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Plus Icon 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.

Plus Icon 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.

Plus Icon 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.

Plus Icon 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.

Mencap customer, Vicky Hiles with members of the Leeds Beckett E&D

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.

Plus Icon 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.

Tom Bailey - Arts and Minds development worker
Plus Icon 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.

Student Ambassadors

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.

Plus Icon 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.

The community champion's workshop

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 have already built a good rapport with.

Members of staff talking at the Community Champions fair

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.

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

Hula hoops at 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.

Plus Icon 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.

Plus Icon 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.

Plus Icon 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.

Plus Icon 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

Plus Icon 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.

Plus Icon 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.

Plus Icon 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.

Plus Icon Kris Southby - An introduction

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!

Plus Icon 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.



Plus Icon 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.
Plus Icon 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.

Plus Icon 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.

Plus Icon 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.

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