Third sector support for those working with older people - Leeds City Council

Leeds Public Health Older People’s team implemented a range of interventions to provide proactive support to the third sector.

The challenge

Leeds Public Health Older People’s team implemented a range of interventions to provide proactive support to the third sector. This was done to help with difficult decisions and forward planning balancing the mental and physical needs of those most at risk whilst aiming to minimise harm. This was overseen by the bronze Over 60s Harm Minimisation Group which was set up as requested by City Gold.

The solution

The solution included:

Regular briefings

Colleagues in the older people’s team continue to deliver monthly briefings in collaboration with Leeds Older People’s Forum who represent the third sector. These sessions are short, covering the key messages and coronavirus situation in Leeds, as well as providing support through local and national resources for further information.

Restart guide

As restrictions changed, the team wrote a Best Practice Guide to support with the safe reopening and restart of activities and to provide reassurance that risks could be identified and mitigated where possible. This included links to risk assessment examples, up to date government guidance, local environmental health details for advice on interpreting guidance and examples of how other organisations have amended delivery to ensure safety.

Direct funding awards

We recognised the impact that ongoing restrictions and rules had on organisations with the potential for increased costs for the third sector. This includes measures to ensure safe numbers at activities such as appropriate PPE, space for social distancing and more intense support requirements through phone calls, check ins, doorstep visits and transport to vaccination and testing sites. We therefore directly awarded grants to third sector organisations (Leeds Neighbourhood Network Schemes – 37 in total) and allowed them to define the needs of their community to stay safe and well. Direct awards were also made to nine organisations working with older people from culturally diverse backgrounds. This was done to ensure communications and support were delivered in culturally sensitive ways with communication resources in appropriate languages and formats and delivered through channels that were trusted in the local community. An example of this was the Association of Blind Asians who worked with older people to develop a video about the difficulties they faced during coronavirus but the support available and their resilience as a community to overcome this.

The impact

These interventions enabled the third sector to better support our older population and could creatively address barriers they were facing. Regular communication between Public Health and third sector organisations ensured confidence when interpreting and sharing messages with older people and enabled them to continue safely delivering activities in the community. This in turn supported improved access and support for older people during the pandemic as there were more opportunities to engage in different ways and ensuring that people felt safe and supported.

Amidst other funding restrictions this money enabled smaller organisations to continue their work, which was particularly important as they often had very strong connections with local communities and rapport with marginalised groups that did not feel included in mainstream wider support.

Activities also strengthened collaboration between organisations; for example, the funding given to culturally diverse communities encouraged organisations to work together to share resources and learning. This included community venues to safely hold events, sharing translated materials in different formats, and even bringing groups together to co-deliver events, such as the Jewish Welfare Board and Sikh Elders. This element of organisational peer support was unexpected but an important outcome of the funding for both older people as recipients but also the workforce during a challenging time. The funding also enabled organisations to invest in digital technology, hiring, and training staff, which has impacts on the current and future provision for older people.

The Restart Guide enabled us to reduce the number of queries and improve confidence of third sector organisations wanting to know the most up to date guidance and support to protect their communities.

How is the new approach being sustained?

As guidance and the situation continues to move at pace, we will continue to deliver our monthly briefings which allows colleagues across the city (from CEOs to volunteers) to engage with Public Health colleagues and ensure they have all relevant information and links to resources to ensure they are supporting their communities.

Plans to amend the re-start guide for the start of 2022 are currently being reviewed given the ongoing uncertainty. Those in public health working with the third sector continue to support each other to share learning from previous lockdowns in terms of contract monitoring arrangements, community need and the sharing of resources where it is most needed.

Lessons learned

Regular engagement with the third sector in an informal and honest way and sharing the current information but aware that it could change quickly, built trust and enabled organisations to support others with confidence. Having a space to discuss the key messages was important amidst a lot of confusion and misinformation and allowed the workforce to properly discuss these messages with older people in their work.

There was a steep learning curve when developing resources, such as the restart guide, where we tried to future-proof resources which then quickly went out of date. Having resources in a digital format enabled this to be changed quickly when significant updates were necessary. Hosting these on existing digital platforms, such as the new CCG Communications toolkit Google Drive, made sharing and updating resources much quicker. This also enabled a more coordinated and collaborative approach to communication channels to get information out quickly and in appropriate formats to a diverse range of audiences.


Rachel Brighton, Advanced Health Improvement Specialist (Older People), Public Health, Leeds City Council

Hannah McGurk, Health Improvement Specialist (Older People), Public Health, Leeds City Council