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Libraries open doors to support locals this winter; pilot extended to give more unpaid carers access to leisure centres; and Trading Standards warn to look out for scammers

With the rising costs of food and energy starting to bite, councils are focusing on what they can do to help support individuals and families.

This week, we’ve made a few announcements about help or advice available.

Libraries open their doors to support local residents this winter

Our libraries in Devon are throwing their doors open in welcome this winter, to provide a range of help, support, advice and comfort to people who may be struggling, or beginning to struggle with the rising cost of living.

The ‘Libraries for Life’ campaign, launched by Libraries Unlimited which run Devon’s libraries on our behalf, will continue right through until March next year. 

More details can be found in the news story on our website, but some of libraries are providing:

  • warm spaces, where people are welcome to join and spend time in the library. Some will host sessions with advice about energy efficiency, debt advice and other topics
  • community fridge projects, making surplus food from local supermarkets available to all for free. They’re working with local groups to provide the service
  • coat rails, where people donate warm winter coats for people to use, and some are also collecting donated clothing
  • free baby weighing facilities at many of our libraries
  • free drop-in IT sessions to help people boost their digital skills and confidence
  • work clubs in libraries can help with CV writing, and developing skills to help apply for jobs, and our Business and IP Centres in Barnstaple and Exeter libraries have webinars with advice for budding entrepreneurs and local start-up businesses

Libraries are always looking for volunteers, and that’s a great way to meet new people and support your local community this winter, so if you have time spare, please contact your local library to enquire about volunteering.

Councils extend pilot to give more unpaid carers access to leisure centres

We’ve heard from unpaid carers – people who voluntarily provide care to a loved one or friend – that the rising costs of living are making them prioritise their spending, and that they’re choosing not to spend on exercise or activities away from their caring roles.

We know everyone is having to adapt to the rising costs of food and energy. We’re concerned about unpaid carers though, because thousands of people in Devon rely on family and friends to help care for them, and when unpaid carers are unwell, it impacts on the people they care for.

We and Mid Devon District Council launched a pilot project earlier this month to give unpaid carers free access to three leisure centres in Tiverton, Crediton and Cullompton. This week, we’ve been able to extend the pilot further to include more unpaid carers.

Now young carers (under 18 year olds) and parent carers (parents who care for a child or young person, under 18 years old, who has additional needs), as well as adult carers of adults, are all eligible for this pilot in Mid Devon.

Proof of identification as an unpaid carer is required at the leisure centres. Details about that are in the story on our news page.

Exercise and time away from caring is good for carers’ physical and mental health and wellbeing. We’re pleased to be working with Mid Devon District Council and Devon Carers to deliver this pilot.

Trading Standards issue warning to look out for scammers

The Heart of the South West Trading Standards service is warning residents to look out for scams, that appear to offer financial support to help households with their energy bills.

Scammers are using SMS texts and emails, posing to be genuine and legitimate sources, to contact recipients.

Messages vary, but their aim is for the recipient to click the link in the communication.

One such scam text wanted the recipient to think it had been sent by the government, but on closer inspection, the text omits the full stop between Gov and UK.

To find out the best way to protect yourself from scams, please visit our website.

Other local government cost of living support

If you don’t have enough money to live on, you might be able to get help from your local district council to afford essentials like:

  • your energy and water bills
  • food
  • household items such as clothes or an oven

You don’t have to be getting benefits to get help from your local council. If you do get benefits, they won’t be affected if you start getting money from a welfare assistance or Household Support Fund scheme.

Each council runs their own scheme so the help they offer and who can get it varies. You can find out how to contact your local council on GOV.UK.

Or follow these links:

They can also advise on things like housing benefit, council tax support and winter fuel payments.

Visit the government’s ‘Help for Households’ website to find out about other cost of living support.

Online support and guidance for young people and parents

Life can be difficult enough sometimes, and for children and young people, those day-to-day interactions with others, your attitude about yourself, your relationships with people at home, at school or work, can be especially overwhelming.

It’s also a challenge for parents and carers seeing changes in their child’s behaviour or personality and not really knowing what’s going on or the best way to support them.

We’ve launched three websites dedicated to providing help and advice for young people and their parents and carers, from pre-natal right through to teenage years.

  • Health for under 5s – offers pre-natal advice and for children up to aged five years old
  • Health for Kids – aimed at parents and carers of children primary school aged – includes games, videos, and quizzes. It’s split into four ‘worlds’: healthy bodies, healthy minds, health issues and getting help
  • Health for Teens – for young people of secondary school age and their parents and carers. It tackles the issues many teens go through, as their bodies change, and they become more self-aware, while also still working out who they are

The sites welcome any additions from local residents. If you have any content, articles or local events you would like to submit for consideration please email our Public Health Nursing team.

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Carbon Plan reveals how all Devon can achieve net-zero

After hearing from Devon residents and businesses through public consultations, workshops and a Citizens’ Assembly, and with extensive collaboration with the Net Zero Task Force, the final version of the Devon Carbon Plan has now been published by the Devon Climate Emergency partnership. 

Supported by the latest scientific evidence, and built on detailed, ongoing assessments of Devon’s greenhouse gas emissions, the Plan is Devon’s roadmap to becoming net-zero by 2050 at the latest, and spells out exactly what we all have to do to create a resilient, sustainable county where people and nature can thrive.  

Its publication follows a summer which was the joint hottest on record, where the impact of human-induced climate change has never been more apparent.

Broadly speaking, emissions in Devon can be divided into five key sectors: economy and resources, energy supply, food, land and sea, transport, and the built environment. The Plan’s launch marks the beginning of a new phase of action – it is crucial that everyone in Devon now works to implement the Plan.

You can find the Devon Carbon Plan on the Devon Climate Emergency website, including a Quick Read version and a summary version.

You can also follow Devon Climate Emergency on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for ongoing updates about the launch, and the next steps for the Devon Climate Emergency project.

Stover Country Park takes action for nature thanks to £2.5million Heritage Fund grant

We’ve had some excellent news this week, that our bid for funding to restore and enhance our Stover Country Park has been successful.

National Lottery Heritage have granted us £2.5 million to pay for a comprehensive programme of work that will revitalise biodiversity in our historic Grade II listed park.

The work will include the removal of silt from the 10-acre naturalised freshwater lake – the largest in the south west – and which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

It’ll also enable the restoration of the historic Gatehouse, and the reopening of a portion of a second lake, which was once a major feature of the landscape.

There will be a network of walking routes, linked to an improved Discovery Centre, community workship and outdoor learning areas.

Experts predicting flu and COVID-19 cases to climb this winter

The government’s UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has warned that lower levels of natural immunity against the most common H3N2 flu strain could lead to it circulating widely this winter, and is calling for everyone who is eligible to have their free flu vaccine and COVID-19 booster. 

It’s because, despite the flu strain being present last winter, the restrictions in place for COVID-19 protected us from catching it. Experts have been watching how the flu strain developed in Australia, where they’ve already had their winter, and from that they’re predicting a difficult winter ahead for us in the UK. And right now, cases of COVID-19 are also on the rise again, including in Devon. 

Steve Brown, our Director of Public Health Devon, called it a ‘clarion call’ for everyone in Devon who is eligible for the vaccinations to come forward as soon as they’re invited.

Primary and some secondary school children are eligible for the flu nasal spray this year, which is usually given at school. And GP surgeries are inviting two and three year olds (age on the 31 August) for their nasal spray vaccination at their practices.

COVID-19 vaccination appointments can be booked via the National Booking System on the NHS website.

#TogetherWeCan be there to support children across Devon who need us the most

We are shining a light on the incredible team who work together to make sure that foster carers in Devon, and the children in our care, receive all the support they need and deserve to flourish. Like Claire, one of our Supervising Social Workers:

 “The thing I love most about my job is seeing children thrive and reach their full potential.”

Watch Claire’s story as she explains more about how she supports foster carers through her role as a Supervising Social Worker and why she thinks foster carers are ‘just the best people in the world!’

You can meet more of the team and hear about their different roles on the Fostering Devon website.

 If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer and being part of this amazing team, visit the Fostering Devon website or contact us by calling 0345 155 1077. #TogetherWeCan be there to support children across Devon who need us the most.

Stoptober starts tomorrow!

Join the thousands of people who are stopping smoking this October. If you can make it to 28 days smoke free, you’re five times more likely to quit for good.

It’s never too late to quit – stopping smoking brings immediate benefits to health, including for people with an existing smoking-related disease. On average smokers spend £38.59 a week on tobacco. So if you can quit this Stoptober, you could save around £2,000 a year.

Get free support to help you quit for good from the NHS Quit Smoking App.

We also have information to help you stop smoking on our One Small Step website, including a a calculator to help you find out how much money you can save be stopping.