Following the decline in case rates some weeks ago, we are now seeing a continued, slow and steady increase across the county. Most notably, cases are highest in the school-age and the 40-59 year old population. Rates for Devon overall continue to remain below the national average.
In this update:
- New plans to boost bus services and cut fares in Devon
- Families to receive free school meal holiday vouchers for October half term
- Improving opportunities for Devon communities
- Queues form for pop-up COVID-19 test and vaccinations site
- Half of adults say the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health
New plans to boost bus services and cut fares in Devon
Our Cabinet is set to approve a £34 million bid to the government under its post-COVID-19 improvement programme, Bus Back Better.
This plan will upgrade bus services and cut fares across Devon.
The improvement plan forms part of a major public consultation exercise to be launched in Devon in November.
They aim to make buses cheaper to use, greener, more frequent, more reliable and they are being developed in partnership with Devon’s bus companies.
An additional £7.5 million could be spent on bus priority measures to speed up journey times in main urban areas like Exeter, Exmouth, Barnstaple and Newton Abbot and improving bus stops and other infrastructure in the rest of the county.
Families to receive free school meal holiday vouchers for October half term
The financial challenges faced by some people have been intensified during the coronavirus pandemic and for those already on low incomes the impact has been profound.
The school holidays can be a real struggle for some families because of increased costs such as food and reduced incomes due to childcare.
So this October half term we’re supporting the families of nearly 18,000 children in Devon, who currently receive free school meals, in the form of supermarket vouchers to help ease the strain of buying extra food over the half term break and replace the meals their children would receive at school.
We are seeing applications for free school meals continuing to rise as families struggle with their finances as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, the number of children in the county now eligible for this support is at a record high, having increased by 3,300 over the last year to a total of nearly 18,000 during the last term – that’s close to 18 per cent of all school children in Devon.
If your income has recently reduced or stopped, your child could qualify for free school meals. The quickest and easiest way for your eligibility to be assessed is through our website and you will get an instant decision. Alternatively, contact our education helpline on 0345 155 1019.
More detailed information about the free school meals holiday voucher scheme is available on our website.
Improving opportunities for Devon communities
The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on everyone’s lives and, for some people, has made them re-evaluate what they want achieve in the future.
Learning and developing new skills is an integral part of Devon’s economic recovery, and it can help present new opportunities for people looking to take a different career path or progress in their current line of work.
With that in mind, we’ve been working with our adult education service, Learn Devon, to set up a network of ‘wellbeing hubs’ to enable people who want to return to learning, explore new interests, re-train and upskill to access a range of free face to face courses locally.
Each hub will offer a safe, supportive space to learn new skills and gain qualifications that will improve the wellbeing of the local community. There will be a range of free courses on offer, including English and maths, digital skills, art and craft, wellbeing and much more.
The first of the three hubs recently opened its doors at the Holsworthy Skill Centre, working in collaboration with the Dartmoor Multi Academy Trust via Holsworthy Community College. Hubs in Tavistock and Okehampton are planned to open in spring 2022.
Queues form for pop-up COVID-19 test and vaccination site
Exeter city centre was busy again this week as our pop-up COVID-19 testing and vaccination van stopped outside Exeter Central train station on Wednesday and Thursday.
Joining us and NHD Devon CCG was a team of people from the government who were visiting to help us promote public health messages in Devon. They went door-to-door in parts of the city, talking to people about testing and vaccinations, and handing out helpful public health advice.
COVID-19 case rates have fallen from their high point, but are now rising, and it’s clear that the virus is still with us, especially in our younger school-age population.
Charlotte Pavitt, who is part of our Public Health team and helped organise the pop-up testing and vaccination van, said:
“We’ve had loads of young people stopping by to grab their vaccination, and our teams have been talking to hundreds of people on their doorsteps and in the city centre.
“Lots of people have just been going about their day with little thought to coronavirus, but with us being about and visible, it’s really helping to remind people that we’re still in a pandemic!
“It’s so important everyone continues to play their part by getting fully vaccinated and continuing to get tested regularly.”
Pop-up test and vaccination sites will also be in Ilfracombe on Friday 8 and Saturday 9 October, with more planned across Devon over the coming weeks. Look out for updates in future editions of this newsletter or on our social media channels.
Duncan’s got sound advice in this video message
Duncan is a carer. He lives in Devon. He’s a carer for his wife and daughter and he’s been double vaccinated against coronavirus. He’s a superb care ambassador for Devon Carers, and a brilliant talker.
“I’m double jabbed, and the reason I’m double jabbed is because, as a carer, I’m the linchpin when it comes to looking after my family. Without me, it all falls apart.
“As somebody who’s looking after someone else, if you’re not there, they’re going to suffer. That’s why something like COVID-19 can have such a dramatic effect.
“People are sometimes concerned about adverse reactions or side effects of the vaccine, but the reality is there’s so much more risk not having the jab than there is having it.
“I think that’s what gets forgotten. You’re important, you really, really matter.
“Now there’s freedom, but also the knowledge that we’re not going to get knocked out by this virus in the same way if we weren’t vaccinated.
“It’s so important, so please go out if you haven’t done so already, get your jabs. If you haven’t got your second one yet, go get it. Book it. Let’s beat this together.”
Does my toddler need a flu vaccination?
Flu can be an unpleasant illness for children. In serious cases it can lead to complications like ear infections, bronchitis and pneumonia. It’s especially important for young children to have the flu vaccine as it not only prevents them from catching flu, it also protects others who are vulnerable to flu such as babies and older people.
The flu vaccine for the majority of children is actually a nasal spray rather than an injection so it’s painless and easy to have. The vaccine is free on the NHS for children aged 2 or 3 years old on 31 August 2021 – born between 1 September 2017 and 31 August 2019, so don’t forget to book your child’s flu vaccine appointment with your GP surgery.
New collect code needed for rapid lateral flow device COVID-19 tests from pharmacies
With coronavirus still with us in our communities, testing remains very much a thing that we all need to do regularly.
It’s the only way to identify people who may be carrying the virus and spreading it to others, but who are not showing any symptoms of having it.
Free rapid, lateral flow tests are quick and easy to do, and they’re widely available from lots of places, including your pharmacy.
Now you need a ‘collect code’, to give to the pharmacist in exchange for the tests.
The collect codes are simple and instant to get, either online or by calling 119.
Take that code with you, and you can collect a box of tests like normal – they’ll just ask you for your code.
Don’t forget to record your test result once you’ve done it. A reminder about how to do that will be sent to you with the collect code.
Half of adults say the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health
This Sunday, 10 October, marks World Mental Health Day – an event celebrated globally that aims to bring people together to discuss the importance of taking care of our mental health.
This year’s theme is ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’, bringing to light the inequalities many people face in their experience of mental ill health and mental healthcare.
Here in Devon, we’re keen to use the day to highlight the importance of getting support when you need it.
On top of the usual demands of everyday life, over the last 18 months we’ve also been dealing with the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on us, such as changing coronavirus restrictions; a huge change in family life and living arrangements; financial strains; increased anxiety; family illness and bereavement. Many of us may be struggling more with our mental health and wellbeing as a result.
Recent government research has revealed that half of adults in England say the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health, and more than a third of people said they did not know what to do to help improve it.
There are lots of resources available to help you look after your mental health and wellbeing. Just find what works for you.
NHS delivers more than 850,000 top up jabs to most at risk
The NHS has reported that its COVID-19 booster programme is continuing successfully, with those currently eligible deciding to have their top up jab by the thousands when invited.
They include people who are clinically vulnerable, health and social care workers and people aged 50 years old and over who had their second COVID-19 jab at least six months ago.
Also eligible for the jab are those living in residential care homes for older adults, all those aged 16 to 49 years old with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19, and adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals.
Appointments can be quickly and conveniently booked via the NHS website or by phoning 119.
If you’ve received a text message from ‘NHSvaccine’ you can just click on the web link to the NHS website to make a booking.
You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.