss the prospect for creating a people-centred health system and improving health outcomes across all citizens. The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Ruth Hussey, gave a key note speech focussing on the growing awareness among public health professionals of psycho-social conditions for health and wellbeing, and an emerging consensus among policy makers concerning the need to better involve citizens in the provision of services. The second speaker David Hunter (Professor of Health Policy and Management, Durham University) argued that the transfer of public health portfolios to local authorities in England presented an opportunity to create services that are more capable of responding to the priorities of local publics. Following the speeches, the panel discussion highlighted the political and moral dimensions of the debate surrounding greater public engagement with the health service.

Strategic Partnership Away Day at Hamara 22 January 2013

On the 22nd of January 2013 the School of Health and Wellbeing and the Institute for Health and Wellbeing visited the Hamara Healthy Living centre in Beeston as part of the development process towards a building a Strategic Partnership between Leeds Beckett University and Hamara.

The Away Day presented an opportunity for staff from the School of Health and Wellbeing to find out more about the work of Hamara, and for members from both organisations to learn about existing collaborations between the community and voluntary sector and higher education providers elsewhere. The main aim of the day was to inspire staff from both Hamara and the School of Health and Wellbeing to get involved in the Strategic Partnership and to develop concrete ideas for future collaboration between both organisations in order to promote better health and equality in Leeds. The event, which involved interactive exercises to stimulate thinking, generated a large amount of suggestions for joint projects and other partnership activities, which will form the basis of the Strategic Partnership’s work plan for the next 5 years.


A series of policy and practice workshops will be held in 2013 to promote knowledge exchange between local community organisations and the University.

Each workshop will focus on an emerging policy area, identifying the practical implications of these policies for the community organisations and producing a briefing paper with implications and recommendations for the key sectors.

One set of seminars will be delivered in cooperation with Involve Yorkshire and Humber, starting May 2013. The first event will bring together representatives from Yorkshire’s new Health Watches and their local authority commissioners to discuss the opportunities and challenges involved in setting up local health and social care consumer organisations.

Valuing volunteers - what does research tell us? – 7 November 2013

As part of the ESRC’s Festival of Social Science the Institute of Health and Wellbeing hosted this seminar to present recent research about the scope of volunteering in health and social care for representatives from the third sector, and statutory organisations that use volunteers. Using recent studies, the event considered the preconditions for building a thriving volunteer base, outlining what organisations can do to get citizens involved in the delivery of services, but will also discuss the role of national policies to support volunteering. In addition to researchers from the Institute for Health & Wellbeing, the event featured speakers from the King's Fund and the Institute of Volunteering Research.


Communiversity 20th May, 2015
A few weeks ago I went to an event in Sheffield which had been organised to discuss how universities can act as a resource for the wider community – a topic very pertinent to the work that we do in CommUNIty.

Several universities and community groups were represented at the event, including Brighton University. It was interesting to learn more about CUPP at Brighton, a UK leader in this area of work. One point from Brighton’s presentation which struck a chord with me was the issue of accessibility. Many universities can be seen as intimidating or inaccessible to those on the outside and even communication between different departments in the university can be complicated. This is something that everyone at the meeting felt needed to be addressed before things could move forward. Another recurring theme is the difficulty of finding a common language; academic jargon can be really off-putting to community partners, and many feel relations could be greatly improved by using plain English. I think that improving the way things are communicated to people outside of the university bubble will help make academics much more approachable and enable them to establish better links with their communities.

There were lots of fascinating projects being talked about, but the most exciting one for me was the Sheffield Education Exchange. The plan is that this exchange will build on the idea of “’Recovery Colleges” and offer free courses (some potentially being taught by University students) to vulnerable people e.g. isolated older people, people with mental illness, new migrants. Under this plan the universities in Sheffield will be formally allied to the NHS to access funding which will hopefully mean that the project is sustainable. It really raises the question: what more can be achieved in Leeds with the 3 universities, the NHS and the council working together? I’ll be interested to see what happens in Sheffield, what we can learn from it and whether it can be applied in Leeds. There is some interest in creating a recovery college in Leeds, but no one has managed to get it off the ground yet.

Rowland Atkinson and his colleagues have done a really good job of capturing the main themes of the day on their blog post - Becoming a Communiversity: Thinking about What and Who are Universities for.

Susan Coan (Research Assistant) & Karl Witty (Team Lead for Community partnerships): People and passion – Sustaining a Thriving Third Sector

We’ve had a few days to reflect and jot down our thoughts about how the Sustaining a Thriving Third Sector event, held on 23rd April at Hamara Healthy Living Centre went. For those who weren’t there, the aim of the event was to ‘promote learning and debate around a range of developmental models, which could help make local third sector organisations more resilient in times of austerity’ and also provide an opportunity for networking. After a welcome from the Chair, Prof. Jane South, Richard Norton, Commissioning Manager at Voluntary Action Leeds delivered a talk on the ‘State of the Sector in Leeds.’ He covered the challenges faced by the sector, but also the assets within the sector and the current opportunities for growth and development. Five short presentations followed*, each showcasing a different way in which third sector organisations could achieve greater resilience. Topics covered were:

  • Cross sector collaboration – John Walsh, York Street Practice
  • Social Enterprise – Amber Wilson, Basis
  • Mobilisation, Collaboration with Other Charities – Taira Kayani, Better Leeds Communities
  • Social investment – Peter Parker, Wrigley’s solicitors & community partner
  • Asset Based Community Development – Ellie Rogers, Leeds GATE

The final presentation on Asset Based Community Development neatly led into a rapid asset map of the sector and a discussion about how these assets could be used to promote a more sustainable and thriving third sector. Judging by the noise within the room the debate and networking was intense with delegates taking the opportunity to share thoughts about the presentations and develop links with colleagues in the sector.

With time not on our side, the event concluded with an expert panel discussion featuring Mick Ward, Head of Commissioning, Adult Social Care, Leeds City Council; Norma Thompson, Chair of Third Sector Leeds and Richard Norton of Voluntary Action Leeds. Panel members eloquently summed up the discussions which had been taking place around the room. The overarching theme which emerged was that people and communities are the biggest asset of the third sector and it is their energy and passion that leads to success.

All in all, the event was a great opportunity for a range of organisations to get together and exchange ideas. It was really encouraging to know that despite the challenges, there are still a lot of opportunities out there for the third sector.

  • John Walsh (York St Practice) - Cross sector collaboration
    "I think if we can put goodness and kindness and the heart of what we do. I think if we can together pioneer and develop some people centred cultures and conversations in care, I think we can really change things in this city and I hope, I really do hope that we can work together to do that.”
  • Amber Wilson (Basis) – Social Enterprise
    “We want to do it [raise CSE awareness]because we’re not just a business, an enterprise, we’re also a social enterprise and we have to remember that at all times.”

  • Taira Kayani, (Better Leeds Communities) - Mobilisation, Collaboration with Other Charities
    “Collaboration, for us, is just one of the ways that we’re increasing our overall resilience as an organisation…It’s absolutely not about growing our organisation, for us resilience is ensuring that the clients that we work with receive the services that they need when they need them.”

  • Peter Parker (Wrigley’s solicitors & community partner) – Social Investment and Finance
    “The beauty of shares is that the company, the social enterprise, has no obligation to actually repay them. They can freeze the, the obligation to actually withdraw…and equally, dividends are only ever paid out if that social enterprise is able to generate further income and generate some sort of profit.”

  • Ellie Rogers (Leeds GATE) – Asset Based Community Development (ABCD)
    “By treating people, not as a problem, but as part of the solutions, we have developed practice which has been recorded nationally as best practice.”

    “ABCD can generate satisfaction and motivation and genuinely enable innovation as well as save significant sums of money.”

Kris Southby, (CommUNIty, Leeds Beckett University) Talking with Olivia Butterworth

Back in October 2014 Olivia Butterworth, Head of Patient and Public Voice at NHS England, was schedule to present a key note address at Involve Yorkshire’s ‘Fit for the Future?’ Conference. Unfortunately, Olivia was not able to speak about the role and great opportunities for the voluntary and community sector (VCS) in the NHS at the conference so kindly invited delegates to a separate Q&A session on 8th January 2015on [insert date] at the St. George’s Centre. The gathering turned out to be a thoroughly interesting and thought provoking 2 hours.

The role of the Patient and Public Voice Team, which Olivia leads, in NHS England is to support policy and commissioning teams to involve patients and the public in decisions about and control of their health. They do not necessarily carry out engagement and involvement activities themselves but try to encourage everyone in the organisation to. Like CommUNIty, they are looking to enact a cultural change within their organisation.

NHS England has established a mechanism for patient and public involvement at a national level through ‘NHS Citizen’ as well as a host of regional and local mechanisms. The 5Year Forward View (available here) has sent out a positive message about greater contributions from patients, the public and the voluntary and community sector (VCS) in health care over the next five years. The discussion with Olivia focused on how these ambitions can and will translate into practise, at the end of which four themes emerged.

Firstly, health and social care needs to adopt a holistic approach. This involves 1) viewing patients as whole people influenced by interconnected medical and social issues, and 2) statutory services and the VCS working together as equal partners. The majority of life is spent away from the formal health care yet, as one member of the audience suggested, the “NHS is set up as a clinical NHS and we’ve never changed that”. Working collaboratively will require changes to working practises on both sides and an appreciation of the skills everyone can bring to the table.

Secondly, the issue of data was discussed. The VCS has a wealth of knowledge about improving health and wellbeing but struggle getting that intelligence recognised at a system level. There is an opportunity for the VCS to demonstrate their monetary value by emphasising the ‘failure demand’ addressing health and wellbeing in an entirely clinical way.

Modes of appropriately evidencing outcomes need to be negotiated with commissioners and statutory services.

Thirdly, health inequality is a prominent and persistent issue. Investing in the most disadvantaged areas first to address the holistic problems of an area (health, education, housing, jobs, crime) was the main call. But money has been thrown at such problems previously with little improvement. Is a new, innovative approach needed?

Finally, the emphasis was that rhetoric needs to be put into practise – it’s no good sat on the pages of a report. Olivia was quick to reassure that there are people within NHS England, including the Chief Executive and chair, importantly, who share the same vision as the VCS for how health and wellbeing should be addressed. The VCS can have a strong, united voice but it will be up to those on both sides to negotiate how to cooperate for the betterment of health and wellbeing.

On a personal level, the session was a great networking opportunity. I met a number of organisations interested in collaborating with Leeds Beckett. We all look forward to hopefully working with them in the future to develop innovative approaches to health and wellbeing in Leeds.

Karl Witty (Team Lead for Community Partnerships): Learning Disabilities Work Experience Week

10-16 November, 2014 was Learning Disabilities Work Experience Week, a collaborative campaign from the learning disability charity Mencap and Inclusive Employers . The aim of the week is to promote understanding of the commercial benefits of providing work placements for people with a learning disability. Leeds Beckett was able to contribute to the week by providing a work placement opportunity in our Equality and Diversity (E&D) team. Mencap Customer Vicky Hiles was successful in her application for the placement.

Some people will, I’m sure, view employers’ engagement with Learning Disabilities Work Experience Week with a degree of cynicism, an opportunity for employers to get some good publicity. Others may see it as an opportunity for charitably minded employers to support vulnerable people within the community and fulfil some of their corporate social responsibilities (CSR). These things will no doubt motivate some employers to engage with Learning Disabilities Work Experience Week. But, more importantly, Work Experience Week challenges perceptions about people with a learning disability and promotes a genuine business case for employing people with learning disabilities.

Mencap report that people with a learning disability have lower sickness rates and higher job satisfaction levels than the general population. What’s more The Social Market Foundation estimates that raising disability employment to the national average would boost the UK economy by at least £13 billion. Despite this, only 7% of people with a learning disability are currently working in paid employment.

Okay, so there is economic worth in employing people with a learning disability but, why do we need to offer work placements? If people with learning disabilities can do the job why can’t they just apply like anyone else? Well, Mencap would argue conventional recruitment procedures such as interviews often provide an insurmountable barrier to employment for people with learning disability. As most of us will know, a job interview can be incredibly stressful and demonstrating that you have the abilities to do a job can be tough. When you add stigma, conscious and unconscious bias from employers, and perhaps limited verbal communication skills, low self-esteem and confidence from applicants it becomes near impossible for a person with a learning disability to compete with others. Work placements therefore provide a reasonable adjustment for people with a learning disability (and other marginalised groups) to showcase and develop their skills in a much more applied way.

Reflecting on our experience with Vicky, she was incredibly enthusiastic towards her work, happy to speak at meetings and made many valuable contributions to the E&D team. The work experience placement has provided Vicky with a valuable reference for her CV and hopefully will help her achieve her goal of longer term employment.

Esmee Hanna (Centre for Men’s Health): Love Arts Conversations

The Love Arts Conversation, part of the Love Arts festival organised by York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and the Arts and Minds Network explored the use of arts in relation to mental health. It offered an opportunity for those interested in arts and mental health to have their say in relation to the value and use of art within this health context, to share opinions and ideas and to come together with others from different experiences or perspectives.

The programme offered a varied series of ‘conversations’ as well as more interactive elements and workshop sessions. For example Day 1 began with a conversation about whether the NHS should spend money on the arts, followed by workshops about the value of dance and drama for older people and those with dementia. There was also more traditional sessions based around evidence from research projects by academics at York St John’s and Leeds University around the benefits of art for people’s mental health. The programme therefore presented a wide variety of sessions, which perhaps is reflective of the scope and depth of the issues in relation to the arts and mental health.

Day 2 began with a number of rousing and impassioned speeches, which proved to be a very emotional experience for those speaking, demonstrating the strength of feeling many of those working in this area have for the arts as a productive force for people’s wellbeing. Tom Bailey of Arts & Minds addressed the need for us to all be more ‘bloody minded’ in our desire to see art as a force for good in mental health and wellbeing, suggesting that "If you believe art is good for people…fight for it". Two talks then followed from service users, who had pursued art as a means to improve their wellbeing and social connectedness; their experiences showed the power of art in offering release from social and mental health problems and as a way of opening up new opportunity and thus create new hope within people’s lives.

An interesting presentation on Day 2 by academics from Bradford University explored the use of film making with people with Dementia, exploring how life stories can be told in a way which is both sensitive to people but also inclusive. Using photos and images to illicit a narrative showed a way in which groups who often have very little voice within society can be given a platform and opportunity to share their stories. It was suggested that these videos were then “the stories that people wanted to tell”. That message of inclusion was one which this event as a whole seemed to capture wholeheartedly.

The afternoon of Day 2 saw a mixture of poetry, music, song and comedy. The use of these mediums to draw to a close the event added to the uniquely arts feeling of the two days and created a much more shared and community feeling than other events I have attended during my academic career. The title ‘Love arts’ seemed apt; those attending and those presenting or performing showed real passion for the arts and for how the arts can be used to improve people’s mental health and wellbeing and this was manifest throughout the event.

Kris Southby (Research Assistant): CommUNIty Consultants at the Community Champions Fair 2014

Sharing the knowledge and skills of staff and students through work-based learning and volunteering is well established within the culture of Leeds Beckett. Leeds Beckett Students Union, Leeds Beckett Volunteering and Carnegie Sports Volunteering have a strong track record of encouraging volunteering among the student body and many of our courses provide opportunities for work-based learning. It can still be difficult, however, for community organisations unaccustomed to the university to gain access to volunteers with appropriate skill.

CommUNIty has recently been working with community partners, colleagues across the university and the student’s union to try and make it easier for community organisations to draw on the significant skills of our students through volunteering and work based-learning.

Taking place on the 3rd of November, the Community Champions Fair showcased the work of community champions, volunteers and other lay health practitioners across Leeds. The event was organised by Karl and I, but we were ably assisted on the day by six Leeds Beckett student volunteers; Jess W, Jess E, Lucy V, Lucy C, Rebecca and Paige.

Jess W, Jess E, Lucy V and Lucy C are final year nutrition students interested in community health and looking to gain experience for their CV’s. They helped with setting up the room, organising refreshments and crowd management all of which enabled the event to run smoothly. What’s more, their knowledge of health and nutrition meant that they were each able to engage with the diverse audience and exchange knowledge with members of the community in attendance.

Rebecca and Paige are both Media students in their second year of study who were recruited through LBSU volunteering. Rebecca volunteered her skills to shoot and produce a short film of the event, while Paige was involved as a photographer. Taking part in the event provided an opportunity for them to expand their portfolios of work and for us to generate good quality promotional material of the work of colleagues within the community.

Student involvement at the Community Champions Fair provides an example of how student volunteering benefits the students, enabling them to develop and demonstrate the skills they are learning in the classroom; the university, by enhancing the student experience and employability; whilst at the same time sharing skills and knowledge with the community.

Karl Witty (Team Lead for Community Partnerships): The Community Champions Fair - Cross Sector Communication


This is the second blog post linked to the Community Champions Fair. The fair, which took place on 3rd November was part of the ESRCs Festival of Social Sciences and aimed to raise awareness of research conducted around community champions and similar lay health approaches, showcase community knowledge, promote knowledge exchange and cross sector collaboration.

Reflecting on the event, we’re asking ourselves some important questions, did the event achieve what it set out to? How could it have been improved? And, ultimately, was it worthwhile? Well, the event was a lot of fun and judging by the feedback we received, provided attendees from a range of sectors an opportunity to engage in ‘valuable’ conversations. But, so what? What is the value of a conversation? Is there value in conversation alone? Well, the short answer is, sometimes, yes. Conversations can inform and educate, they can break down barriers, they can build bridges and relationships and hopefully, some conversations will result in positive action.

I must admit I’m not a fan of networking events in general. As an attendee you’re often placed in categories of voluntary sector, higher education sector, local government or business, categories which I assume are supposed to speak volumes about who you are, what you represent and what your motives are for attending. You’re then encouraged to ‘schmooze’ with people in other sectors, but generally end up speaking to familiar like-minded people who you’ve already built a good rapport with.

My naïve mind says why categorise people, acknowledge that we’re all individuals who have different, but equally valuable skills, whatever sector you work in, and just work together for the greater good. There is so much diversity within the higher education sector and even more within the community sector, that the labels we’re given at networking events become somewhat meaningless when involved in real world collaboration. I like these naïve thoughts, but in truth it is much more complicated. There are numerous barriers which prevent conversations and active collaborations between universities and community organisations, power imbalances, differences in workplace culture and practice and yes sometimes a degree of suspicion and a lack of trust from both sides. Therefore even with the greatest will in the world, university collaborations with community based organisations can be clumsy.

As academics we have a very rigid way of communicating what we do, writing reports and articles in academic journals and presenting findings in powerpoint slideshows at conferences. Don’t get me wrong, this is great and incredibly important. But, if we are really looking to produce impactful work, which is informed by real world need, accessible and valuable to our communities these forms of academic communication, on their own, do not promote the dialogue needed. Academic institutions like ours need to develop much better ways of communicating with communities. I don’t think we need to do anything new or innovative, the rest of the world manages perfectly well using existing means of communication. We don’t need to ‘dumb down’ our outputs, or abandon writing in ‘high level’ academic publications either, academic debate is a key part of the conversation, we just need to be a little more in sync with how our communities communicate.

The Community Champions Fair wasn’t your average academic event, we tried to do things a little differently, tried to challenge the ritual forms of academic communication. We wanted to liven things up, challenge attendees to break out from their categories and enable those working in the community to showcase their knowledge with an equal billing as research led knowledge. There’s a lot of room for improvement and a lot more learning to be done, but hopefully this event showed we’ve made progress. Was it worthwhile? Well, at this stage it’s hard to say, the fair was still a sanitised environment in which conversations were actively encouraged and supported. The true value of conversation taking place within any event comes in the outside world, if and when these ‘valuable’ conversations are followed up, relationships are built, and tested, actions are taken and fingers crossed, communities feel the benefit.


Karl Witty (Team Lead for Community Partnerships, Leeds Beckett University): The Community Champions Fair


 After taking a bit of time to reflect on the Community Champions Fair, held on the 3rd November Kris and I are writing a few posts based upon the event. This first post provides an overview of what happened on the day.

Part of the ESRC’s Festival of Social Science, the Community Champions Fair aimed to raise awareness of research conducted around community champions and similar lay health approaches, showcase community knowledge, and arguably most importantly promote knowledge exchange and cross sector collaboration. The fair featured community and academic stalls, demonstrations and performances, ‘soap box’ presentations from community champions, volunteers, community leaders and academics and an expert panel discussion. In all more than 20 community organisations were able to showcase their work at the event, to an audience of approximately 100 people across the day.

The fair was expertly compered by Prof. Mark Gamsu and was opened by Mick Ward, Head of Commissioning for Adult Social Care at Leeds City Council. In his opening talk, on the ‘soap box’, Mick provided some context to the work presented at the event, taking us through the economic and political environment which has transformed and continues to transform the delivery of services. Soap box presentations by the likes of Gohar Almass (South Leeds Alliance) and Darren De Souza (Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust) followed, providing some perspectives from people delivering the work within our communities, before Community poet Michelle Scally Clarke and representatives of Space2’s FRESH project delivered some impassioned and moving poetry. Zoe Irish, of Hamara HLC then got the crowd moving by delivering a lively Hula Hoop session, leading into inspiring performances from Cloth Cat Studio and a lunch provided by the Real Junk Food Project. 

The afternoon started with a choice of bulb planting with Altogether Better or a research workshop with Judy White. The day ended with an expert panel discussion featuring Alyson McGregor (Altogether Better), Janet Harris (School of Health and Related Research), Justin Varney (Public Health England), Norma Thompson (Hamara/Third Sector Leeds) alongside Professor of Healthy Communities, Jane South. The panel tackled questions such as, what do we mean by a ‘Community Champion’?, what is the value of a Community Champion approach?, what skills do community champions and other lay health roles bring to the table? And how can we empower communities and community champions to better meet the health and well-being needs of communities?

In forthcoming posts we will be sharing our own thoughts and learning from the event. If you attended the fair we would very much appreciate hearing what you thought of it.


September 2014

Kris Southby (Research Assistant): Fit for the future? Involve Yorkshire policy conference 2014


Involve Yorkshire & Humberside held their annual policy conference at The Northern Ballet on Thursday 9th October. The event brought together members of voluntary and community organisations in the region to consider the sectors readiness for challenges brought about by potential political, economic and social change. People were asking the question: Are we fit for the future? I went along to hear what people were saying.

Not surprisingly, throughout the day a lot of discussion concerned the impact of the economy, the impending Westminster election next year and the future of funding, perhaps creating more questions than answers.

A number of expert speakers, including Karl Wilding (Director of Public Policy, NCVO), Chris Goulden (Head of Poverty team, Joseph Rowntree Foundation) and Ellie Easton (Patient and Public Voice, NHS England) shared their experiences and insights into future planning. Sandwiched between the keynotes in the morning and mini-seminars in the afternoon was a ballet for beginner’s session delivered by The Northern Ballet – one of the more interesting after lunch activities I’ve witnessed!

A willingness to adapt and be innovative, was the take-home message for me, including embracing new technologies like social media, adopting social enterprise approaches (i.e. selling things and not just asking for donations), and working collaboratively with statutory services. For Karl Wilding, the sector must also be better prepared to utilise ‘non-cash’ support something which will be a key resource in the emerging ‘sharing economy’.

Any switch from cash-funding to resource sharing will create greater opportunities for CommUNIty to work with the voluntary and community sector. Just as the voluntary and community organisations adapt their practises (as much a cultural shift as anything else), we, as CommUNIty and our wider university, need to develop ways in which we are able to share and exchange our resources with the community to support future health and wellbeing interventions.

August 2014

Kris Southby: ‘Let’s get ready to rumble’, it’s the faculty away day

The Faculty of Health and Social Sciences recently held its annual staff away day at the Castle Grove Masonic Log (no funny handshakes required on entry). The theme of the day was ‘Engaging with our Community and Partners’. Having not experienced a university event like this before, I was imagining a day of filled with an all-round painful activity such as paintballing. What actually took place was a celebration of the amazing partnership work which our faculty staff are involved in.

Faculty Dean, Ieuan Ellis, kicked off proceedings with an overview of the faculty’s year in numbers, covering such things as students, staffing and income generation. We were then pleased to welcome Helen Beachell from Simon on the Streets, a Leeds based charity which provides individual support to homeless people; people at risk of becoming homeless; those with behavioural and mental health issues; and those who are struggling with an addiction in Leeds, Huddersfield and Bradford. Helen talked about the current financial challenges facing charities like Simon on the Streets and presented the mutual benefits of partnership working with business. Helen’s passion for her work clearly shone through, and her talk promoted a lot of debate across the room.

After lunch there was an opportunity to hear about the diverse community focussed work carried out by members of the faculty, expertly chaired by Prof. Mark Gamsu. From co-produced research with the Jigsaw visitors Centre at HMP Leeds, to chairing the management committee of a children’s play charity, right through to involving school children in political debate. A personal highlight for me was Dr. Phil Commons’ work with St. George’s Crypt, providing therapeutic physiotherapy services to their (homeless) service users. Phil has been working with The Crypt for over two and a half years, in which time she has treated over 200 people and provided numerous students with practical learning opportunities. Phil’s relationship with The Crypt perfectly demonstrates the mutual benefit of community-university collaboration; a benefit that will hopefully be enhanced and shared as the relationship between St. George’s and Leeds Beckett develops.

Finally, Karl and I presented the CommUNIty initiative. It was pretty difficult to follow the many inspiring presentations from colleagues, but our main objective was to allow people to put faces to the initiative and promote the support we can offer. Judging by the excellent responses from faculty staff this week we managed to do that. A fantastic day, although I can’t help but think our credibility has been somewhat knocked by one colleague labelling us the Faculty’s Ant and Dec! Oh well, could be worse.

July 2014

Karina Kinsella (Research Assistant, Leeds Beckett University): Evaluating a Youth Volunteer Project

My name is Karina, I work as a research assistant in the Centre for Health Promotion Research (CHPR) at Leeds Beckett University. There is a lot of flexibility within my role and I am very fortunate because I get to work on lots of exciting research studies.

I am currently working on an evaluation of a new and exciting youth volunteering project led by Voluntary Action Leeds (VAL). It aims to successfully support young people with criminal convictions to volunteer and engage in social action. The project works with 14-17 years olds and runs in the community and Wetherby Young Offenders Institute. The project is a pilot that stems from a pre-existing project working with adult offenders. The adult project runs in 4 prisons and works with people in the community across Yorkshire and Humberside. It has a network of over 70 charities and organisations who are willing to act as host organisations.

The youth volunteer project supports young people in their volunteer role to ensure that they are safe and supported whilst having a positive and enriching experience. The project offers many benefits to you people including; being able to access new social groups, confidence building and CV building and learning and employability skills.

The evaluation will provide an opportunity to speak to many different people who are involved in the youth project such as; the young offenders, volunteer host organisations and VAL project staff to explore their views and experiences of the project. This collaborative work adds to the portfolio of work that the CHPR have done around volunteering and research within the criminal justice system.

Kris Southby (Research Assistant): AHRC Connected Communities Festival, 1st & 2nd July 2014

So a couple of weeks ago I attended the AHRC Connected Communities Festival in at St. David’s Hotel and Motor Point Arena in Cardiff. The aim of the Festival was to showcase the outcomes and impacts of Connected Communities projects. This was my first conference representing Leeds Beckett and my first trip to Cardiff so I was very excited. First things first, Leeds to Cardiff on the train is far. Really far. Like ‘are we there yet? No, still another hour and a half’ far. Once I (finally) arrived though, I concluded the journey was very worth it. Cardiff is a lovely place with a beautiful bay. The weather was also fantastic!!

The conference itself had a mixture of presentations, workshops, interactive and participatory break-outs, posters, exhibitions, and off-site and digital activities. The Festival showed off a rich array of co-produced work under the Connected Communities programme across the UK. Communities and academics working together was the common theme, but the range of specific projects was great: from archaeological digs in Cardiff, to films produced by Romani Gypsies in Sheffield, to apps designed to help communities communicate and collaborate better.

Whilst it was great to experience the range of unique collaborative projects being carried out, I was more interested in learning about how cooperation between other universities and communities has been facilitated. Fortunately, the Festival also provided an opportunity for networking and discussion. The UK Partner Network hosted a brilliant participatory workshop on the Tuesday morning about how to navigate universities and develop effective mutually beneficial partnerships (just what we need for CommUNIty!). Tom Wakeford from the University of Coventry chaired a lively debate about the problems, and potential solutions to, university-community collaborations. All in all, it was a great conference!! I’m already looking forward to my next conference, next years Connected Communities Festival, and my next trip to Cardiff.

Kris Southby

Angela Grier (Senior Lecturer Criminology, Leeds Beckett University & Management Board member and Trustee of Leeds Irish Health and Homes): Care, Culture and Community

LIH&H is a charitable organisation offering a variety of services and support, not only to members of the Irish community but also to the wider community in Leeds. The organisation was formed after growing concern amongst professionals about the health and social inequalities facing Irish people in the city. Over the years LIH&H has expanded dramatically, however it still retains its core values of care, culture and community. Currently, LIH&H’s three main areas of service are: 1) supporting people with mental health problems 2) outreach work and 3) dementia Support.

I first became involved with Leeds Irish Health & Homes (LIH&H) at its inception in 1996 alongside my colleagues Gerry Lavery, John Pender, Steven Sayers. In September 2000 the Certificate of Irish Studies, was launched at Leeds Beckett University and saw its first intake of students. LIH&H was a source of great support to us throughout our 4 year period of the course contributing to lectures student projects and volunteering. Since the course ended I have continued to play an active role at LIH&H, attending meetings, contributing to all aspects of governance, planning and development and promoting the values and mission of LIH&H. I also have made links with Leeds Beckett’s student unions volunteering programme, which has proved to be highly beneficial, especially for students interested in social work, health studies, and sociology. I am so pleased to be a board member of this wonderful organisation.

If you would like more information about Leeds Irish Health & Home, please visit their website

May 2014

Darren Hill (Senior Lecturer in Social Work, Leeds Beckett University) & John Walsh (Service Manager at York Street Health Practice): A local partnership with global impact

Darren: My contact with York Street practice began prior to working at Leeds Beckett University and stems from my period of work as a social work practitioner-practice educator within community drug treatment services. It was my contact with York Street during this period that highlighted the unique social model of ‘street work’ they operate.

My engagement with York Street continued into my work within higher education as their service model offered a unique opportunity for students to experience a different way of engaging complex populations within health and social care settings. Key members of the York Street practice including John Walsh and Tracey Campbell supported the development of two public events; firstly the Homeless Awareness Lecture in 2009; and secondly the follow on regional conference, Homeless, Rootless & Excluded in 2010. It was following these successful events that we decided to establish a more integrated relationship with York Street, developing practice wisdom into applied learning for students.

Our partnership with York Street Practice has three distinct areas;

  • Firstly, York Street has supported and led the delivery of key teaching and training education at Leeds Beckett University, as a service they continue to provide student placement provision, joint lectures and workshops within the BA and MA social work awards;
  • Secondly, we have twice co-delivered an Erasmus funded Intensive Programme (IP) with York Street, last year in Leeds and this year in Prague. This involved a collaboration between Hogeschool van Amsterdam, University of Barcelona, Charles University - Prague and Leeds Beckett University, we have jointly delivered IP street work training for two years, to 50 students from 4 universities in each cohort, building a Europe wide community of ‘street work practice’;
  • Thirdly, York Street and Leeds Beckett University are continuing to work together to establish an international MA programme in street work supported by Erasmus Mundus funding. This will take the model of training, teaching and research we have developed with York Street to a European and Global Level.

This entire process of collaboration has shown me that to develop meaningful and engaging training and education within higher education: research and teaching must draw from and learn from practice in partnership. The relationship can be considered symbiotic; without teaching and research, good practice becomes lost to future generations of learners; and without good links to practice professional higher education becomes stagnant and dislocated from the reality of contemporary health and social care practice.

John: York Street is a nationally recognised centre of health inclusion. We are part of Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust which offer 65 community health services in this city. Working with Darren and colleagues at LMU has already started to create innovative ways of learning and practice. This offers new possibilities of health and education working in positive partnership to generate quality research, an improved discourse on the needs of our most vulnerable people and the evolution of the most compassionate and effective care possible.

Rob Newton (Health and Wellbeing Policy Officer, Leeds Beckett University/Leeds City Council): Working Together

Leeds is a unique place to be working in health and social care. The city is in a unique position as home to academic expertise, public and private healthcare organisations, NHS infrastructure and wider city technological and business sectors.

In addition, the strong community assets that the city has are a key strength. ‘Engaging communities’ is one of the three key themes for the city’s strategy for health innovation. The contributions that communities make are central to meeting the current significant challenges that the sector faces.

This is why the principles of the CommUNIty project fit in so well. We all need to know the third sector assets that exist, and understand how they can be best utilised. Transformation and integration is not caused by talking to each other more, but by working together in a way that enables organisations to be greater than the sum of their parts.

There is currently much discussion about the long term sustainability of the health and social care system, both locally and nationally. For sustainability, we often talk about asset-based approaches. The greatest asset of a university is the knowledge that it holds. Combining this knowledge with the wealth of resources in the community can contribute significantly to see Leeds achieve its ambition to be the Best City in the UK for Health and Wellbeing.

April 2014

Kris Southby (Research Assistant, Leeds Beckett University)
Hi, my name is Kris, I recently started working as a research assistant in the Centre for Health Promotion Research at Leeds Met. My role is to assist the centre staff in all areas of the research process. I’m also going to be quite involved with the commUNIty initiative, working alongside Karl.

Before starting my current role I worked for the learning disability charity Mencap. First as a researcher – looking at how Mencap engages with the siblings of people with a learning disability – and then as an Employment Coordinator. This involved supporting adults with a learning disability across Leeds and Wakefield into paid or unpaid work. I really enjoyed the job as it was very rewarding and I was working with some great people! Before that I completed my PhD at Durham Uni, exploring the social benefits of football fandom for people with a learning disability.

I’m really looking forward to getting started with the commUNIty initiative and linking up with different third sector organisations and communities in Leeds. It seems like a great project with loads of mutual benefits; sharing resources and knowledge, opportunities to learn and help each other, and building stronger, healthier communities. It would also be great to link up with some of the learning disability organisations around Leeds who I know they’re doing some fantastic things to support people with a learning disability!

March 2014

Karl Witty (Team Lead for Community Partnerships, Leeds Beckett University): At the ‘Heart of Leeds’ with Space2

Well, this Saturday was a bit different for me, I spent the day with the Space2 team while they rehearsed and performed for a ‘heart flash mob’ in Millennium Square in Leeds and a ‘dispersal’ around the city. The performance, entitled ‘Heart of Leeds’, part of an Arts Council England funded project was choreographed by Gary Clarke with accompanying poetry from local poet Michelle Scally Clarke. The aim of the performance was to spread messages of positivity, resilience, love and heart health throughout the city using an initial mass performance in the square followed by personal performances to people throughout the city centre. The performances featured 11 dancers clad in skilfully customised red t-shirts, all but one of which were Leeds Met. students. After the performances audiences were given fliers containing ‘Love Lines’, positive messages taken from workshops and interviews with people of across the city. The fliers also signposted audiences to the British Heart Foundation website where information on heart disease, prevention and current research can be found Thankfully the city was saved from a public display of my horrific dad dancing and the performances were a huge success despite of the inconsistent weather.

February 2014

Philomena Commons (Senior Lecturer in Physiotherapy and Sports Therapy): Delivering a physiotherapy service at St Georges Crypt.

St. Georges Crypt is a well-established local project, which helps homeless people in the city in crisis and assists them in accessing various statutory services. I have been volunteering at the Crypt for two years now, delivering physiotherapy to homeless people. One of the motivating factors for me offering my services at the crypt was hearing a quotation from Clive Sandle, director of Simon on the Streets, (another charity in Leeds working with homeless people), that 20% of street dwellers will not survive the year because of unaddressed health issues. Clive stressed that to reduce this figure many homeless people did not only need support with their physical health but attending to their social, emotional concerns was also paramount.

Almost all the people I see at the crypt have suffered some form of abuse and many, but not all, have problems with substance abuse. Very few are currently engaging with services. The health issues I see regularly are musculo skeletal problems, some neurological problems for example alcoholic neuropathies and a number wounds and injuries. Many clients require on-going treatment for their problems but fail to successfully negotiate the system

This group are often not good at keeping appointments, so, providing a regular drop in clinic offers them a valuable resource. I offer a range of physiotherapy treatments, advice and advocacy and can also refer on to services such as York Street practice (an NHS service which offers healthcare for vulnerably transient and homeless people in Leeds). I try to attend to their immediate health problems, and also supply them with items they require such as supports/bandages and dressings, sometimes TENs machines for pain, walking aids and clean socks. Some require help with form filling, for example applications for bus passes or disability living allowance and I help them with this too. Support for mental health issues is as important as the physiotherapy I provide. I try to attend to these issues in an unobtrusive way, building trust over time. I have seen over 100 patients in the last year, none of whom were receiving the help they need.

Karl Witty (Team Lead for Community Partnerships, Leeds Beckett University): A meeting with Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange.

I recently met up with Helen Jones, the inspirationally passionate Chief Executive of Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange (GATE). Leeds GATE is a charitable organisation which although based in Leeds has national influence through delivery of the National Gypsy and Traveller Health Inclusion Project, facilitation of the Department of Health’s Pacesetter’s programme, Gypsy and Traveller Quality Assurance Group and publication of the Health Pathways: Cost-Benefits Analysis Report, ‘Gypsy and Traveller Health – Who pays?’. The broad aim of the GATE is to improve the overall quality of life for Gypsy and Traveller communities.

My own knowledge of the Gypsy and Traveller population is ashamedly poor and whilst research on the health of the population is sparse, studies have consistently found that the health of Gypsies and Travellers is considerably worse that the settled population. Gypsies and Travellers face stark health inequalities, including disproportionally high rates of infant and maternal mortality, high rates of anxiety and depression and high rates of cardiac disease. Conservative estimates of life expectancy in the Gypsy and Traveller community suggest a figure in excess of ten years less than the settled population. Research conducted in Leeds in 2004/5 found that the average life expectancy was shockingly, approximately 50 years.

Listening to Helen, it became apparent that the potential reasons for these health inequalities are both manifold and complex with issues such as restricted access to healthcare, lower than average levels of literacy and tensions with the settled community informing the comparatively poor health status of the community. Whilst prejudice towards the Gypsy and Traveller community remains commonplace and there is a degree of trepidation amongst the Gypsy and Traveller community about engaging with mainstream services, the work conducted by Leeds GATE such as the piloting of the ‘Negotiated Stopping’ scheme indicate that progress is being made.

For more information visit the Leeds GATE website:

For more information on the inequalities experienced by Gypsy and Travellers, see the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s review, Inequalities experienced by Gypsy and Traveller communities.

September 2013

James Woodall (Senior Lecturer, Leeds Beckett University) & Lee Stephenson (Manager, Jigsaw Visitors Centre HMP Leeds) on collaboration

‘Community’ is a fluid concept that should not be confused simply with people belonging to a geographical location or neighbourhood.  Indeed, a community often emerges as a result of circumstance and social situation.  The Jigsaw Visitors’ Centre, at Her Majesty’s Prison Leeds offers support and guidance for one, often overlooked community, prisoners and their families.  Leeds Beckett University has a well-established relationship with Jigsaw; since 2005 staff from Jigsaw and Leeds Beckett University have worked collaboratively to evaluate the services on offer by Jigsaw to prisoners and their families.  The partnership works well; Jigsaw, like many voluntary/community organisations, is responsive to local need, innovative and resilient in facing the challenges posed by political drivers.  Leeds Beckett University, on the other hand, have been consistent in providing academic input to evaluate the impact of Jigsaw through using participatory approaches and listening to the voices of prisoners and their families.  The research evidence provided by Leeds Beckett University never ‘sits on a shelf gathering dust’, rather it is used by Jigsaw to inform future plans and strategy, ensuring that practical and pioneering solutions to address health and social needs are found to support the community they work with.  This is not always the case when evaluating organisations and is testament to a solid working partnership founded on trust and good communication.  The relationship has strengthened and developed over time and both organisations look forward to working further together in the future.

August 2013

Jane South (Professor of Healthy Communities): Why we need CommUNIty

It’s exciting to see the launch of the CommUNIty website which will in time become a window into all the partnership working between the Institute for Health & Wellbeing and local voluntary and community organisations. Thanks to Frances Darby, we have a neat logo that encapsulates the core idea - the place of the University at the heart of the local community. 

Of course the concept of a community–campus partnership is not new – like all good community ventures, it builds on existing experience, here and internationally. Community Campus Partnerships for Health is a movement originating in the US, where many academic institutions have established long term collaborations with their local communities around health issues. The CCPfH website provides an inspirational list of projects ranging from participatory research to curriculum redesign. The focus is usually working with communities who, because of factors such as poverty and discrimination, face barriers to achieving good health. 

That same commitment to finding practical and innovative solutions to address health inequalities also drives our strategic partnership with Hamara. We all agree that it is unacceptable that someone in Beeston, where the Hamara centre is based, has a life expectancy of six years less than someone in Wetherby. Our hope is that by bringing university and community know-how together, we can start to develop joint work, like the Leeds Cab Drivers project, that will make a difference on the ground. Relationships built over years and a history of shared events mean that the partnership starts from a good base, but we will need to take risks and be creative in how we use assets from both organisations. The hope is that learning can spread and eventually new academic-community partnerships will start up.

Leeds Beckett Staff

Karl Witty is the Team Lead for Community Partnerships at Leeds Beckett University. Karl has a research background predominantly working on Men’s Health research, but also substance misuse. Over the course of his research career Karl has worked on projects such as a patient narrative study of men’s experiences of penile cancer, systematic reviews for NICE, and numerous evaluations of community projects. Most recently Karl worked on an evaluation of the Leeds Cab Drivers Project with partners from Hamara Healthy Living Centre.

Jane South is Professor of Healthy Communities at the Institute for Health and Wellbeing, Leeds Beckett University, where she leads a research programme that links research, education and public engagement around the theme of community health and active citizenship with a focus on lay health workers and volunteer roles in public health. Jane started her professional life as a nurse, moving into health promotion research fifteen years ago, and later becoming Director of the Centre for Health Promotion Research at Leeds Beckett University. She has built a portfolio of community health research and publications, along with evaluation and planning frameworks for public health practice. Jane leads the development of the CommUNIty initiative.
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Mark Gamsu is a Visiting Professor at Leeds Beckett University and has a strong interest in the relationship between citizenship, inequality and wellbeing. As well as being a freelance public health consultant, he works part time for Health Action Partnership International, coordinating a European programme promoting Health in All Policies. He is also on the board of a number of voluntary organisations in Sheffield and is a Director of Citizens Advice. Mark has many years’ experience in health and social care at community, district, regional and national levels, including leading on Joint Strategic Needs Assessments policy when working for the Department of Health. Mark runs a regular blog on citizenship and health – ( Mark leads the development of the policy and practice workshops.
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Judy White is a Senior Lecturer in Health Promotion at Leeds Beckett University and Director of Health Together, a newly formed university enterprise for community engagement policy, practice and evidence. She is actively engaged in the Centre for Health Promotion Research, leading on a number of evaluations of health trainers and community health champions. Prior to taking up an academic post, Judy worked in the voluntary and community sector for ten years and then in public health within the NHS for 22 years where she had an interest in participatory approaches, establishing several health promotion programmes in Bradford. She continues to be the regional lead for health trainers and a key member of the national Health Trainer network.

Sally Hayes is the Head of the School of Health and Wellbeing at Leeds Beckett University and a member of the Faculty Leadership team. Her professional background is in nursing and her current responsibilities include the leadership and management of the teaching and research agendas within the School. Prior to joining the university she worked as a Lead Nurse in a PCT working for part of that role with the Director of Public Health where her interest and involvement in tackling health inequalities started. As Head of School she actively promotes and develops opportunities for partnerships with community based groups, chairing the Strategic Partnership with Hamara and working to build connections with local communities and the organisations that serve them.

Sally Foster is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Leeds Beckett University, with an interest in health and health promotion. As well as having many years of teaching experience in higher education, Sally has also worked in the voluntary sector as an ante-natal teacher and breastfeeding counsellor. She is currently developing links with Hamara around student involvement through volunteering and placements.

Kris Southby is a Research Assistant in the Centre for Health Promotion Research at Leeds Beckett University. Kris studied at York St. John University and Durham University, where he completed his PhD in Social Policy/Sociology. His thesis examined the social benefits of football fandom for people with a learning disability. Kris has since worked for Mencap as a researcher and most recently as an employment coordinator.


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