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Free trees; exam successes and green your clean!

Well done everyone!

We produced a special edition of this newsletter earlier this week focusing on the exam results, with guidance to help young people with their decisions about their futures. If you missed it, you can read it online.

Exam successes for care experienced young people

With A level, AS Level, T Level and BTEC results out last week, and GCSE results out yesterday (Thursday 24 August), our Cabinet Member responsible for education, Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, has said how proud he is of all the young people in our care and care leavers for achieving their grades.

18-year-old Katie (not her real name) did better than she had expected, passing her Sociology, Media Studies and Business Studies A Levels.

“I’m really pleased with my results. It’s been a really hard slog with one thing or another, but I did it! With these grades, I’ve now got my place secured to study law at University,” she said.

And success for Lily-May. In just 12 months, she has gone from having projected grades of between one and three, to achieving six GCSE passes.

Her carer, Michelle, said:

“She has absolutely smashed it. All that hard work has paid off. I’m so proud of her!”

And carer, Zak, is over the moon with Amber’s nine high-scoring GCSE grades.

“We are all so incredibly proud of her. She’s absolutely smashed it. She’s done really, really well. We’ve got a very happy Amber at the moment!”

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

Linking rural communities to town centre, rail and tourist attractions 

We’re helping to increase the frequency of a vital bus link between rural villages in North Devon and Barnstaple Railway Station.

Stagecoach will now operate 11 trips Monday to Saturday between Combe Martin and Ilfracombe, with buses serving Barnstaple Railway Station for onward connections arriving and departing Barnstaple.

It’s a route that we subsidise that connects Combe Martin with Barnstaple via Berrynarbor, Watermouth Castle, Hele Bay, Ilfracombe, Muddiford and North Devon District Hospital.

It’s one of a number of Rail Link services across the country, designed to provide smooth bus and rail interchange opportunities, and to help communities switch to greener public transport.

Read more about this in the story on the news page of our website.

Helping care experienced young people secure accommodation

There have been news reports recently about higher mortgage rates leading to a surge in renting accommodation. The BBC published a story with research showing that rental enquiries in the South West rose from seven enquiries per rental property in May 2019, to 27 enquiries per rental property in May 2023.

We’re concerned about how difficult the current conditions are impacting on younger adults with little to no history of renting, particularly care-experienced young people. 

Landlords often want guarantors to support individual’s rental applications, and we’ve been acting as guarantors for our care-experienced young people for a few years.

As corporate parents to children in our care and care leavers, we want to make sure that our young people get the same opportunities as other young people. That’s why we’ve helped 43 care-experienced young people so far find the accommodation they need by acting as their guarantor for their rental applications.

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

Free support for self-employed carers in Devon

Have you ever thought about being a self-employed carer? Or maybe you have already set up your own business but need some support?

We’ve teamed up with Community Catalysts to offer free advice and mentoring to people who want to offer different levels of care to elderly or disabled adults in Devon.

Simon Tickner is the local Catalyst for Devon. He said:

“Very often the people who approach me are fantastic carers or individuals with a wealth of knowledge but are daunted by where to get the information they need to get started or how to deal with the ‘admin’ side of things. This is very much what I can help with.”

To get in touch with Simon, please call 07741 260674 or email

Applications invited for free tree scheme

Landowners and communities in Devon are being reminded they have just over five weeks left to apply for this year’s free tree scheme.

We’re offering up to 50 free tree packs, each containing 45 native broadleaved trees and other items to support their planting and establishment.

The free tree initiative, which we first launched as a pilot in December 2019, enables private landowners, and town and parish councils, to plant trees in order to help achieve carbon net zero targets, tackle the climate emergency and support nature recovery.

Last winter, over 17,000 trees were planted in Devon through the Emergency Tree Fund, a project run in partnership with the Woodland Trust, with additional support from the Forestry Commission. This included 6,750 awarded to landowners through free tree packs and more than 9,800 trees planted on the County Farms Estate and other council owned land.

Applications for this year’s scheme need to be completed online by Wednesday 27 September.

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

Plumber who defrauded pensioners sentenced

A rogue plumber who ‘preyed’ on an elderly couple, defrauding them of £13,000, has been given a 12-month suspended prison sentence following an investigation by our Trading Standards officers.

Gary Coombes, 58, of Bridgwater, pleaded guilty to seven counts of fraud at Taunton Crown Court on Tuesday and was ordered to pay the couple £8,000 in compensation.

The court heard that Coombes, who traded as Bridgwater Heating, targeted the couple and repeatedly visited their home over a five-year period. He grossly overcharged them for boiler services and maintenance work as well as general home maintenance.

It was only when the victim’s daughter became suspicious and reported Coombes to our officers at the Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service, that the fraud was uncovered. Our officers found that much of the work was unnecessary and not completed.

On sentencing, Judge Zeb told Coombes:

“On each occasion you excessively overcharged, and rendered invoices that were grossly overinflated, false, and not reflective of the work required or done. In all that time, [the victims] came to know you, trusted you, and paid without question.”

Trading Standards advise that customers should always get a range of quotes from reputable traders, either through recommendations from people they trust or through an approved trade scheme such as the Trading Standards-run ‘Buy With Confidence‘ approved trader scheme.

You can read more about this case in the story on the news page of our website.

Re-use your plastic bottles for cleaning products

Recycle Devon is encouraging people to reuse the plastic bottles of cleaning products, and to refill them with homemade versions.

Research last year found that plastics, including bottles used for cleaning sprays and bleaches, made up 15.4 per cent of black bin waste.

Recycle Devon’s ‘Green Your Clean‘ campaign encourages residents to pledge to reuse existing shop-bought bottles and to refill them with DIY recipes using natural ingredients such as white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda.

Recipes can be found on the Recycle Devon FacebookInstagram and X (formerly Twitter) pages, and there’s also a chance to win one of three Greener Clean kits that contain a range of natural ingredients found in most cleaning products for use in the home. Entries to the competition must be in by Sunday 27 August 2023.

To find out more, take a look at the story on the news page of our website.

Bikeability training in Devon among best in country

We’re lucky in Devon to have such beautiful countryside and places to visit, and a lot of it is accessible by bike. Which is why we’re especially pleased to hear that we are in the top ten of local authorities for providing Bikeability cycle training for Year Six pupils, over the past year.

The Bikeability Trust says that cycle training across the country is reaching more children than ever before, with almost 462,000 children receiving the training between April 2022 and March 2023. And in Devon, Bikeability training has been delivered to more than 8,500, or 71 per cent of Year Six pupils across the county, during the same 12 months.

In the 17 years that we have been delivering Bikeability, we’ve provided cycle training to more than 100,000 young people.

You can read more about the training in the story on the news page of our website.