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Beware of cheap toys that could contain harmful chemicals; we’re celebrating young people helped into education, employment or training and could you be better off drinking less?

Trading Standards warn that cheap toys could contain harmful chemicals

Consumers across the region are being urged to ensure that the toys they buy display the UKCA mark, or the European CE equivalent, on the packaging following concerns that the cost-of-living crisis is driving people to buy cheaper but potentially dangerous products.

The warning, from our Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service which covers Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay, follows toy testing by our national partners the Chartered Institute of Trading Standards.

Despite UK legislation to protect the public, recent testing on a toy bow-and-arrow set revealed that the product contained 100 times the legal limit of phthalates; while a fashion doll set was 300 times over the legal limit. Phthalates are plastic-softening chemicals that are used to make plastic more durable. The use of certain phthalates is tightly restricted in toys across Europe and toy products must contain no more than 0.1 per cent. Restricted phthalates are carcinogenic and can cause reproductive problems and can affect child growth and neurodevelopment.

You can find out more, including what other items failed safety tests and the top products shoppers are seeking to save money, in the full story on the news page of our website.

Grand Western Canal staff granted powers to tackle antisocial behaviour

Our Canal Rangers Team and our Community Patrol Boat volunteers who work on the Grand Western Canal in Tiverton and its country park have been given limited police powers.

It means they’ll be able to deal with any low-level antisocial behaviour which might occur while also fostering a sense of security and reassurance for users and the community.

They will be identified by the logo displayed on their uniform, they will also carry a police ID badge and a card listing their powers.

You can find out more in the full story on the news page of our website. 

Could you be better off drinking less?

The average person spends tens of thousands of pounds on alcohol over the course of a lifetime. And the personal costs of harmful drinking can be much starker, from mental and physical health problems and financial worries, to relationship breakdowns and family difficulties.

But the cost of alcohol to ourselves, our relationships, our families and our wider community doesn’t have to be so high. We can all take steps to make a change. 

Next week is Alcohol Awareness Week, and we’re inviting you to find out more about what you could gain by drinking less, from saving money and getting better sleep, to feeling better mentally and emotionally.

Visit the Alcohol Change UK website to understand more about the impacts of alcohol on your body, find top tips to cut down your drinking and information about the Try Dry App that helps you track your drinking and set goals. Please also check out the resources on the NHS Better Health website and on our website.

If you’re worried about your alcohol or drug use, The Together Drug and Alcohol Service offers support for adults in Devon who are dependent on alcohol. Call 0800 233 5444.

Y-Smart, the drug and alcohol service for young people under 18 years old in Devon, including those affected by family/carer drug and alcohol use, can be contacted by calling 01271 388162.

Celebrating young people helped into education, employment or training

Young people have described how our Youth Hub Devon service helped them into education, employment or training. They were among guests at a celebration at Exeter Library this week, which is where Youth Hub Devon recently re-located to.

Since the service started in 2021, 500 young people have been referred for a range of support, including career advice, help with CV writing, interview skills, and signposting to other relevant services. And of those, over 200 have been helped to find their way to education, employment and training.

To celebrate the success, not just of the service but also the success of all those so far helped by the service, we arranged a special get-together this week. It was well attended and provided an opportunity for people helped by the service to meet senior council officers, including our Chief Executive, Donna Manson and our Head of Service Economy Enterprise and Skills, Keri Denton (pictured), to talk about their experience.

You can find out what they had to say in the full story on the news page of our website.

If you are aged 16 to 24 years old and would like help into employment, education or training, please get in touch.

Openreach in final stages of current build with Connecting Devon and Somerset

Openreach is entering the final stages of its current collaboration with Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) – having provided access to Full Fibre connectivity to more than 1,800 premises in the region. The progress of its build highlights how the project is helping to fill-in coverage in hard-to-reach areas that until now have missed out on being connected to ultrafast broadband.

Full Fibre is now ready for service for around 550 homes and businesses in parts of Dulverton and the surrounding area, more than 420 premises in the area south of Tiverton, just over 100 premises in the parish of Bickleigh and Wotter, over 80 in Kentibury Ford, more than 80 in Widecombe-in-the-Moor and more than 70 in East Blue Anchor. Other areas included in the build, which also have access to live connectivity, are parts of Coffinswell, Combeinteignhead, Lane End, Satterleigh and Watermouth. The build is ongoing in several areas including parts of Combe Martin, Dulverton, Lydeard St Lawrence, Shaugh Prior, South Molton, Washford and Wiveliscombe.

Thanks to increasing public take-up of broadband services funded through the CDS programme, the Government’s ‘Gainshare’ agreement with Openreach is enabling CDS to reinvest £6 million in additional Full Fibre infrastructure. Openreach is also contributing funding towards the programme.

To find out more about connectivity in your area you can use the fibre checker on the Open Reach website.

Read the full story on the news page of our website.

Upgrade for path in Torrington

Cyclists and walkers can now benefit from improvements to a path on the Commons in Torrington that runs alongside the River Torridge.

Work has been completed to clean and fix the surface of part of Rolle Road between the old creamery site in Taddiport and the Tarka Trail at the Puffing Billy. Using recycled road planings, we have filled in some of the worst parts of the traffic-free section and cleaned back the old mud and debris on the route.

It follows approval from the Torrington Commons Conservators to allow cyclists along this path which is part of the former Rolle Canal and still suffers from very damp sections after spells of rain. We are continuing discussions with the conservators to achieve further improvements along the remainder of the route.

Read more on the news page of our website.

Hay fever advice as hot weather increases pollen impact

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen. It’s usually worse between late March and September when the pollen count is at its highest and the weather is warm, humid and windy. 

Common symptoms are similar to a cold and include sneezing and coughing, a runny or blocked nose, itchy, red or watery eyes and an itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears. You may also lose your smell, get a headache or earache and feel tired. However, hay fever will last for weeks or months, unlike a cold, which usually goes away after one or two weeks.

The NHS in Devon is advising people to treat the symptoms of hay fever at home so that GPs can focus on more complex patient issues. There’s currently no cure for hay fever and you cannot prevent it, but you can do things to ease your symptoms when the pollen count is high. These include pre-emptively taking antihistamines and using steroid nasal sprays, avoiding being outside during peak pollen times, wearing sunglasses to stop pollen getting in your eyes and showering and changing your clothes after you’ve been outside. 

More general advice is available on the NHS website, and if you require further assistance you can visit your local pharmacy. They can recommend suitable products that can be purchased over the counter to help relieve the symptoms of hay fever, and if your condition is more serious, signpost you quickly to get the right medical care.

New digital health check to tackle deadly cardiovascular disease

The Government has announced that a new digital NHS health check will be rolled out in England from next spring. The current face-to-face NHS health check for adults in England aged 40 to 74 years old, which is largely delivered through GP surgeries, can help spot early signs of stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, or dementia. From spring 2024 the new digital check will operate alongside the existing in-person NHS health check to offer more availability and ease pressure on GP surgeries.

Patients will be able to access the digital health check via a mobile phone, tablet or computer. They will complete an online questionnaire, entering their height, weight and blood pressure measurements, and the results of a blood test. The results will be available online and direct people to personalised advice to reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke, as well as advice to stop smoking and weight management support where appropriate. Referrals to GPs will only be made if further tests and treatment are needed. 

You can read more on the Government’s website.