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New funding available to support innovative projects; we’re testing more petrol pumps for accuracy and have you received your free school meal holiday vouchers?

New funding available to support innovative projects that benefit local communities

We’re making a new pot of funding available to support local projects across Devon that align with key priorities in our four year strategic plan.

Specifically, we want to support projects that directly benefit local communities, helping to tackle hardship, such as food and fuel inequality; improve people’s mental health and wellbeing; address loneliness and isolation; and that respond to the climate emergency.

We’re calling it the ‘Growing Communities Fund’. We have an eligibility criteria and T&Cs on our website about the types of project we’re looking for.

But by way of illustration, these are real examples of projects that successfully bid for similarly available community funding during the pandemic:

  • A local organiser used funding to hire a minibus, to pick up elderly residents who live on their own, to take them to the pub for lunches. While another organised a friendship group for girls with autism. The peer support for group members resulted in the girls being able to join larger groups with more females. Both projects help to reduce social isolation and helped to develop positive relationships and social opportunities.
  • In another example, an organiser set up cooking groups that were well-attended and used regularly each month by older people and families on low incomes. Attendees were shown healthy, simple, low budget recipes, and the cooking sessions were a great way to socialise.
  • And another applicant wanted funds to cover the costs of activity sessions for local young people. The fact that the sessions were free to young people made a big difference and was a major consideration for families. So too was the fact that the sessions provided safe places and organised activities for the young people, rather than, as several young people described it, hanging around bored with nothing to do.

We know that people across Devon are feeling the effect of the current cost of living crisis, and we want the Growing Communities Fund to provide vital support to local communities that will make a genuine difference.

You can read more about it in the story on our news page.

Two people swimming, front crawl, in the sea at sunset

Be cautious about taking the plunge during hot weather

There’s been a few terribly sad news stories these last few weeks about tragic deaths as a result of people leaping into water, to cool off from the heat.

The high temperatures may have broken for the moment in Devon, but the warning to be careful around water, and to take care when in the water, is always relevant.

Swimming in open water can be very different to conditions in your local pool, warned our Director of Public Health, Steve Brown, this week. 

“Currents, tides, submerged and unseen hazards, rocks, weeds, cold water shock and cramps, which can be debilitating even for experienced swimmers, are just a few of the things that you need to be aware of when swimming,” he said.

Steve’s advice, for those unfamiliar with wild swimming, is not to start it spontaneously and without thought to risk.

There are lots of guides and advice online about how to enjoy wild swimming safely.

And advice from other sources, including:

  • swimming in lifeguarded areas, between the yellow and red flags
  • stay within your depth, and when in the sea, swim parallel with the shore
  • swim with others in a group
  • wear brightly coloured costumes and a tow float
  • and know how to float to live; float on your back to conserve energy, catch your breath and composure, and signal for help

You can read more about what health experts said this week about cooling off in the water, in the story on our news page.

Over 50s to be offered COVID-19 booster and flu jab this autumn

Everyone aged 50 years old and over will be among those offered a COVID-19 booster and a flu jab this autumn under plans to increase protection against respiratory viruses ahead of winter.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommends those eligible will be:

  • all adults aged 50 years old and over
  • those aged 5 to 49 years old in a clinical risk group, including pregnant women
  • those aged 5 to 49 years old who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression
  • those aged 16 to 49 years old who are carers
  • residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults
  • frontline health and social care workers

In addition, the offer of the free flu vaccine will be offered to more eligible groups, including all adults aged 50 to 64 years old and secondary school children in years 7, 8 and 9, who will be offered the vaccine in order of school year (starting with the youngest first)

These additional groups will only be eligible once the most vulnerable, including previously announced pre-school and primary school children, those aged 65 years old and over and those in clinical risk groups, have been offered the jab.

The NHS will announce in due course when and how eligible groups will be able to book an appointment for their COVID-19 autumn booster, and when people aged 50 to 64 years old who are not in a clinical risk group will be able to get their free flu jab, so please don’t come forward until then.

Trading Standards to test more petrol pumps for accuracy this summer

Consumer confidence that petrol pumps are dispensing fuel accurately is prompting Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service to increase forecourt spot checks this summer.

Forecourts petrol pumps are tested routinely to make sure that the amount of fuel a pump is showing the motorist, is actually going into the vehicle.

But with fuel prices now peaking at over £2 a litre, there may be concern about the pricing and accuracy of pumps. So by increasing their forecourt checks, Trading Standards hopes to reassure customers of the accuracy of the pumps.

None of the forecourts tested in the last 12 months were found to have issues, and no complaints about them were received during that period.

Mark Peacock from Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service, said:

“Testing petrol pumps for accuracy is a particularly important part of our work as, unlike most purchases of goods by weight or volume, the actual amount of fuel that goes into the tank is never actually seen by the consumer.”

You can read more about this news story on the news page of our website.

Free school meal holiday vouchers out now - check your inbox

Have you received your free school meal holiday vouchers?

School holidays can be difficult for some families, with added costs of food for example – especially now with rising food and energy prices, and reduced income due to childcare.

With the end of term fast approaching, we’ve sent supermarket vouchers worth £90 per child to low-income families, whose children currently receive free school meals, to help them buy food over the school summer holidays.

Please check your inbox and redeem them as soon as possible, and if you were expecting to receive the vouchers, but haven’t, please get in touch with our team by emailing or calling 0345 155 1019.

People’s circumstances change all the time, so if you didn’t previously qualify for free school meals but your income has recently reduced or stopped, please apply via our website. It’s the quickest and easiest way for your eligibility to be assessed and you will get an instant decision.

Marsh Barton Railway Station taking shape

Devon’s newest railway station at Marsh Barton, in Exeter, is taking shape as work continues at pace this summer.

The station, located on the eastern edge of Marsh Barton near the Energy from Waste plant, is being developed by GRAHAM on our behalf, and is due to open this winter.

Partners involved in the development of the new station at Marsh Barton were recently invited to visit the site to see how work is progressing.

Since the new pedestrian and cycle overbridge at the site was lifted into place in February, two approach ramps have been installed to either side, with the final sections shortly to be added. The bridge, which will provide a traffic free route for pedestrians and cyclists alongside Clapperbrook Lane, is due to open in the autumn.

The station will be equipped with two platforms and progress has been made on fitting them out with edging slabs, lighting columns and fencing as well as emergency access ramps on each side.

Local leaders have welcomed the benefit that it would bring to the wider area as well as Exeter’s largest trading estate.

You can read the full story on the news page of our website.

Children and staff at Withycombe Raleigh C of E Primary School, with the Year 5 pupils sat on their new bench

From ‘beach to bench’ – pupils rewarded for plastic collecting

Year five pupils at Withycombe Raleigh Church of England Primary School in Exmouth can sit and ponder on a bench made entirely from recycled plastic, some of which they collected.

The bench, which is made of recycled bottles, drums, crates, nets and other junk collected from beaches, was donated to the school this week by Keep Britain Tidy’s Ocean Recovery Project.

It’s part of a scheme aiming to highlight plastic pollution, and how such waste can be recycled to make other things.

School pupils took part in the beach day, run by our Waste Education Team, which also included learning about sustainable fishing.

Headteacher, Emma Jones, is delighted with the bench.

“We are very proud of the efforts our year five children made during their beach clean, and it is wonderful that some of the waste they collected has been reused to create something useful that can be enjoyed by the whole school. Our children are becoming increasingly aware of the impact of plastic on our environment and are keen to make a difference both at home and school.”

You can read more about this story on our news page.

Youth Hub Devon to host training and employment event

It’s nearly the end of the school year, and for some young people, it marks the end of their time at school.

School leavers will have the opportunity to find out about the range of training and employment options available to them at a special event next month.

Youth Hub Devon, based in Dix’s Field in Exeter city centre, will host the event from 11am to 3:30pm on Wednesday 3 August and Youth Hub Advisors will be on hand for appointments until 6:30pm.

School leavers and young people aged 16 to 24 years old will be able to speak to employers, training providers and support services at the event. Parents and carers are also welcome to attend.

Youth Hub Devon works to help young people aged 16 to 24 years old to get the right training, support, and guidance for their future. The service has already helped over 150 young people into employment or training, and the Youth Hub provides a space that allows young people to truly explore their employment and training options.

Complete this form to let the Youth Hub Devon team know that you are interested in attending the event.

Minor Injuries Unit open in North Devon

Summer minor injuries services in North Devon

Residents and visitors in North Devon will be able to access urgent care more easily this summer.

Earlier this month, the NHS in Devon launched a weekend Minor Injuries Unit (MIU) service at Tyrrell Hospital in Ilfracombe. Throughout July, August and early September two fully qualified private ambulance staff will be available for walk-ins and patients referred through NHS 111 from 10am to 6pm Friday to Monday.

Also available is ongoing interim GP support to provide a minor injury service during the working week in the GP practices nearest the MIUs that are temporarily closed in Ilfracombe and Bideford. However, these do accept walk-in patients so please call NHS 111 to be referred or call ahead to the GP practice first. You may be directed to a more appropriate service for your needs to ensure you get the correct treatment at the right time.

As always, in a life threatening emergency please attend your nearest hospital’s emergency department or call 999.

What do you think of night bus services in Exeter?

The business improvement district for Exeter city centre, which is called ‘InExeter’ wants to know what Devon residents think about night bus services (operating after midnight) running to and from Exeter. 

The survey is open until Sunday 14 August, and if you provide your contact details, you’ll be entered into a prize drawn to win one of three InExeter Independent £50 vouchers. 

You’ll need to be over 16 years old to take part in the draw, which will take place on Friday 19 August, with the winner notified by Monday 22 August. 

Take part in the night bus survey