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Free school meal holiday vouchers now available; Maths skills for children in care and care leavers; Tips to avoid loan sharks; West Country Women Award winner; Climate leadership; Worrying increase in child and adult flu

Families to receive help to buy food during school holidays

Families in Devon on low incomes, whose children receive free school meals, will get support this winter to help them buy food during the school holidays.

Once again, we’re providing holiday food vouchers for children and young people who are eligible for benefit-related free school meals.

If you have children at school and your financial circumstances have changed, your children may be eligible for free school meals.

You can find out by applying online through our Devon Citizen’s Portal.

The deadline for applications, in order to receive free school meal holiday vouchers for the Christmas school holiday, is Friday 16 December, so please apply as soon as possible.

Before the end of this term, we’ll be sending eligible families free school meal holiday vouchers to cover both the Christmas and February 2023 half-term holidays at the same time. That’s to give families more flexibility to prioritise and budget their winter food expenditure themselves.

Vouchers can be used at the following supermarkets: Aldi, Iceland, Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Asda, Waitrose and M&S Food.

You can read more in the story on our news page or visit our Free School Meal Holiday Vouchers webpage for more information.

Find out more about Free School Meal holiday vouchers

Maths skills support for children in care and care leavers

We’ve had various learning programmes that help young adults improve their skills, helping them achieve the grades they need to find employment or training or continue with their education.

Devon Multiply is one such programme involving projects that help people improve their numeracy skills.

But we’d identified that young adults who have been in care, and may still be in care, have not been targeted specifically for support, as much as we’d like.

So, we’ve ring-fenced around £70,000 specifically for projects that target young people who have experience of being in the care system.

These projects should seek to help improve their confidence in skills in maths in   everyday life and help them into employment.

This new programme is geared towards care-experienced young people aged 19 to 25 who do not already have a Maths GCSE Level 4 (grade C) or above.

Grant funding of between £5,000 to £15,000 is available to projects that offer innovative proposals that address the needs of care experienced young people.

We’re inviting applications for proposals now from private businesses, public and voluntary organisations, charities, and communities. The closing date for submissions is Tuesday 13 December.

You can read more about this funding in the news story on our website.

Five safety tips to protect yourself and others from loan sharks

Figures from the England Illegal Money Lending Team show that nearly one in 10 people turned to loan sharks to help pay for Christmas last year.

And more than half the victims of loan sharks turned to them in order to pay for essentials, such as to pay for utilities or fuel, in the first half of this year.

With national warnings that the scale of household debt will continue to rise, due to increasing cost of living pressures, experts are concerned that people are particularly vulnerable right now to unscrupulous lenders.

It’s led to renewed warnings for people to be alert to the dangers of using loan sharks.

We’ve posted five simple safety tips online to protect yourself and loved ones from loan sharks.

You can read them in the story on our news page.

West Country Women Award winner, Ana Barbosa

Congratulations to our much loved colleague, Ana Barbosa, winner in the diversity and equality category at last night’s West Country Women Awards.

Ana has worked for us a social worker, and is now our Project Coordinator, working with ethnically diverse communities.

She was nominated for the award for her influential work championing anti-racism, helping us to understand what racism looks like and how it impacts on individuals, communities and organisations.

Ana provides mentoring to our staff and engages in constructive and positive discussions with residents who use our services, so that everyone in every role across our council can work in a safe, inclusive and supportive environment.

Jan Spicer, our Interim Chief Executive, said about the award:

“Congratulations Ana! You are an amazing inspiration to us all, in your work and in all that you do to encourage and help this council better represent our diverse communities in Devon.  Well done. We’re proud of you!”

You can read more about last night’s award in the story on our news page.

We’ve been recognised for climate leadership

We’ve been called a pioneering authority by Sustain, one of Britain’s top sustainability charities, for our partnership work to reduce emissions and waste in food and farming in Devon.

Sustain advocates food and agricultural policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals and improve the environment.

In Britain, the food system contributes to a third of all UK Greenhouse gases, so Sustain looked at 200 local authorities, including us, to see how we’re tackling the climate and nature emergency through food.

They say that better performing councils like us have a range of policies and initiatives ranging from education and improving health, to encouraging communities to reduce emissions and eat locally sourced produce.

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

Worrying increase of children and adults with flu in intensive care

An increasing number of children and adults are being admitted to intensive care in the south west with flu.

Hospitals in England have seen the number of people admitted with flu rise by 40 per cent in the last week, as cases in the community rise.

Dr Nigel Acheson, NHS Devon’s Chief Medical Officer, says:

“In the last week here in the south west, there has been a steep rise in people admitted to hospital with flu and sadly there has also been a steep rise in both adults and children in intensive care units with flu.

“If you or your children are eligable, we really urge you to tak up the invitation to have a flu jab.”

Reopened Dartmoor line passes 250,000 journeys

Just over a year after the Dartmoor Line reopened to regular passenger trains, journey numbers on the line have passed 250,000.

The line reopened last November, restoring a regular, year-round service for the first time in almost 50 years, following more than £40 million of Government investment.

It was the first former line to reopen under the Government’s Restoring Your Railway programme.

With journey numbers surpassing 250,000 by its first anniversary, patronage on the line has more than doubled the demand originally forecast.

Rail Minister, Huw Merriman MP, met local dignitaries and unveiled a plaque to mark the official reopening of the station building.

“A big congratulations to everyone who has been involved in bringing this wonderful line back into regular use over the past year,” he said.

You can read more about the Dartmoor rail line in the story on our news page.

Let’s not let Christmas cost the earth

Recycle Devon has produced an advent calendar, and each day they are sharing a different idea or tip on how to keep costs down this Christmas.

It’s available on the Recycle Devon FacebookInstagram and Twitter accounts.

On top of household’s usual monthly spending, it’s estimated that typically we spend an extra £1,130 in the month of December.

A lot of that’s on food. But with about a third of people admitting to throwing more food away over the Christmas period, making small changes – freezing food, and portion planning for example – can lead to big savings.

You can read more about this and other money-saving tips in our story online.

Global call to end gender-based violence

Organisations and community groups across Devon have been hosting events and activities to raise awareness and to stand against violence against women and girls.

We’re half-way through 16 Days of Action, a global call for people, and organisations and communities, to end gender-based violence, and to prevent violence against women and girls.

It’s also to celebrate the strength of victims and survivors of domestic violence, and to highlight the support that is available.

You can find out more about what’s happening in Devon during the campaign on the Safer Devon Partnership website. 

There are a range of services and organisations in Devon that support victims and survivors of domestic and sexual abuse to be safe and recover from their trauma. You can find their details on the Safer Devon Partnership website. 

Thousands more trees planted across Devon

This week, it’s National Tree Week. For a long time, we’ve been offering free packs of trees to landowners and communities in Devon, thanks to the Emergency Tree Fund by The Woodland Trust.

The fund has helped private landowners, as well as town and parish councils plant trees as part of the response to tackle the climate and nature emergency, and to achieve carbon net zero targets.

The packs, which contained 45 native broadleaved whips, have been delivered to landowners across the county, and it means that 6,750 trees, through this scheme, will be planted as part of this year’s National Tree Week.

We’re also ensuring that a further 9,820 trees are planted this season, with the majority of these being on our County Farms Estate.

Add all that to the 8,440 trees planted in Devon for The Queen’s Green Canopy initiative, and that takes the total to around 25,000 trees over two years.

Read more about it in our story online.