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We have achieved Bronze Trailblazer status with Race Equality Matters; record number of children in Devon receive summer holiday food support and beware of new text message scam impersonating family members!

We have achieved Bronze Trailblazer status with Race Equality Matters

We have been awarded the prestigious Race Equality Matters Bronze Trailblazer Status for taking significant steps to make a meaningful impact on tackling race inequality and becoming a more diverse, inclusive and equal organisation.

The Bronze status was determined by an independent panel of experts all with lived experience of race inequality in the workplace. It recognises the work we are doing to develop a more inclusive culture through our Race Equality Action Plan and maintains momentum to stamp out intolerance for all kinds of racism across our organisation.

Becoming a Trailblazer means the work we have done has resulted in change and made an impact across the breadth of the entire organisation. A step that aims to successfully address racial inequality and become a more diverse, inclusive and equal organisation.

Although this is a fantastic achievement for the progress we have made, we still have a good deal of work to do to ensure all our colleagues feel safe and included. The Bronze Award is the first stage in the Trailblazer series but it’s not a lifetime award, and we have to work hard over the next 18 months, demonstrating that we are continuously improving, to keep it.

Progress on our Race Equality Action Plan can be found on our website as part of our commitment to transparency, and progress is reported every six months to our Corporate Infrastructure and Regulatory Services Scrutiny Committee. 

Record number of children in Devon receive summer holiday food support

Over 20,000 supermarket vouchers, worth over £1.8 million, have been sent to low-income families in Devon to help them buy food over the upcoming summer holidays. Each child currently eligible for free school meals during term time has received a £90 voucher to spend on replacing the meals they would have had at school during the day.

It’s the equivalent of £15 per week of the six-week school holiday, and is being distributed in one lump sum now to allow families some flexibility on how they spend the vouchers and try to help with the additional pressure the summer period puts on household budgets. They can be redeemed in major supermarkets across Devon and arrangements are in place for families who cannot get to a supermarket.

With the end of term fast approaching, we’ve already sent these supermarket vouchers to families whose children currently receive free school meals, so please check your inbox and redeem them. If you were expecting to receive the vouchers, but didn’t, get in touch with our team as soon as possible 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.

You can find out more about the free school meal holiday voucher scheme and other support available to help people in Devon with the rising cost of living on our website.

Beware of new text message scam impersonating family members!

Our Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service has issued a warning that fraudsters are sending a text message purporting to be from children or parents claiming they have a new number or have broken or lost their phone.

“Broke my phone Mum. Can you text my new number on 07425218812 I’m messaging you from a friend’s phone xXx.”

The messages are the first stage in a phishing scam, designed to dupe recipients into engaging with the new number and ultimately parting with personal data that could lead to identity theft and money transfer fraud.

As well as endangering the recipient, the scams also put young people at risk by creating the possibility that they might replace the actual number with the new fake one and be unable to contact their parents or vice versa.

If you receive such a message, phone the sender on their original number to check whether the message is genuine, and if they are unreachable, verify the identity of the sender by asking them a question only they would know. Remember, never pass on personal details or make any payment via your phone unless you are 100 per cent sure the person you are speaking with is who they say they are.

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

£25,000 to support vulnerable library users once mobile service closes

We’re planning to earmark £25,000 to help ensure that vulnerable users can continue to access library services after the mobile service is decommissioned.

Earlier this week our Cabinet approved proposals to stop delivering a mobile library service because it’s become very expensive to run and the number of people using it has fallen considerably over the last few years.

Currently we have four mobile libraries, which costs £217,000 a year to operate. Three of the libraries are 15 years old and at the end of their serviceable lives, and the fourth is nine years old. They are expensive to maintain and unreliable, but to replace all four with new vehicles would cost between £0.5m and £0.8m – and this is not something we can afford to do.

We’re looking to extend our existing library services – our Home Library Service, our Good Neighbours service membership and our digital service – to make sure that people, particularly those who have a disability or health condition and are unable to access a static library, can still receive a library service at home. 

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

North Devon mental health drop-in service consultation extended

We’re extending our consultation on possible proposals to change the way that support services for adults with mild mental wellbeing needs are delivered across North Devon.

It’s not about reducing the support that people receive, but rather to modernise the services, and give fairer access to them in the future as well as better connect people to their communities.

The decision to run the consultation for a further four to six weeks this summer is to ensure all service users, their families and carers have the time and additional information they need to respond.

Although the number of people who use these services is relatively few, we fully understand the value of them and the impact any change could have, which is why we are taking the time to ensure we have fully listened to and considered peoples’ concerns before any decisions are made.

We will take into account all feedback and responses already received from the first consultation and no decisions will be made until after the consultation is completed and we’ve had time to fully digest what people tell us. 

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

Fakir Mohamed Osman pictured with Tendy Lindsay, Chair of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) at the awards ceremony at the CTSI Conference in Birmingham.

Fakir’s a jolly good ‘Fellow’!

Congratulations to our colleague Fakir Mohamed Osman, Head of Heart of the South West Trading Standards, and Chair of our Race Equality Staff Group, who has become a ‘Fellow’ of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI).

Fakir received his award at an award ceremony at CTSI’s Annual Conference, Trading Standards’ flagship event, which was held this year in Birmingham. The event provides opportunities for networking and continuing professional development for those working in consumer protection and regulation from across the whole of the UK.

Fakir has been made a CTSI Fellow for recognition of his work in Trading Standards locally, regionally and nationally – by going the extra mile for the profession and leading projects which have had a significant impact on individuals, communities and organisations.

Find out more about our Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service on the website.

Advice as latest strikes impact NHS services

The NHS in Devon is advising local people and holidaymakers to continue to access the health services they need during the next wave of national strikes. Junior doctors are striking for five consecutive days from Thursday 13 July, followed by consultants on 20 July, and radiographers from 25 to 27 July.

Dr Nigel Acheson, Chief Medical Officer for NHS Devon, said:

“The culmination of months of strikes, combined with the summer holiday season starting in the south-west, means it could be really difficult on the frontline. There is likely to be a significant impact on local services.

“Regardless of any strike action taking place, it is really important that patients who need urgent medical care continue to come forward as normal, especially in emergency and life-threatening cases – when someone is seriously ill or injured, or their life is at risk.”

Call 999 in life threatening emergencies and use NHS 111 for other health concerns. During strike days, it is likely 999 call handlers will be very busy and NHS 111 call centres will have fewer staff, therefore longer call response times are expected. Don’t forget you can use NHS 111 online.

The NHS will contact you if your hospital appointment needs to be rescheduled due to strike action. If they have not contacted you, please attend your appointment as planned. 

GP practices will continue to be open as normal during the strikes, so please attend your appointments unless you are contacted and told otherwise. Visitors to Devon are also reminded that their first port of call for GP care is their home practice, which will be able to provide online, phone and video consultations as well as arranging for prescriptions to be sent to any pharmacy you choose.

We’re supporting the Samaritans Talk to Us campaign

? Throughout July, Samaritans are running an awareness campaign called ‘Talk to Us’, to remind people that they’re there for anyone who needs someone to listen.

They have one simple message: Samaritans are there 24/7 for anyone who is struggling to cope. Talk to them, they’ll listen.

In 2022 there wasn’t a single second when Samaritans volunteers weren’t on the phone with someone.

When life is difficult, Samaritans are there – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at, or visit the Samaritans website to find your nearest branch.