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Important decision to help improve the lives of children in care and care leavers in Devon; Heat alert issued across the South West and we’d like your views on sexual health and contraception services

Care leavers spoke at our Full Council meeting this week

Council pledges to make care experience a protected characteristic

Councillors make decisions all the time, but yesterday they made a particularly important one that will help improve the lives of children in care and care leavers in Devon.

They agreed to give care leavers – young people who have been in our care – protected characteristic status.

That’s because young people’s experience of being in the care system can be a potential source of discrimination, similar to other protected characteristics such as race or disability.

What this decision means is that we will make sure that the experiences of young people in care and care leavers are considered in all of our decisions. But more than that, it’s a foundation on which to develop better support across Devon as a whole, and we’ll work with partners to improve support for care leavers in all aspects of their lives, including housing, health, employment and education.

“Today is literally a day in history for care-experienced people in Devon,” said 18-year-old care leaver, Jemeillia.

“Making this a protected characteristic will put us on an equal level with everyone else in society and will make life fair for us,” said care leaver, Luke, aged 19-years-old.

“It’s a really positive moment,” said care leaver Teddi, aged 18-years-old. “It’s great that we’ve finally been seen and heard.”

It’s a fundamentally important decision taken by our councillors, and you can read about it, including more of what care leavers have said about the decision, in the story on the news page of our website.

Heat alert issued across the South West

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the Met Office issued an amber alert in regions including the South West, as high temperatures exceeding 30 degrees centigrade in some areas are set to continue as we head to the weekend.

The alert is currently in place through to 9pm on Sunday 10 September.

With these high temperatures, the UKHSA say that we may see an increase in risk to health for people aged over 65-years-old or those with pre-existing health conditions, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

Dr Agostinho Sousa, Head of Extreme Events and Health Protection at UKHSA, said:

“Many of us will welcome the hot weather for the coming days, but it is important to take sensible precautions while enjoying the sun and look out for those who are more vulnerable to the effects of heat.

“We advise you to check on older family members, friends, or neighbours and those with heart or lung conditions.

“Staying hydrated and keeping cool is crucial for everyone during hot weather, while enjoying the sun.”

We sent out a special edition of this newsletter earlier this week about the hot weather, with tips and advice about keeping cool and avoiding risk. If you missed it, you can read it online.

Work to start on road improvements south west of Exeter

Work is due to get underway on improvements to the Devon Hotel roundabout and A379 Trood Lane junction in Exeter in the coming weeks.

These upgrades to the road network in south west Exeter are the latest elements of the £55 million infrastructure enhancements to support the development of 2,500 new homes and employment land on the edge of the city.

The work will start on Monday 18 September 2023 and is expected to be completed by Summer 2024. It will be carried out under lane closures or contraflow systems, alongside a temporary 30mph speed limit.

Night-time road closures of the A379 between the Devon Hotel roundabout and Ellacott Road will be required between 7pm and 6am from Monday 18 September 2023 through until Friday 29 September 2023, (Monday night to Friday night inclusive only – no weekend working) to carry out critical works within the carriageway.

The main elements of this current scheme include:

  • the creation of additional capacity on the western arm of the Devon Hotel roundabout, with an additional lane on entry to the roundabout
  • the central island on the Devon Hotel roundabout will be realigned
  • installation of traffic signals and a signal-controlled pedestrian crossing

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

Creating Hope Through Action for World Suicide Prevention Day

Each year, organisations and communities come together to raise awareness of how we can create a world where fewer people die by suicide.

Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy. And we know that suicide is preventable, it’s not inevitable.

World Suicide Prevention Day (Sunday 10 September) this year continues the international theme of ‘Creating Hope Through Action’. It aims to inspire confidence in all of us that our actions, no matter how big or small, may provide hope to those who are struggling.

Read our news story to find out how to access free training with an emphasis on looking after your mental wellbeing, to better support others.

We’d like your views on sexual health and contraception services in Devon

We’ve teamed up with Torbay Council to hear your views on sexual health and contraception services. 

Sexual health services are free to use and are available to everyone regardless of age, gender, ethnic origin, disability and sexual orientation.

By taking part in our survey, you will help us shape the future provision of sexual health services in Devon and Torbay.

The online survey is anonymous and takes around 10 minutes to complete. 

Have your say using this online form.

Double Waters Footbridge closed for replacement

We’re replacing the Double Waters Footbridge over the River Walkham in West Devon, near where it meets the River Tavy.

It means that people won’t be able to use the footbridge to cross the river from Monday 11 September until Saturday 16 September.

The bridge carries the West Devon Way walking route and is adjacent to the site where Whitchurch Bridleway and Buckland Monachorum Bridleway cross the River Walkham.

During the bridge closure, please do not attempt to cross through the River Walkham on foot at this location. Alternative routes exist using footpaths, bridleways and minor roads to the east of the bridge closure. 

Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete, Devon Schools and our properties

There’s been a lot in the news this week about the use of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete, (RAAC), and concerns about it as a building material. We’ve been asked whether we’re aware of its use in any of the buildings that we are responsible for.

While the UK Government’s guidance on RAAC has focused on schools, with the Department for Education (DfE) issuing the most recent guidance in December last year, we have taken a proactive approach to identifying RAAC in buildings across the whole of our estate.

Every five years we routinely assess all maintained schools, for which we are responsible (not academies and church schools). We have not identified RAAC in any of those schools to date.

Following the DfE’s most recent guidance, we were able to eliminate some based on when construction was carried out. Of others that we have surveyed in accordance with the latest DfE guidance, we have not identified RAAC. And we have an ongoing programme of inspection, which we anticipate will be completed this month, for schools yet to be surveyed under the latest guidance.

We’ve also made certain that other school providers in Devon are aware of the DfE guidance and of their responsibilities in identifying any use of RAAC in their buildings.

Elsewhere in our estate, we have not identified RAAC through the course of routine assessments. We have taken a proactive approach to its identification, reviewed our assessment strategy across our estate in light of the DfE’s most recent guidance, and are continuing our investigations.

That approach includes working with our district council colleagues and other partners in buildings where we share or use accommodation.