The Leeds Neighbourhood Networks (LNNs) are a group of community organisations that aim to support older people to live independently and participate in their communities through a range of physical and social activities and services provided at a neighbourhood level.
The networks have developed over the past 30 years and there are now 37 of them covering the whole city of Leeds. The form, function, activities and services of the networks are diverse, but they share some key characteristics, such as running with the involvement of older people and addressing the social determinants of health such as isolation and loneliness.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic there was a city-wide ambition for a symbiotic relationship between the LNNs and the health and care sector. This was linked the city’s strategic vision to make Leeds the “best city in the UK to grow old in” and recognition of the need for a shift of resources towards prevention and the development of community-based resources and assets.
When Covid-19 hit, this progressive policy agenda had to be placed on hold while city partners focused on addressing the acute needs brought about by the crisis. But the pandemic has also provided an opportunity for the LNNs to demonstrate their value by being part of this response at a city and neighbourhood level.
Our real-time evaluation of the networks helped local partners understand whether the LNNs work, how they work, and who benefits from them. The findings are already informing local decision-making and helping other areas to reflect upon their own approaches to community support as we begin to rebuild after Covid-19.
This project is part of a wider research programme by the Voluntary Action Research Group to understand how the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector across the UK has responded to the pandemic and the impact it has had on their work: https://www.shu.ac.uk/news/all-articles/features-and-comment/what-the-pandemic-has-taught-us-about-community