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Great Torrington Town Council

Rapid coronavirus tests now available across Devon, confidential advice and support via ChatHealth and Exeter Chiefs’ Ollie Devoto helps bring a smile to young carers

His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, 10 June 1921 - 9 April 2021

Tributes to His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh

Earlier today Buckingham Palace announced that His Royal Highness Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh passed away peacefully at Windsor Castle.

The Lord-Lieutenant of Devon, David Fursdon and the Chairman of Devon County Council, Councillor Stuart Barker, have conveyed their condolences on behalf of the County of Devon. You can read or watch their tributes on our News Centre.

Arrangements being made throughout Devon will be shared on the website of Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Devon. 

Government COVID-19 guidelines mean physical books of condolence are unable to be opened in public places at this time, but residents wishing to express their condolences are encouraged to send a message to the Royal Family via the online Book of Condolence on the Royal website.

While people may want to gather to lay flowers and pay their respects, please be mindful of the current coronavirus restrictions and consider safer alternatives, such as making a donation to charity.

88 COVID-19 cases in Devon 28 March to 3 April 2021

Cases of coronavirus have continued to fall in Devon and remain below the national average. Rates are currently slightly higher in Mid Devon, and across the county they are highest in those aged 20 to 39 years old.

In this update:

  • Rapid coronavirus tests now available across Devon 
  • Further easing of restrictions on Monday 12 April
  • Face coverings in secondary schools and colleges to remain in place 
  • Care home residents can have two named visitors
  • Confidential advice and support via ChatHealth
  • Don’t be a selfish parker

Further easing of restrictions on Monday 12 April

Earlier this week the government agreed that the next phase of easing the COVID-19 restrictions will go ahead as per their roadmap. That means from Monday 12 April, we will be able to do a little bit more

  • Non-essential retail can open, including personal care premises such as hairdressers, beauty and nail salons.
  • Hospitality venues will be able to open for outdoor table-service, with no requirement for a substantial meal to be served alongside alcohol, and no curfew, but you’ll still need to remain seated. 
  • Indoor leisure and sports facilities can reopen for individual exercise, or exercise with your household or support bubble.
  • Overnight stays away from home in England will be permitted and self-contained accommodation can also reopen so long as they are used by members of the same household or support bubble.
  • Public buildings, such as libraries and community centres can reopen. 
  • Most outdoor attractions including zoos, theme parks, and drive-in performances (such as cinemas and concerts) can reopen and some smaller outdoor events such as fetes, literary fairs, and fairgrounds will be able to take place.
  • Care home residents will be able to nominate two named individuals for regular indoor visits.
  • All children will be able to attend any indoor children’s activity, including sport, regardless of circumstance.
  • Parent and child groups of up to 15 people (not counting children aged under five years old) can restart indoors. 
  • Funerals can continue with up to 30 attendees. Weddings, outdoor receptions, and commemorative events will be able to take place with up to 15 attendees (in premises that are permitted to open). 
  • People should continue to work from home where they can and minimise domestic travel. International holidays are still illegal.

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon said:

“With restrictions lifting, it is important that we continue to do all we can to control the coronavirus and keep the case levels low in Devon.

“So please be sensible and remember to continue with the hands, face, space and fresh air.

“Remember that social distancing rules still apply, as does the wearing of face coverings indoors in public places. 

“And while up to six people or two households of any size can meet, they can still only do so outside for now, so you must not socialise indoors with anyone you do not live with, or who is not in a support bubble with you.”

get a rapid flow test

Rapid coronavirus tests now available across Devon 

Every adult in Devon is now being encouraged to take a quick COVID-19 test twice a week to help stop the virus spreading.

These type of tests, known as rapid lateral flow device (LFD) tests, are for people who don’t show any symptoms of having coronavirus. One in three people with coronavirus do not experience any symptoms and may be spreading the virus unwittingly. Rapid testing detects cases quickly, meaning positive cases can isolate immediately. They are easy, quick and convenient, and the results are usually available to you within the hour. 

There are lots of ways that you can get one of these tests in Devon, including:

Businesses can order them too, for their employees, and carers, personal assistants and frontline social care staff can order and collect testing kits at the same time as their PPE supplies. 

If the test is negative, you can carry on with your day while still following the public health guidance about social distancing and wearing face coverings. 

If the test is positive, you need to self-isolate immediately and arrange a confirmatory PCR test via the NHS. 

Remember, these rapid lateral flow tests are to be taken regularly if you do not have any symptoms of coronavirus. If you do develop and symptoms, you should immediately self-isolate and arrange a PCR test via the NHS.

pupil with facemask

Face coverings in secondary schools and colleges to remain in place 

The government has confirmed that face coverings should continue to be worn in secondary school and college classrooms when students return after the Easter break. 

It is expected that face coverings will no longer be required to be worn in classrooms, or by students in other communal areas, at Step 3 of the roadmap, which will be no earlier than Monday 17 May. 

Those who are currently exempt from wearing face coverings, including pupils or staff who are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate, will remain so. 

holding hands in a lap

Care home residents can have two named visitors

From Monday 12 April, care home residents can name up to two people who can come for regular indoor visits, either together or separately. 

Welcoming anyone into care homes inevitably brings risk of COVID-19 transmission. However, these risks can be managed and should be balanced against the importance of visiting and the benefits it brings to care home residents and their families.

Visitors should be tested using rapid lateral flow tests before every visit, must wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and follow all other infection control measures (which the care home will guide them on) during visits.

Visitors and residents are advised to keep physical contact to a minimum, for example they may want to hold hands, but closer contact such as hugging increases the risk of transmission.

It is not a condition of visiting that the visitor or the resident should have been vaccinated. However, it is strongly recommended that all visitors and residents take up the opportunity to be vaccinated when they are invited to do so through the national programme.

Care homes can also continue to offer visits to other friends or family members through arrangements such as outdoor visiting, rooms with substantial screens, visiting pods, or from behind windows

Each care home is unique and will have developed suitable plans and processes to protect residents, visitors and staff, so please speak to them directly to find out more about visiting your loved ones safely. 


Confidential advice and support via ChatHealth

We know that during these unsettling times parents, carers and young people may be worried about their health and wellbeing and unsure about how they can get the help they need.

Our local school nurses and health visitors are on hand with advice and support via a free and confidential text chat service called ChatHealth.

If you have a young person aged 11-19 years old in your household, please let them know they can talk to a Devon school nurse in confidence about a range of things including COVID-19, emotional health, relationships, bullying, self-harm, healthy eating, smoking, drugs, or any other concerns by texting 07520 631 722 between 9.00am and 5.00pm Monday to Friday including during the school holidays.

ChatHealth is also available for parents and carers in Devon who have concerns about a child in their care or family health worries. Our health visitors can be contacted for confidential advice and support on mental health, child health and development, adjusting to parenting, sleep and feeding routines and family health by texting 07520 631 721 between 9.00am and 5.00pm Monday to Friday (excluding Bank Holidays)

Both services aim to reply to all messages within one working day and you should get an immediate response to confirm your text has been received. Texts will not be seen outside of normal working hours so if you, or someone you know, needs help before you hear back from the team, contact your GP, NHS 111 or dial 999 if it is an emergency.

Library interior

Libraries open for browsing from Monday 12 April 

Devon’s libraries are continuing to provide books and other resources, but from Monday 12 April, they will be able to offer more. 

  • Book browsing will be available in most libraries, and there will be free access to use library computers, bookable in advance. The exception to this will be at Salcombe library. Buckfastleigh, Chulmleigh and Bideford libraries will be offering Choose and Collect only at this time.
  • Mobile libraries will be back on the road, offering book browsing for one household at a time. 
  • The Home Library service will continue to run as normal.
  • And there will be an outdoor cafe and takeaway service at Exeter Library and The Hayridge in Cullompton. 

Libraries will maintain the two metre social distancing rule and hand sanitisation stations will be available. The number of customers allowed into the buildings will be limited and one-way systems to help the safe flow of customers through the libraries will be in place. 

For more information and opening times visit the Libraries Unlimited website.  

Don't be a selfish parker

Don’t be a selfish parker

With coronavirus restrictions easing we are now able to venture further from home and enjoy more of Devon’s beautiful beaches and countryside.

As popular beauty spots get busier, selfish and anti-social parking becomes a major frustration for many residents, so drivers are being asked to be kind and respect each other and make sure they park responsibly.

This includes not leaving vehicles obstructing pavements or blocking driveways, taking up more than one space or using designated bays they are not eligible to use. Most importantly drivers should be careful not to block access for emergency vehicles.

Our civil enforcement officers work hard to keep our roads and streets clear and safe for everyone to use. They ensure that local roads are kept clear so traffic can flow,  ensure that on-street parking is not abused so there’s space to park and that communities are not blighted by illegal parking. 

man standing at laptop

Recovery Loan Scheme launches

A new government-backed loan scheme has launched to provide additional finance to businesses as they grow and recover from the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Recovery Loan Scheme will provide businesses with loans from £25,000 up to a maximum of £10 million. The government will provide an 80% guarantee for all loans and interest rates will be capped.

The scheme, which runs until 31 December 2021, will be administered by the British Business Bank, with loans available through accredited commercial lenders.

You can find out more, including how to apply, on the government’s website.


Watch out… ticks about!

Now that coronavirus restrictions are easing and we can spent more time outdoors, it’s important to remember to be aware of ticks and the associated risk of Lyme Disease.

Ticks are small, spider like creatures that feed on the blood of animals, including
people. They can vary in size, from as small as a tiny freckle to a similar size to a baked bean and are frequently found in moist areas with leaf litter or in longer grass like in woodland, glassland, moorland, healthlands and some urban parks and gardens. 

Most tick bites are harmless, but some do carry Lyme Disease, so it’s important to make sure you look and feel for ticks on you, your family and your pets after you’ve enjoyed outdoor activities and remove them promptly as evidence suggests the risk increases the longer a tick is feeding. 

You can try and prevent being bitten by ticks by walking on clearly defined paths, using insect repellent that repels ticks and by wearing light colour clothing so ticks are easier to spot on you. And if you have been bitten, look out for early signs of Lyme Disease, which include mild-flu like symptoms including a fever, headache, fatigue and a bulls-eye rash. 

If you feel unwell after being bitten by a tick, even when you don’t have a rash contact your GP or dial NHS 111 and remember to tell them you were bitten by a tick or have recently spent time outdoors. 

There’s lots of useful information, including the best way to remove ticks, in this leaflet from Public Health England.

Exeter Chiefs Ollie Devoto with young carers

Exeter Chiefs’ Ollie Devoto helps bring a smile to young carers 

Exeter Chiefs’ star Ollie Devoto is a Devon Young Carers Ambassador. He’s currently hosting an online charity auction, giving sports fans chance to bid on a range of rare memorabilia, including signed players’ jerseys, boots and kit bundles. 

The online auction runs until Sunday 18 April, and the proceeds go to Devon Young Carers, a charity who we work with, that provides support to young people who care for others. For information about the online auction, visit their website

Ollie also surprised three rugby-loving young carers recently with deliveries of food boxes and family meals. His visit was caught on film, and their reaction is lovely.   

“I’m just so happy, I met my hero today,” said one young carer.  “I never thought that would happen to me.” 

Lets take this next step safely

The latest national advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) is available on the
government website and NHS website.

You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.

Rapid coronavirus tests now available across Devon

Every adult in Devon is being encouraged to take a rapid, lateral flow test for coronavirus twice a week, and now they can do so in a variety of ways including through testing centres, workplaces, pharmacies, or home delivery.

The tests are fast and convenient, and results are usually available within the hour.

Rapid lateral flow tests are for people who show no symptoms of coronavirus – the new and continuous cough, high temperature, or change to their usual sense of taste or smell.  People with these symptoms should immediately self-isolate and arrange a PCR test via the NHS.

Regular testing of people who show no symptoms of having coronavirus is essential to help stop the spread of the virus.  One in three people with COVID-19 don’t show symptoms, so regular testing helps identify those who are likely to have the virus, unknowingly.  

If they are negative, they can carry on with their day while still adhering to the public health measures, including maintaining social distance, wearing face coverings when indoors in public places, and washing their hands regularly.

A positive lateral flow test result means that the person is likely to have the virus, and they will be instructed to self-isolate and to arrange a confirmatory PCR test via the NHS.

From this week, Devon County Council is making lateral flow testing easier to access.  The Council has arranged mobile community testing in Ashburton, Axminster, Barnstaple, Bideford, Buckfastleigh, Crediton, Cullompton, Dartmouth, Dawlish, Exeter, Exmouth, Great Torrington, Holsworthy, Honiton, Ilfracombe, Ivybridge, Kingsbridge, Lynton-Lynmouth, Newton Abbot, Okehampton, Seaton, South Molton, Tavistock, Teignmouth, Tiverton and Totnes.

The service will stop in each community, at a specific location, twice a week on given days – please check for times, locations and dates near you.

Alternatively, people can collect home test kits from any of the council’s mobile testing sites, so that they can take the lateral flow tests at home.  Staff at the mobile testing sites can show you how to take the test if you’re not sure how to use the test kit.   

Home test kits can also be ordered from the NHS to be delivered to people’s home address, and they are available from NHS testing locations and pharmacies that are part of the Pharmacy Collect scheme.

Additionally some workplaces are offering testing to their employees either on-site or at home – and if you own a businesses with more than ten employees it is not too late to register.

Carers, personal assistants and front line social care staff can also order and collect testing kits at the same time as their PPE supplies.

Those who leave their home to work or volunteer and come into contact with people in the community, for instance carers and emergency service staff, are particularly encouraged to use the service.

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, said:

“I encourage all residents without symptoms to get tested twice a week. There are now many ways to access testing to suit your particular circumstances either through home testing kits or mobile testing units.

“Testing is particularly important if you leave home to work or volunteer, or if you’re a carer for instance.

“If you test positive, you’ll be asked to self-isolate for ten days, and if you’re negative, you can continue your day but must social distance, wear a face covering when indoors in a public space and wash your hands regularly.”

If you do not have symptoms you can find where and when you can get tested near you by visiting

Rapid coronavirus tests now available across Devon: Mobile test

A plea to respect each other, getting help if you need it over Easter and a thank you to those who care

19 - 25 March 135 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Devon

Positive cases of COVID-19 in Devon have remained relatively stable over the last week, but we’re seeing some outbreaks, particularly at indoor workplaces. Rates are still slightly higher in East and Mid Devon and highest across the county in those aged 20 to 39 years old.

In this update:

  • Respect each other and local communities
  • Continue to take your lateral flow tests during the Easter holidays 
  • Care providers and staff thanked for their efforts during COVID-19 pandemic
  • Getting the help you need this Easter weekend
  • Do you want to re-home items you don’t use? Join Tuesday Tables
Walkers on Dartmoor

Respect each other and local communities

Just days ahead of a long Easter weekend, this easing seems a natural opportunity for people to get together outdoors.

We all no doubt want to catch up with others this weekend, and the relaxation of restrictions now allows up to six people, or two households of any size, to meet up outside – in the garden for example – while adhering to social distancing and good hand hygiene.

But please let’s be cautious, otherwise we place ourselves, our families and friends at risk. 

“If you choose to meet up, please continue to stick to the public health guidance: keep two metres apart and wash your hands regularly,” said Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon.

“And if you’re having a BBQ with people you don’t live with, then don’t share cutlery, and try and avoid using the bathroom. We know the virus transmits really well indoors so staying outside and keeping two metres apart is absolutely crucial to reducing transmission.”

Easing out of lockdown restrictions can be an anxious time for many, and it may take a while for people to get used to it. Steve is also asking people to look out for each other. He said: 

“These last 12 months, with successive periods of lockdown, have been extremely difficult for everyone, and I know that many people will find the prospect of coming out of restrictions daunting. Habits and routines, now common place, take a while to change again.

“So my ask to all Devon residents is to look out for each other, take your time and be responsible. And if you are out and about, please respect each other and local communities, be conscious of the impact your actions have on others and on the environment – park responsibly if you’re driving, and take your litter home with you.”

You can listen to Steve Brown’s full message on our YouTube channel.

The Ordnance Survey website has guidance on how to get outside safely during COVID-19 and suggestions for activities, by location, including links to our very own Explore Devon website for walking and cycling ideas

With many of us planning to pull on our walking boots, it’s timely to remind ourselves of the Countryside Code, making it easier for visitors to respect, protect and enjoy the outdoors.

stay outside

Stay outside when meeting others to reduce the spread of coronavirus

As the rules around social contact change, it is important to consider why the restrictions are being eased in a certain way.

Step one of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown is now underway with up to six people or two households of any size now able to meet outside and outdoor sports resuming. It’s exciting after so many weeks of lockdown, but please don’t be tempted to meet indoors as the risk of spreading the virus is significantly higher inside.

This is because the closer you are to people, the greater the risk of breathing in infected particles, particularly when indoors, as it is harder to physically distance. Outside there is more room to distance, reducing the risk of breathing in larger particles from an infected person.

When indoors, smaller droplets and aerosols containing the virus can remain suspended in the air for some time, especially if there is no ventilation and therefore build ups are more likely to be inhaled by others, but when outside in fresh air, the virus disperses more easily. 

It is also important to remember that while the requirement to stay at home has also been lifted, the advice is to minimise travel. Overnight stays away from your own home are still not permitted including over the Easter weekend. 

Those who have had a vaccination must also continue to follow the rules. The full impact of the vaccine on transmission of the virus is not yet known, therefore it may be possible to spread the virus, putting others at risk.

Public Health England has published a blog about protecting ourselves and each other as we move out of lockdown.

COVID-19 test

Continue to take your lateral flow tests during the Easter holidays 

Rapid COVID-19 tests (known as lateral flow tests) for people without symptoms of coronavirus are important because they help identify those who could be transmitting it unknowingly so they can self-isolate and help stop the spread.

Secondary school pupils, college students and staff working in all education settings have been taking these tests regularly, and everyone else in their household or support bubble has also been encouraged to take the tests twice a week. 

Even though schools and colleges are closed for the Easter holiday, please continue to take your lateral flow tests twice a week and report your results.

If you test negative it means that you’re unlikely to have coronavirus and you can get on with enjoying your day while still adhering to the guidelines on social distancing, face coverings and regular hand washing. Or, if you test positive, stay at home and self-isolate so you don’t infect anyone.

Students returning to school or college for the summer term will also need to remember to take a test either the night before or the morning of their first day back. This is to find and isolate any positive cases.

Think 111 First

Getting the help you need this Easter weekend

The NHS in Devon is reminding people how to access health services and get the care they need this Easter weekend.

The long bank holiday traditionally puts extra pressure on health services when most GP practices are closed and more people are outdoors enjoying everything Devon has to offer.

Most GP practices will be closed for the four days of Easter from Friday 2 April to Monday 5 April, with normal opening hours resuming on Tuesday 6 April.

For urgent advice over the long weekend people are encouraged to ‘Think 111 First’ and contact NHS 111 from anywhere, either by phone or online, any time of day or night.

If you need further care or medication, NHS 111 advisors will direct you to the most appropriate service. They can book you in for an appointment at your nearest Minor Injury Unit or Urgent Care Centre. If you need emergency care, they will arrange for you to be seen at a local Emergency Department and will ensure that staff in the department are expecting you and will see you as quickly as possible.

Carer wearing PPE facemask, apron and gloves

Care providers and staff thanked for their efforts during COVID-19 pandemic

This week Jennie Stephens, our Chief Officer for Adult Care and Health, paid tribute to all those involved in providing adult social care services in Devon. 

“As we reflect on the year since the first lockdown in response to the pandemic, I’d like to pay tribute to all those involved in providing adult social care services in Devon, especially those working in care homes – and delivering care in people’s homes – who have done everything they can to keep residents safe and enjoying the best quality of life they can in the circumstances,” she said. 

In her message, she says that the take-up of vaccine by care home residents and adult social care staff in Devon has been comparatively very high. And that while vaccination offers a good level of protection against serious disease, it is not failsafe. 

‘It is important we all maintain good practice in infection prevention and control in our working and home lives,’ she says. 

You can read the full message from Jennie Stephens on our News Centre

children playing outside

Free holiday time activities and meals for children

Children and young people are being invited to attend holiday-time activities, which include free healthy meals, this Easter. 

We are coordinating the activity programme, working with activity providers in locations across Devon as part of a national initiative funded by Department for Education.

Children and young people, aged between 0 and 18 years old who are eligible for the free places, are being contacted by schools and support providers. The full list of activity providers, locations, times and contact details for the providers in order to book places, can be found on our website.

Shielding advice ends 1 April

Clinically extremely vulnerable people are no longer advised to shield

The government has advised that clinically extremely vulnerable people are no longer advised to shield and can now follow the same national restrictions as the rest of the population. This is because cases of COVID-19 have fallen considerably since shielding measures were introduced in January, and over 30 million people have had at least one dose of the vaccine.

Updated guidance about extra precautions you can take to protect yourself while the virus is still spreading in our communities has been published on the government’s website. It provides practical steps that cover things like socialising, travel and going to work and school. These are not rules but advice, so you can choose whether you wish to follow them or not, but we urge you to take care to minimise your risk of exposure to the virus. 

Shielding has not been easy, so as well as taking care of your physical health it is important to look after your mental health. The Every Mind Matters website has advice and practical steps that you can take to support your wellbeing and manage your mental health during this pandemic and beyond. The Let’s Talk Loneliness website also has a variety of tips, advice and further resources that you may find helpful.

home COVID-19 test kit

Workplace testing programme expands to offer free rapid home testing

In the next major push for the government’s workplace testing programme, all employers will now be able to offer their employees free, rapid and regular testing that can be taken at home.

From Tuesday 6 April, the government’s workplace testing programme will supply home lateral flow test kits to companies with over 10 workers where it is not possible to set up testing on-site, due to a lack of space or because companies operate across multiple sites.

Employers with fewer than 10 people can continue to access regular testing through our community testing sites.

Around 1 in 3 people with coronavirus don’t have symptoms, which means they could be spreading the virus in workplaces without knowing, so regular testing could be the difference between a workplace being able to stay open and operational, or needing to close due to a COVID-19 outbreak. 

Businesses are encouraged to register before Monday 12 April in order to access free tests until the end of June, even if they’re not yet open or are not able to start using the tests straight away.

COVID-19 vaccination

30 million people receive first COVID-19 vaccine dose

More than 30 million people in the UK have received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as the NHS prepares to administer millions of second doses in the coming weeks.

Around 57% of adults have received their first dose, which includes over 96% of people aged 60 years old and over. Everyone over 50 years old or those who are clinically vulnerable are urged to come forward for their vaccine as soon as possible.

As the drive to vaccinate people with second doses accelerates the total number of jabs administered overall is now more than 33 million.

Around 6% of the adult population have had their second doses so far and there will be a strong push over the coming weeks to give people their second jabs in line with the 12 week dose interval.

The rollout is continuing at pace and the UK is on track to achieve the Prime Minister’s target of offering all over-50s and the clinically vulnerable their first vaccine by 15 April, as well as all adults by the end of July.

Tuesday Tables

Do you want to re-home items you don’t use? Join Tuesday Tables

The coronavirus lockdown has given many of us the chance to sort out those long forgotten corners of the loft or garage and have a good de-clutter ready for Spring. 

And now communities across Devon have the chance to rehome those every-day items they no longer need simply by leaving them outside their front door every Tuesday, starting from 6 April.

The new initiative is called ‘Tuesday Tables’ and is part of Recycle Devon’s commitment to help residents reduce the amount of waste they throw away.

It encourages people to pass on items they no longer need so that they can be used by someone that may benefit. All you have to do is put things you don’t want any more on your doorstep, in your front garden, or on your driveway every Tuesday – and let people know that you are taking part in ‘Tuesday Tables’. You can either display a makeshift sign saying FREE or you can download, print off and display one of the signs available on the Recycle Devon website.

Because coronavirus can be transmitted on hard surfaces, please quarantine items for three days in a garage or a box before the event to help keep everyone safe. 

Please make sure that any items you leave for collection are not broken, dirty or potentially dangerous and are not on the pavement or road. And at the end of the day bring in whatever is not taken and maybe try a local Freecycle or Freeagle group, or list items as ‘free’ on Facebook marketplace or Gumtree – you will be surprised what people will come and collect when it’s free. If your road or local area has a social media group this is a great place to share which roads are taking part to build local interest.

For more information please visit the Recycle Devon website.

Lets take this next step safely

The latest national advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) is available on the
government website and NHS website.

You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.

Torrington-In-Bloom Spring 2021

Torrington-In-Bloom is a local community voluntary group who do a huge amount of work across the town looking after flower beds throughout the year helping to increase the aesthetic value of the town as well as the ecological.

T-I-B has been busy over recent weeks; preparing for the year ahead and starting to tidy up some of the areas across the town.

The flower bed by Sing and Gist was tidied a few weeks ago and they hope to fill a few gaps over the next few weeks. 

T-I-B commented that they were thrilled to see the wonderful display of spring bulbs in Rack Park, the lovely purple crocus planted by members of the Torrington Rotary Club to publicise their campaign to eradicate polio from the world, and the narcissi planted around the apple trees by members of the local church, Torrington in Bloom members/friends.

The planters in the town square and car parks are also filling out with bulbs and wallflowers, so we should have a good display over Easter and beyond for when visitors are finally allowed to travel far and wide.

Further good news comes from the Men’s Shed who have been busy restoring the planters by the town entrance signs; they have also installed a new one at the bottom of the hill by Town Mills.  Members along with the Town Council have also offered to fill the planters with compost and, hopefully, plant them up and manage.

If you’re eligible then get your vaccination now, Devon’s decline in positive COVID-19 cases slows, more people can access rapid tests and a warning to visitors

126 confirmed covid19 cases in Devon during week 13 to 19 March

Coronavirus cases continue to fall nationally, but are still above the levels seen last summer and early autumn.

In Devon cases have been falling over recent weeks, and continue to be below the national average, but that rate of decline has slowed.

Case rates are slightly higher in Eastern and Mid Devon and currently highest across Devon in those aged 20 to 39 years old.

In this update:

  • We’re going to have to learn to live safely with COVID-19
  • If you’re eligible then get your vaccination now
  • We will give visitors a warm welcome when the guidelines allow, but not before
  • Childminders and foster carers have access to regular testing 
  • £30 supermarket vouchers to help families buy food over the Easter holidays
  • Plymouth midwife reassures women the COVID-19 vaccine is safe
  • A year living with coronavirus and our message of thanks and hope
sanitising hands

We are going to have to learn to live safely with COVID for the foreseeable future

This week Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, said that we are all going to have to learn to live safely with COVID-19 for the foreseeable future, and that a key part of that is for us to keep the infection rates as low as possible.

In just a few days, if the current national data supports it, England will see the latest easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

“As of Monday 29 March, up to six people or two households of any size are able to meet, but only outdoors,” said Steve Brown.

“Organised outdoor sports and leisure will also be permitted, but remember, you should keep your travel to a minimum. Please continue to maintain your social distance, wear your face coverings when you’re indoors in a public place, and remember to wash your hands frequently and properly.”

Steve also urged people who are not showing symptoms of coronavirus and are in contact with others, especially families or households with school or college age students, to take up regular testing.

You can watch Steve Brown’s full message on our YouTube channel.

Aged 50 or over? Now it the time to book your COVID-19 vaccination

If you’re eligible then get your vaccination now while there are thousands of spaces

More than half of people aged 16 years old and over in Devon have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose, and now those who are eligible are being urged to book an appointment before the end of March while there are thousands of spaces

Everyone aged 50 years old and over, people with underlying health conditions and health and care workers are among those being encouraged to book an appointment for a first dose before the vaccine supply constraints begin in April.

If you’re not sure if you are eligible for a vaccine at the moment you can use the information on the NHS website to check before booking.

Most people who are clinically vulnerable will have been contacted by their GP practice in recent weeks, so if you are in this group and haven’t had your vaccine yet or booked an appointment please do so as soon as possible. 

Making an appointment is simple. You can use the National Booking Service via the NHS website or by calling 119 to get an appointment at large vaccination centres or the selected community pharmacies that are offering the jab. Or, if you’ve been invited by your GP, please respond to book and attend while there are still plenty of spaces available.

If you use the online national booking system remember to click on the ‘confirm’ button which will finalise your booking. You should then receive an email confirming the details of your appointment.

Existing appointments for first and second doses of the vaccine are not being cancelled and it’s really important that you attend any booked appointments as planned. There is enough vaccine for everyone who is due a second dose to get it. 

From Monday 29 March you can gather with either 2 households or up to 6 people outdoors

What can I do from Monday 29 March?

The next key date in the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown is just a few days away now.

The government said these key dates were no sooner than’ dates, depending on the latest data at the time. So, subject to the data, the changes we can expect from Monday 29 March include: 

  • Outdoor gatherings, including in private gardens, of up to 6 people (the Rule of 6) or two households of any size, will be allowed. 
  • The ‘stay at home’ rule ends on Monday 29 March, but many restrictions remain in place. People should still continue working from home where they can and minimise the number of journeys they make where possible. 
  • Travelling abroad is still a no-go, for all but a few permitted reasons. Holidays abroad are not allowed. 
  • Tennis courts, basketball courts, open-air swimming pools and other outdoor sports facilities can reopen. People can take part in formally organised outdoor sports. 

That’s it for now. The next milestone after this one is Monday 12 April when, data permitting, we can expect non-essential retail, hairdressers, libraries, gyms, outdoor hospitality venues, holiday lets and more to reopen.

busy beach

Visitors asked not to travel too soon and to respect local communities

We will give visitors a warm welcome when the guidelines allow, but not before.

That’s the message from us and other authorities across the South West who have joined together to warn people against travelling to the region too soon before further lockdown measures are due to be relaxed on Monday 12 April.

Under the government’s roadmap, Monday 12 April is the earliest date outdoor attractions and self-contained accommodation such as campsites and holiday lets, where indoor facilities are not shared with other households, are allowed to open. Until then, many facilities, shops and hospitality venues will not be fully open with food and drink only available from essential shops or takeaways.

Visitors are being warned it is illegal and could be dangerous to travel before the government restrictions are lifted. With Easter approaching, there are fears a minority of tourists might be tempted to travel early and before facilities are ready or attractions are open. This false start to the tourist season would risk spreading coronavirus and put unnecessary extra strain on the emergency services.

Keri Denton, our Head of Economy, Skills and Enterprise, said:

“After all our hard work to keep COVID-19 cases in Devon so low we do not want to risk things now.

“We ask everyone thinking of coming to Devon after Monday 12 April, to behave responsibly and make sure you book the sort of accommodation and experiences you can enjoy safely in advance.

“We also ask potential visitors, as well as our own residents thinking of travelling within Devon, to take extra care and to show our local communities respect and courtesy. This includes the simple things like parking responsibly, respecting the countryside and taking litter away.”

The government’s full timetable for reopening after lockdown can be found on their website.

pupils in a classroom

Support for return to school in Devon

We’ve set up a special fund to support children having difficulties returning to school.

The £1.9 million fund is being financed with government cash to tackle the effects of the pandemic.

More than 95 per cent of children were back in school in Devon at the end of the first week of full opening which is really positive and reflects that seen in a normal year.

But some children with additional needs who, for example, might have been shielding throughout the pandemic, are feeling particularly anxious about returning to school and may require extra support.

Devon County Council’s Head of Education, Dawn Stabb, said:

“We wanted to be able to provide extra, short-term support that we might not otherwise have been able to afford when schools or our own staff refer them to us.

“This financial support means that if a child is suffering from anxiety or with emotional, health and wellbeing difficulties then we can provide that extra help.

“This might include for example, some sessions with a youth worker, ensuring counselling is available or supporting their school to provide a personalised curriculum for a short time. This can all support their return to school.”

child reading a book

Childminders and foster carers have access to regular testing 

The sorts of people now encouraged to routinely take up the rapid coronavirus tests – that give results within the hour – is growing. 

If you are a childminder, foster carer, bus driver who drives children to school, or you work in a before-school breakfast club or provide after-school childcare, you can access the rapid lateral flow COVID-19 tests.  

The following people in England now have access to regular rapid lateral flow COVID-19 testing:  

  • Secondary school pupils and college students  
  • Staff of primary and secondary schools, nurseries and colleges  
  • People who live with or look after children at pre-school or nursery, primary and secondary school and college  
  • People who live with or who care for staff who work in nurseries, primary and secondary school and college  
  • And anyone who works in professions related to childcare and schools, including childminders, foster carers, breakfast club and after-school club workers, and drivers of children to school or college.  

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, said:

“If you’re not doing so already, I urge you all to take up lateral flow tests twice a week.”

You can find out more about rapid lateral flow COVID-19 tests and who can access them on the government’s website.

get a rapid flow test

How do I get a rapid lateral flow COVID-19 test in Devon? 

Rapid COVID-19 tests can be taken at home using home test kits, available online from the NHS or to collect from NHS testing sites.  

Home test kits are not yet available from our Devon County Council community testing sites – we’ve applied to have them available to collect from our testing sites, and we’re waiting to hear from the government.  

Alternatively, people can come to any of our community testing sites to take the rapid test. They’re really quick and easy and we’ll get the result back to you within the hour, by email and text.  

“These rapid tests are for people who don’t show symptoms,” said Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon. 

“Routine testing like this is identifying people who are coronavirus positive, even though they showed no symptoms.   

“Identifying them, so that they self-isolate, means they are not walking around with the virus giving it to other people.    

“With more people now being regularly tested, we’re likely to see more positive cases being identified.  But that’s a good thing if it stops those people giving it to others.” 

The government published a new ‘step-by-step’ guide for COVID-19 self-testing, this week.  

claim your free supermarket vouchers before they expire

£30 supermarket vouchers to help families buy food over the Easter holidays

More than 15,000 children across Devon will be receiving free supermarket vouchers ahead of the upcoming Easter school break as we continue to work to combat holiday hunger. 

Families of pupils currently receiving free school meals will automatically be sent the vouchers to help them buy food over the two week holiday to replace the meals their child would have received at school during term-time. 

The vouchers – worth £30 (£15 per week for each child) – can be redeemed in major supermarkets across Devon. Arrangements are in place for families who cannot get to a supermarket. 

We also issued supermarket vouchers for the Christmas and February half term breaks, but some vouchers from February half term remain unspent. Families are urged to check their vouchers and redeem them as soon as possible before they expire and get in touch with our free school meals team if you were expecting to receive a voucher but didn’t. You can email or call 0345 155 1019

Many families in Devon have seen their financial circumstances change due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. If you didn’t previously qualify for free school meals but your income has recently reduced or stopped, please apply online through our website to check if you are eligible for this support as soon as possible. It’s the quickest and easiest way for your eligibility to be assessed and you will get an instant decision. You can also call 0345 155 1019.

More information about the free school meals holiday voucher scheme is available on our website.

man at window

Shielding advice for the clinically extremely vulnerable to stop from Thursday 1 April

More than 52,000 clinically extremely vulnerable people in Devon will be told they are no longer advised to shield from Thursday 1 April 2021 as coronavirus infection rates continue to fall across the country. 

In line with the government’s COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021 roadmap, those on the shielded patient list will begin to follow the national restrictions alongside the rest of the population, but are still advised to take extra precautions to keep themselves safe. 

The government will send you a letter with updated guidance on practical steps you can take to reduce your risk of catching the virus, including continuing to maintain strict social distancing and keeping your overall social contacts at low levels, such as working from home where possible. If you have already registered for priority access to supermarket delivery slots, these will continue until Monday 21 June 2021.

More than 9 in 10 clinically extremely vulnerable people have been vaccinated with a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. If you are aged 16 or older and have been advised you are clinically extremely vulnerable and have not yet been offered your first dose, please contact your GP as soon as possible to arrange an appointment.

If you have received your first dose, you should still ensure you take up your second dose of the vaccine when it is offered to you as having two doses should further increase your level of protection.

No vaccine is 100 per cent effective, so even if you have had both doses, there is still no absolute guarantee that you will not become ill if you catch coronavirus. Therefore, you should continue to follow the national rules and take the extra precautions set out in the government guidance to help protect yourself as much as possible.

You may be feeling anxious about the national shielding programme ending and that’s completely understandable. Take your time, there’s no rush. It’s important to share any concerns with those closest to you and remember that the friends and neighbours who have helped you over the year are still your friends and neighbours even after the shielding ends, and they are still there for you.

Everyone has gone to a huge amount of effort over the last year to help protect each other and stay safe and well, so as we enter the home stretch, please keep up the kindness. 

COVID-19 vaccine

Make getting your vaccination a priority when it’s your turn

Vaccine take up in Devon has been very good so far – nine out of 10 people aged 65 years old and over have already had their first dose.

But we know that as we get down the priority groups, to people of working age and with younger families still at home, pressures and busy lifestyles might make it a little more difficult to find time to get vaccinated.

Please, consider it a priority. Getting vaccinated not only protects you from becoming ill with coronavirus, but it also protects your family and friends by reducing the likelihood of transmission.

The NHS has published information that explains more about the COVID-19 vaccine and how safe it is.

pregnant woman sat in armchair

Midwife reassures women the COVID-19 vaccine is safe

The NHS in Devon is reassuring women that having the COVID-19 vaccination will not impact their ability to have a family and is encouraging health and social care workers to take up the jab.

More than 87 per cent of frontline health and social care workers in Devon have had their first dose of the life-saving vaccine. However, some female staff have been hesitant and highlighted concerns caused by misinformation circulating about fertility.

University Hospitals Plymouth Acting Head of Midwifery, Charlotte Wilton is among those offering reassurance and has recorded a message which you can watch on You Tube. She says:

“The vaccine works by travelling to your lymph glands and then is disposed of within a couple of days by the body. There is no mechanism by which the coronavirus vaccine can affect your fertility either now or in the future.”

One of our social workers, Laura Boyle, is 33 years old and hopes to have another child. She says she had no hesitation in taking up the vaccine:

“I don’t have any doubts in my head that it’s not safe. We have so many vaccines throughout our lives. Women have the flu and whooping cough vaccine routinely in pregnancy. I wasn’t worried that the coronavirus vaccine would have any impact on my future fertility.”

Public Health England has published a guide to the COVID-19 vaccination for women of childbearing age, those currently pregnant or breastfeeding.

self isolation support package graphic

Are you eligible for the Test and Trace Support Payment?

The government has updated its guidance about claiming financial support if you’re told to self-isolate. 

If you have been told by NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate, and you’re eligible for the Test and Trace Support Payment or a discretionary payment, you will receive £500 in addition to any benefits and Statutory Sick Pay that you currently receive. 

You are eligible for the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment if you live in England and meet the government’s criteria

If you are a parent or a guardian of a child who has been told to self-isolate by their education setting or by NHS Test and Trace, and you are therefore unable to attend work due to childcare responsibilities, you might also be eligible for a £500 Test and Trace Support Payment or discretionary payment, if you meet the government’s criteria

The government’s website tells you how to apply

rainbow over a spring field

A year living with coronavirus and our message of thanks and hope

Earlier this week we marked a year since the Prime Minister announced the first national coronavirus lockdown and we were told to stay at home to protect our NHS and save lives.

Tuesday 23 March 2021 was named a National Day of Reflection by the end of life charity, Marie Curie, and offered a moment to stop, catch our collective breath, and remember.

Like everywhere, many of us in Devon have had a painful year due to grief, sudden changes to employment or the stresses of our own personal circumstances. 

None of us expected that 12 months later we would still be living with coronavirus. It’s been a long journey, and it’s not over yet. But while is has been extremely difficult for a lot of people, some good things have come from the changes we have had to make in our lives. We sent you a special email looking back over some of positive things that have happened in Devon during the coronavirus pandemic. 

If you missed it you can find a copy on our website, along with an archive of all our previous emails.

Government graphic saying "We must keep on protecting each other. Hands, Face, Space."

The latest national advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) is available on the
Government website and NHS website.

You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.

Mayor’s April Crier Article

Where is this year going? I hope you are all keeping well and continuing to stay safe during these difficult times, and that you are remaining hopeful about the way forward. It is important to keep reminding ourselves of how far we have come and that we will come through this time and be all the stronger when we do.

Beginning to think ahead, I am especially looking forward to our independent shops re-opening. Our town centre is full of many unique shopping opportunities and to be able to come into town to buy a gift or a treat for yourself will be very special. I would like to re-enforce my Mayor’s challenge to “Shop Local” as much as you can. Our traders have all been incredible during the pandemic; either adjusting work patterns, or closing altogether for our safety; all so that we have been able to shop for essentials and  keep safe! Please support them back as we transition into restrictions being lifted.

Whilst my calendar remains quite empty in terms of events, the Town Council has continued to be busy and we have used this to work on some marketing initiatives. The new Marketing Working Group have been very proactive recently and you will note from other articles and the CRIER’s front cover that we will soon have two map trails available for the town. This is an exciting initiative and we hope that locals and visitors will learn more about the town’s rich heritage.

I know we are all anxious to get back to some kind of normality, but we must remain vigilant and remember the three disciplines… hands, face and space. We are incredibly fortunate that rates have been so low in Great Torrington and Torridge so let’s keep it that way.

As always, please do not hesitate to get in contact if you need anything; I’m very happy to help in any way I can!

Keeley Allin – Mayor of Great Torrington


A Tribute to Christine Porter

Members, officers and volunteers of the Town Council were deeply saddened to hear the news of the untimely death of Christine Porter.  Christine was instrumental in setting up the GTTC Dementia Friendly Community Working Group, striving to improve all aspects of day-to-day living within the community for those living with dementia as well as their Carers.  Christine was passionate about this initiative and worked extremely hard “on the ground” and alongside other members of the group.  Christine was an inspiration to so many and will be greatly missed by everyone who worked with and had the privilege to know her.  Our thoughts are vey much with Christine’s family and friends at this sad time.

Karen Chapman (Town Clerk)

Great Torrington Town Council Marketing Working Group

We reported last December about the newly formed Marketing Working Group.  Since then, the group has been busy and you will note from the front page of the CRIER, one of the main pieces of work has been updating the “Town Map” and John Wardman’s “Civil War Trail”.  These will join the new “Heritage Trail” map which was finalised at the end of last year, created by Emily Wapshott and the Futures Group. By mid-April, we will have 3 maps available in paper form and will distribute these far and wide, but would also like to encourage our local residents to grab copies and either have a look at what the town has to offer in respect of a unique shopping experience and/or take in one of the history trails and learn more about the wonderful heritage of your amazing town!

Last Autumn, the CDT asked the Town Council if we would take over the membership of the North Devon Marketing Bureau (NDMB). Members agreed  and we have ensured that we have maximised the quota of  photos we are able to display on the Visit Devon website as well as populated the site with appropriate information about Great Torrington.  In addition, we have also subscribed to a half page advert in the “Visit Devon” booklet which is distributed nationally.

We have spent some time boosting the One Great Torrington website by adding in various community groups.  It is envisaged that the “OneGreatTorrington” website ( will be the portal for the town and will point people to various activities, shops, groups etc.

Closer to home again, we are looking at other activities and opportunities. The working group is currently planning a History Alive weekend in September 2022, which was reported on last month and there is talk of designing a heritage calendar for 2022. We are also looking for local treasure hunt style activities throughout the town which can be added to the One Great Torrington website to be used by a whole host of people, including children.  If you have any such trails, and you are happy to share them, please contact the Town Council.

What continues to be evident throughout all of this work is the plethora of volunteers who work tirelessly and passionately for the community of Great Torrington. We are very fortunate!

Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any ideas as to how we can promote the great things our town has to offer and keep an eye out in future editions of The Crier for updates on how we are progressing.

Temporary postponement of Services run from the Town Council offices

During the Coronavirus pandemicLet’s Talk Torrington” and the “Citizens Advice Bureau” have postponed their visits to our offices but will resume as soon as it is safe to do so, they can be contacted in the meantime using the following methods:-

Let’s Talk Torrington (Clarity) – Monday to Thursday with an out-of-hours confidential answering machine service (if you leave a message, a member of staff will call you back) – 01271 267474, email or write to 104A Boutport Street, Barnstaple, Devon, EX31 1SY.

Citizens Advice Centre – By telephone : 03444 111 444 (Adviceline), by email : or by post: Citizens Advice TNMWD, 1-3 Bridge Buildings, The Strand, Barnstaple, Devon, EX32 8LW.

A message of hope and thanks from Devon’s Director of Public Health

On this day last year, when national lockdown restrictions were introduced and we were all told to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives, none of us expected that 12 months later we would still be living with coronavirus.

‘Unprecedented’ and ‘life-changing’ are the two adjectives we are familiar with hearing used to describe this pandemic that has touched every person’s life. In some respect, it feels like only yesterday, and yet to see where we were then and where we are now, the journey that we have all experienced has been long. 

For too many, touched by grief or sudden changes to employment or personal circumstance, the year has been painful. Today has been named a National Day of Reflection by the end of life charity, Marie Curie, and offers a moment to stop, catch our collective breath, and remember.

The coronavirus pandemic is very much still with us. But there is a lot to be optimistic about, and our testing capability and the mass vaccination programme have a part to play in that. We have done well in Devon to keep the worst of the pandemic at arms length, for which I thank everyone.

So as we move towards the loosening of restrictions, we must do so with caution. The measures we have in place – social distancing, face coverings and washing our hands regularly – are likely to be with us for some time yet to come. And so they must remain, if we are to learn to live with this virus and not allow cases to rise again.

We have learned a lot about ourselves these last 12 months, and a lot of good things have come from the changes we have had to make in our lives. If 2020 was a year we’d rather scratch from the calendar, then this year let’s try to keep hold of the many good things that we’ve learned, about our ability to adapt and to look out for each other, our families, neighbours and friends.

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon.

food being delivered to vulnerable people

Communities made the difference during lockdown

Community organisations have played a significant part in Devon’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, quickly mobilising to ensure vital support reached those who needed it most.

We’ve supported their efforts with more than £625,000 through our COVID-19 Fund which we set up at the start of the first lockdown in March 2020.

Since then 622 individuals and groups have received grants of between £300 and £5,000 to support a diverse range of local projects. They included the delivery of essential goods and services to people who are vulnerable; practical support for accessing online information; projects that help people stay connected to support mental health and wellbeing; and transport-related initiatives that support safe travel in the community.  

One such project is Uplift Devon, in Mid and East Devon. At a time when many families have found it especially challenging financially, Uplift Devon has supported over 200 families with children that are living in poverty, providing them with donated clothing and other essential items.

Another was Brauton Ability Football Club for young people and adults with disabilities. People with disabilities and their families are much more at risk of feeling alone, isolated or anxious so the club used the funding to help keep their players active, connected and entertained during lockdown.

Unable to run their usual community craft sessions during the pandemic, the South Molton Scrapstore made the most of their funding by tackle loneliness and isolation and promoting mental wellbeing and community connection through their free environmentally friendly craft packs. They delivered over 500 locally sourced packs to those struggling with the restrictions, such as the elderly and those with learning disabilities or conditions such a dementia who found the lockdown especially challenging and lonely.

Community transport providers have not been immune to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but they have continued to play a crucial role to ensure people can access vital services. East Teignbridge Community Transport Association used its grant to help local people in their area attend essential appointments at hospitals and GP practices. And in recent weeks they have been taking people to have their COVID-19 vaccination, visit family in care homes and pick up essential groceries.

school children running

A look back at the school year

Within just a few days last March, schools and colleges across Devon quickly shifted their focus from learning face-to-face in the classroom, to a model of remote learning, via Teams, Zoom and other online learning platforms. 

Schools themselves of course never closed. They stayed open right throughout the lockdowns, for children of key workers and vulnerable families. 

Teaching staff worked hard to provide both in-class lessons to the few, while supporting those learning during lockdown at home. 

There were challenges. Some children had problems accessing remote learning because they didn’t have devices at home. So, in addition to government-provided laptops, local communities stepped up to help. We also gave thousands of pounds to provide tech for young people to help them access online services, including school work.

Now, a year on, schools and colleges have fully re-opened for all pupils and over 95 per cent of primary and secondary school children in Devon have returned to the classroom. 

Schools have done a tremendous job in building confidence and welcoming pupils back and we have had some great responses from pupils, parents, headteachers and their staff. 

Everyone has done a remarkable job over the past year and we’ve had positive reports about how well children are continuing to manage all the changes and how good it has been to see them enjoying lessons and meeting their friends again.

elderly man stood at front door

Working together to support Devon’s vulnerable

Supporting Devon’s most vulnerable residents has been our top priority during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Around 52,000 adults and children in the county have been ‘shielding’ because they have an underlying health condition that puts them at very high risk of severe illness if they catch coronavirus.

Many have relied on family, friends and neighbours for help or called on the county’s network of volunteer community groups, trusted charities and local authorities to deliver essential supplies. 

We’ve supported this effort through Team Devon – a partnership between the county, district councils and other organisations to coordinate county-wide support to help people quickly and effectively.  

Working together with a wide range of community groups, we created a strong network for people who needed help to call on, from delivering essential supplies such as food and medication to those shielding, to providing funds to community organisations working to combat loneliness. 

And now, with lockdown restrictions easing and the national shielding programme due to end on 31 March, some vulnerable residents may be anxious about transitioning back to normal life after the last 12 months. You’re not alone, and it is completely normal to be feeling uneasy. Take your time, there’s no rush. It’s important to share any concerns with those closest to you and remember that the friends and neighbours who have helped you over the year are still your friends and neighbours even after the shielding ends, and they are still there for you.

Everyone has gone to a huge amount of effort over the last year to help protect each other and stay safe and well, so as we enter the home stretch, please keep up the kindness. 

boy cracking an egg

Combating hardship and holiday hunger in Devon

The coronavirus outbreak quickly put a huge financial strain on some people, with work and income changing overnight as a result of the national lockdowns and ongoing restrictions. 

We’ve worked closely with community and voluntary organisations, schools, children’s centres and our district council colleagues to make sure vulnerable families in Devon worst affected by the financial impacts of the pandemic were supported.  

This included committing emergency hardship funding for those struggling to pay for basic household essentials such as heating, utilities and food.

We also launched a comprehensive programme to combat holiday hunger, with families of over 15,000 children who receive free school meals during term time automatically sent supermarket vouchers to help them buy food during the holidays.  

It’s clear that the effects of the pandemic are going to be felt for some time to come, so work is also underway with the Devon Community Foundation, which has close links with foodbanks, community kitchens, holiday clubs, local businesses and charities, to establish food networks across the county together with a sustainable programme of learning and support.  

Proud to Care

Many have chosen new careers in health and social care 

The year of the pandemic has proved a turbulent time for employment with hundreds of people looking for jobs – and in Devon, through Proud to Care, many of those joined the health and care sector. 

At the beginning of 2020 things were very different. The economy was getting stronger; rates of employment were high. Then the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent national lockdowns came. Almost overnight large sections of the economy stalled. 

At the same time there was a shortfall of people to support the vulnerable and people were urged to consider joining the care sector. Almost immediately we were deluged with hundreds of offers of help from people of all ages and walks of life, including lawyers, students, builders, musicians, fire-fighters, artists, hairdressers, engineers, and accountants. 

Some entered the sector because they lost their jobs; others missed the regular day-to-day contact with others. Many came back from retirement to do their bit. But regardless of their circumstances they were welcomed because they cared about the vulnerable. 

One of those people was Mollie, aged 24. She had her own business as a sports therapist, but like so many, she was not allowed to operate during lockdown and her business had to close. After considering her options, she was interested in becoming a support worker for older people including adults with learning difficulties or physical disabilities. 

“I love making a difference,” she said. “I know that I am helping people to be a better version of themselves, enabling them to do things on their own and build a level of independence. In this job you build great relationships with clients and their families and earn their trust. Trust really is the key.” 

We have made a video with Mollie, and others who have chosen new careers in health and social care. It’s part of our campaign to encourage more people to work in care. We’ve not launched the video yet, but here’s a sneak preview just for you.

Now 12 months on almost 300 people have been offered employment through Proud to Care’s applicant placing service while thousands more have applied directly for the hundreds of jobs advertised on the Proud to Care jobs board. There are many rewarding jobs and career opportunities in health and care right now, so why not take a look?

closed but still awesome

Economic recovery plan to build a stronger Devon

Running a business during the last year has been tough. The impact of the pandemic has been felt by our workforce and across all Devon communities.

The national lockdowns and ongoing restrictions have meant making rapid adjustments to the way people work, including for many, closing their doors to customers and working from home. And it’s likely that the next two years may be among the most challenging in living memory for our local economy.

This last year, we’ve been working hard with other local authorities and groups in the south west to support local businesses throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The tourism, food and drink, construction and agriculture industries – which Devon’s economy relies largely on – have been hit especially hard. 

Last summer, we launched a vision for economic recovery over the next three years, and with it a determination and focus to support Devon’s young people to learn and work, help for employees who have lost their jobs or want to find new opportunities, and support for businesses to help them retain staff, apprentices and suppliers. 

This last year has been hard, but there is hope and opportunity to restart, regrow and reset our economy. By working with agility and flexibility, with our partners and with business, Devon will emerge stronger and be a more dynamic place to live and work.

Woman reading to a child

Impact of coronavirus on speech and language development 

Services such as Devon’s Public Health Nursing, which includes health visitors and school nurses, were quick to respond to the national coronavirus lockdown in March 2020, using online and remote ways to continue their work with parents and children. 

Alongside partners in education and children’s centres, health visitors and school nurses have continued to provide support for those most at need throughout the pandemic. 

“Children’s lives have been turned upside down by COVID-19,” says Sarah Miller, Speech and Language Advisor. 

“The disruption to services, changes to education provision and the additional pressures within families have meant that some children will be struggling to achieve their potential despite huge effort and tireless work of schools and services across the county.” 

One of the reasons why children may struggle finding their way in life is because they have difficulty communicating. So, the impact of COVID-19 on children’s language development in particular is the focus of much local and national interest. 

Sarah and her team have been working hard during the last year to raise awareness among parents and carers and professionals to help them understand the importance of speech and language, and how it’s everyone’s role to support children to be able to communicate as effectively as possible. 

Their work has been to improve communication services and support for children and young people up the age of 25 years old. They’ve helped develop a lot of resources and support networks. 

“We are very excited at how this work is going. We want to celebrate this and encourage more people to get involved” says Sarah.

You can read more about the team’s work on our News Centre.


Devon’s carbon emissions reduced by almost a quarter in the first lockdown

Over the last year real progress has been made to create a roadmap to show the way to a net-zero Devon by 2050 at the latest. 

The Devon Climate Emergency Response Group (DCERG) and its appointed group of experts, headed by Professor Devine Wright, have created an interim draft carbon plan. That plan will become the blue-print to show what we must all do – residents, councils, businesses alike – to ensure that Devon reaches its net-zero ambitions. 

Since the first lockdown we have been encouraging more walking, cycling, and advising people on how to get around safely while social distancing. Pavements have been widened, new paths created, and roads have narrowed to accommodate greener travel options. 

Research last summer showed that Devon’s carbon emissions reduced by almost a quarter during the first lockdown. 

“We have an opportunity to introduce transformative change, and not just tinker around the edges,” said Professor Devine Wright. 

Chairman of the DCERG, Dr Phil Norrey said:

“The lockdowns have given a glimpse of how a more sustainable Devon might look, feel and sound.

“There is a huge opportunity to improve our public health, our resilience and our wellbeing, as well as address the climate and ecological emergencies. 

“We must be careful not to fall back into the same old routines.  We all must think differently about the way we work and the way we travel.”

youth workers

Devon’s Youth Workers have worked tirelessly

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been felt by people of all ages. 

Throughout the last year Young Minds, the UK’s leading charity for children and young people’s mental health, has been investigating the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Their fourth survey, carried out during January 2021, showed that many young people have found this lockdown harder to cope with than previous ones. Anxiety, panic attacks, loneliness and isolation, and concerns about school are all described in their findings. 

These last twelve months, Devon’s frontline youth workers have worked tirelessly to support young people during the pandemic. There have been around 85 youth workers, and 27 volunteers, working on behalf of SPACE, who we commission to run youth services in Devon. Their support has made the difference between a young person facing an uncertain future or becoming a productive and valued member of society. 

While youth centres temporarily closed, the creation of an invite-only youth club, via the Discord app, has proven most successful. Open every evening, there’s been almost 2,000 attendances, and it’s being shared with 15 voluntary sector youth clubs across Devon. But online youth sessions are no substitute for the real thing, and young people have missed having somewhere to go, something to do and a trusted adult to talk to. 

With no guidebook on how to deliver youth services during lockdown, it was up to youth workers to develop new skills – youth workers like Alex Gurpinar, who leads a team in Newton Abbot. Her leadership qualities have been recognised nationally, winning her an award at the Inspiring Hope Awards 2021.

“She has not only embraced but pioneered many of the changes we’ve put in place so we can continue to support and develop young people,” added Dan Barton, the Partnerships and Projects Lead  

“She has continually demonstrated her determination to keep young people connected, safe, valued and happy.”

You can read more about the work Alex and the team do and why her work has been recognised, on our News Centre.

Future Skills Centre Exeter

Former Flybe building becomes Future Skills Centre 

Although the former Flybe airline was already in a difficult situation by March 2020, the emerging COVID-19 pandemic was said to have put additional pressure on the firm.

The airline went into administration that month, and with it, thousands of former employees lost their jobs. 

Alongside Exeter College, we’ve bought the building that used to be the Flybe Training Academy, and it will offer training and education opportunities for learners of all ages, skills, and qualifications fit for the economy of the future. 

The Future Skills Centre, as it’s now known, provides the region with a specialist facility for the delivery of training for high-tech jobs in engineering, digital, construction and clean growth. 

“Creating and retaining a highly skilled workforce will underpin the economic prosperity of Devon and will be a key part of our recovery plan after COVID-19,” said Keri Denton, Head of Economy, Enterprise and Skills for the council. “High-tech skills for engineering and digital are vital to our economy.”

Exeter College Principal and Chief Executive John Laramy, said:

“Not only will the centre provide the future skills for a more sustainable Devon, it will also support us to develop skills in digital and data technologies, including building on our track record of working with artificial intelligence and supporting emerging sectors such as robotic agriculture.”

children collecting books from library

Libraries reflect on a year since first lockdown 

Devon’s libraries responded immediately to news of the national coronavirus lockdown, and on 23 March 2020 all branches closed their doors, mobile libraries were taken off the road and the home library service halted. 

In their place, new ways of delivering a much-needed service took over. Dozens of regular groups, events and workshops immediately went online. Library staff made over 6,000 calls to those who are most vulnerable or isolated, to check that they were OK. E-book downloads shot up, and online stocks were expanded. 

‘Choose and Collect’ enabled people to ask for specific books and arrange a contact-less collection. 84 per cent of customers surveyed said that Choose and Collect has helped them feel less isolated during lockdown, and 94 per cent said it helped with their sense of wellbeing. 

‘Grab and Go’ bags encouraged younger readers, and the long-established Book Track went online, as did the Summer Reading Challenge and Winter mini challenge. 

For people with no digital access, in-library appointments were, and continue to be arranged. 

“None of our teams have ever worked through an experience like the last 12 months, and there’s no doubt it’s been tough in so many ways,” says Alex Kittow, Chief Executive of Libraries Unlimited. 

“We are grateful to our volunteers and Friends Groups that have supported us throughout the pandemic. 

“We look forward to welcoming people back to our library spaces and will continue to work closely with communities to meet their changing need into the future.”

You can read Alex Kittow’s full reflections on the year in Devon and Torbay libraries on the Libraries Unlimited website.

National Day of Reflection

Marking the day in Devon 

We supported the minute silence at midday today to mark the National Day of Reflection. 

In a message to Devon County Council staff, our Chief Executive, Phil Norrey, said: 

“It’s been an incredibly challenging year, and one that many of us will never forget. 

“I am incredibly grateful to all of you who have worked tirelessly in some of the most difficult circumstances we could have ever imagined. 

“Over the past twelve months we have all made significant sacrifices and been personally affected by the pandemic.  

“Please do take the time that you need today to pause and reflect on the events of the past year and the hope for the future.” 

The one minute silence was followed by a bell toll at County Hall, Exeter. 

And this evening we’re encouraging everyone to stand on their doorsteps at 8.00pm with phones, candles, and torches to signify a ‘beacon of remembrance’.

Government graphic saying "We must keep on protecting each other. Hands, Face, Space."

The latest national advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) is available on the
government website and NHS website.

You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.