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Helping children aspire to reach their potential; Pause on plans to stop support for homelessness; Understanding healthy relationships; Childcare availability in Devon; COVID-19 booster; and Let’s Talk Teenagers

Helping our children aspire to reach their full potential

Ask any young child what they want to do when they grow up, and you may possibly hear something influenced by what they’ve seen on TV – for example, a sports person or a pop star.

Or they may have heard about jobs that members of their family, or their friends’ families have, and would like to do that. Or they may simply not have thought much about it at all.

But the conversations around the table at home, and the things that children and young people hear at home, help them formulate ideas and ambitions about their future.

But some young people grow up within an atmosphere where there hasn’t been support or encouragement, and if they’re not seeing or hearing positive opportunities that they’d like for themselves, then perhaps it’s harder for them to see their own full potential.

That’s what we’ve been thinking about for children and young people in our care, who for a range of reasons do not live with their parents, and who have had very difficult starts in life.

For this extended article, we spoke to Wendy Ohlson, Headteacher of Devon’s Virtual School, which links all of Devon’s schools with additional support for children in care.

You can find out about the work that we’re doing with Exeter College and the University of Exeter to help young people in our care to aspire with their education and ambitions in life. And about our mentoring scheme and work with the charity, Young Devon, to help support children in our care who are at most risk of disengaging with their education.

Council Leader pauses plans to stop funding support for homeless people

Our Leader, Councillor John Hart, has paused plans to stop funding support for homeless people.

We currently provide financial support to organisations that help people who are homeless, or are at risk of becoming homeless, even though we don’t have a statutory responsibility to do so.

The proposal to cut our discretionary spending was originally made to help us balance our books in response to soaring demand for our statutory services.

But Councillor Hart has paused the proposal, having listened to members of the public speak passionately of the impact that the proposed cut could have on them and others.

“We need to take stock and understand more fully the impact of any proposal,” he said this week.

“I am putting a pause on the decision so that we can have a full and frank discussion with our eight district and city council leaders and officers. I also want to involve agencies such as the Police and Public Health, to see a full and accurate picture across the county.”

A report will now go to our Cabinet in December with a proposal for how the service could work in future that can be agreed with all of Devon’s district and city councils.

You can read the full story on our news page.

Understanding healthy relationship needs in Devon

We have launched a survey that hopes to gather information from people who sadly have lived experience of domestic abuse.

We want the study to inform how best we can support people, who are experiencing domestic abuse, in the future.

We work with several local organisations that deliver projects that support people experiencing domestic abuse, and some of those services say that they’re seeing growing numbers of cases in which coercive behaviour or financial abuse is present.

Our current contract with providers is due to end in early 2025, so we are thoroughly reviewing the support now to make sure that we will be commissioning the services that people and families need in the future.

To do that, we are working with domestic abuse charities and support providers, and with known survivors of abuse. But we also want to reach people who have experienced abuse but perhaps are unknown to support groups. 

We want to better understand how people in Devon see issues around family relationships, domestic abuse and violence and how these impact on their daily lives. We don’t just mean couples, but also relationships between siblings, child and parent relationships and friendships too.

All information shared will be completely confidential and will help us better understand what people who face abuse in Devon need in order to develop future services.

The survey can be found on our Have Your Say webpage. The deadline for responses is Thursday 31 August.

Helping to ensure that there’s enough childcare available in Devon

We’re asking parents to help us ensure that there are enough childcare places in all areas of the county, by taking part in our online survey.

In the Parents Childcare Survey, we ask questions including where you live; the kind of childcare you use; your entitlement to government-funded childcare; and the number of hours your child spends in childcare each week.

The results will help our Early Years and Childcare Team to plan and ensure that there is enough childcare available throughout the county.

We know, for example, that there are some areas of the county where there’s a shortage of childcare provision.

Our survey is available online and will be open until Sunday 10 September. We would like as many people as possible to take part in the survey, whether you currently use childcare or not.

You can read more about the survey and current provision of childcare in the county in the news story on our website.

Autumn COVID-19 booster programme announced

This week, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI) announced details of the autumn COVID-19 booster programme. People at greatest risk of serious illness from COVID-19, eligible for the autumn vaccine booster, include:

  • residents in care homes for older adults
  • all adults aged 65 years and over
  • people aged 6 months to 64 years in a clinical risk group, as defined in tables 3 and 4 of the COVID-19 chapter of the UKHSA Green Book on Immunisation
  • frontline health and social care workers
  • people aged 12 to 64 years who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression, as defined in the UKHSA Green Book
  • people aged 16 to 64 years who are carers, as defined in the UKHSA Green Book, and staff working in care homes for older adultsThe risk of severe COVID-19 continues to be strongly associated with increasing age and underlying health conditions.

NHS England will confirm details of how and when eligible people can access the autumn booster vaccine soon, although the JCVI has advised that the autumn programme should aim to complete vaccinations by early December 2023.

Vaccines help to protect against severe illness, hospitalisations and deaths from coronavirus. Last year’s autumn booster programme saw almost 84 per cent of over-80s vaccinated and more than 73 per cent of 65 to 70-year-olds, protecting the most vulnerable and helping us to live with COVID-19.

New sessions to help parents of teenagers and pre-teens

The next in the series of highly successful webinars aimed at parents of teenagers and pre-teens, are about to begin.

And again, the Let’s Talk Teenagers and Let’s Talk Pre-Teens series will cover  a range of topics relevant to young people.

The series provides online support sessions and an opportunity for parents and carers of teenagers and pre-teens to hear about the challenges young people are facing today, and discover ways to help them navigate their way through them.

Delivered by parenting experts, they discuss the tools and techniques that can be used to support young people and their communities.

The Let’s Talk Teenagers sessions will run on Tuesday 19 September, Tuesday 26 September and Tuesday 3 October.

And the Let’s Talk Pre-Teen sessions will run on Thursday 21 September, Thursday 28 September and Thursday 5 October.

Both series will tackle a range of important topics relevant to young people today, providing advice and guidance to parents and carers.

To find out more and to book your place, visit the Let’s Talk Teenagers; or the Let’s Talk Pre-Teens web pages.

School extension gets underway at Sherford Vale

Sherford, the growing new community near Plymouth, will have, when complete, 5,500 new homes in three distinct neighbourhoods, four schools, community facilities, shops, employment and retail space and open country parkland.

Keeping up with the growth, a major new extension to Sherford Vale Primary School began this week, which will double the capacity of the school from 210 to 420 pupils between the ages of two and 11 years.

The extension of Sherford Vale Primary School will mark the completion of the first of four new schools that will serve the new town and surrounding areas.

Susie Evans, Headteacher at Sherford Vale, said:

“As Sherford continues to grow, the expansion of Sherford Vale means that we can offer school places to twice as many local children. We have already created an exceptional place to learn, play and grow and look forward to welcoming many more families into our community.”

You can read more about the school and the new extension in the story on our news page.