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Devon County Council Bulletins

Could you be saving money on your childcare costs?

What’s changing?

At the moment, all parents in Devon are entitled to up to 15 hours a week funded childcare for children aged three and four  years old. This increases to up to 30 hours a week for parents who work and earn more than the equivalent of 16 hours a week at the National Minimum or Living Wage, but less than £100,000 per year.

Some two-year-olds are also eligible for up to 15 hours a week funded childcare if their family receive some additional forms of government support.

From April, the scheme will be gradually expanded so that by September 2025, working parents of all children over the age of nine months old will be entitled to up to 30 hours a week funded childcare.

The changes are being introduced gradually. 

Key dates:

  • from April 2024, eligible working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access up to 15 hours a week funded childcare
  • from September 2024, up to 15 hours a week funded childcare will be extended to eligible working parents of children aged from nine months to three year olds
  • from September 2025, eligible working parents of children under the age of five-years-old will be entitled to up to 30 hours a week funded childcare

Will your child be two years old by Sunday 31 March 2024?

Applications are now open for eligible working parents of two year olds to receive up to 15 hours a week funded childcare, starting from April 2024.

You’ll need to be working, and earning under £100,000 a year, but at least £167 a week (the equivalent of 16 hours a week at the National Minimum or Living Wage).

If you, or your partner, are on maternity, paternity or adoption leave, or you’re unable to work because you are disabled or have caring responsibilities, you could still be eligible.

How do I apply for funded childcare? 

You can apply for a code to get funded childcare on the Government’s website.

You’ll need to set up a childcare account. It usually takes 20 minutes to apply. You may find out if you’re eligible straight away, but it can take up to seven days.

Once your application has been approved, you’ll get a code for funded childcare to give to your childcare provider.

The deadline for applications is Sunday 31 March 2024 to be able to access the funding from Monday 1 April 2024. If you miss the deadline, you won’t be able to start using the new entitlements until the next funding period, which starts on Sunday 1 September 2024.

Make sure you have the following information to hand before starting the application process:

  • your national insurance number (or unique taxpayer reference if you are self-employed)
  • details of any Government support or benefits you receive
  • the UK birth certificate reference number (if you have one) for your child
  • the date you started or are due to start work (this can be approximate if more than three months ago)

You and your partner cannot both have accounts for the same child, but you must include your partner in your application if you are married or in a civil partnership and live together; or are not married or in a civil partnership, but living together as though you are. Their employment and income will not affect your eligibility if they are, or will be absent from your household for more than six months or are in prison.

If you are separated, you and your ex-partner need to decide who should apply if you are jointly responsible for your child. If you cannot decide, both of you must apply separately and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will decide who gets a childcare account. 

When can I apply for funded childcare?

You can apply from when your child is one year and 36 weeks old for up to 15 hours a week funded childcare or two years and 36 weeks old for up to 30 hours a week funded childcare.

  • If your child’s birthday is between 1 September and 31 December, the best time time apply is from 15 October to 30 November in order to receive the funding on or after 1 January
  • If your child’s birthday is between 1 January and 31 March, the best time time apply is from 15 January to 28 February in order to receive the funding on or after 1 April
  • If your child’s birthday is between 1 April and 31 August, the best time time apply is from 15 June to 31 July in order to receive the funding on or after 1 September

You can apply outside of these recommended dates but you might not receive your code in time. You must have a valid code by the end of the month before a new funding period starts.

You must sign in to your childcare account to confirm your details are up to date every three months or your code will expire.

Apply for free childcare now

When can my child start?

Your child can begin to receive the funding from the start of the funding period following their relevant birthday (see table above).

Early Years funded childcare stops when your child starts in reception class (or reaches compulsory school age, if later).

How can I use my free childcare?

The hours of funded childcare per week are based on 38 weeks of the year (school term-time), however, they can be used flexibly with one or more providers and can be ‘stretched’ over 52 weeks by using fewer hours per week.

The childcare must be with an approved childcare provider and can be used in day care settings such as nurseries and pre-schools, at childminders, sessional providers such as play groups and after school clubs. 

Find out more about registered childcare in Devon

Will there be enough places?

It’s estimated that around an additional 5,430 children in Devon will require a funded childcare place by September 2024 as a result of the Government extending their funded childcare support.

There may be a shortage of childcare places in some areas, so please contact your local setting for more information and to discuss your requirements.

To give providers more flexibility in how they run their businesses, the Government has increased the staff-to-child ratio so now one member of staff can look after five children. They’re also increasing the hourly rate paid to childcare providers and are offering an incentive of up to £1,200 for people to become childminders. 

You can find out more about the different job roles within early years, the qualifications and training available, such as the Government’s Early Years Educator Apprenticeship Scheme and where the latest job vacancies are, on our website.

What if my child has additional needs?

Children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) should be included and educated, with support where required, alongside their peers. You can find out about the range of support and opportunities in the Devon SEND Local Offer.

All childcare providers must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to include children with special educational needs and disabilities.

There’s more information about help with paying for childcare for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities on our website.

What other financial childcare help is available?

The Government’s Childcare Choices website brings together all the existing childcare offers in one place, so parents can get the help that fits their family.

This could be through Tax Free Childcare, 30 Hours Childcare, or Universal Credit Childcare. Some families might be eligible to use more than one childcare scheme together to get the most out of it.

There’s also a ‘Childcare Calculator’ to add up all the help you can get. 

The ‘Help For Households’ website also has a section with advice and financial support specifically for families.

Want to know more?

We’re running some free online information sessions in February about how to access funded childcare, what funding is available, the eligibility criteria and how to apply.

There is no need to book, just join by clicking on the links below:

While these sessions are primarily for parents, anyone that would like to know more about Early Years Funding is welcome to attend.

New Year’s resolutions; Storm Henk blows canopy off footbridge; Care-experience young people helping to improve services; Funding available to help set up community reading spaces; Cold weather ahead and The Flock That Rock

Storm Henk blows canopy off footbridge

Strong winds accompanying Storm Henk this week blew most of the canopy off the Victorian-era wrought-iron bridge that connects two platforms at Okehampton Station.

Gusts of 70 mile per hour blew the canopy off the bridge leaving exposed live electrical wires.

Train services were suspended temporarily until Network Rail’s contractors, Balfour Beaty, removed the wood and metal sheeting off the train line and platform.

The line was reopened the same day, but the footbridge, which we manage, remains closed until further notice.

Thankfully, no one was hurt. Our engineers are assessing the damage to help determine the best course of action to ensure that the bridge can reopen safely.

Care-experienced young people are helping to improve services

Care-experienced young people are working with us to help influence the way that staff and councillors think, behave, and deliver support to children and young people in our care and to those who are leaving care.

We are taking a look at the support we give care-experienced young people to see what that support looks and feels like from their perspective.

We’ve asked a group of 11 young people to deliver training to frontline staff across the council.

The young people delivering the training believe it’s a vital step in helping improve support available to care-experienced young people.

While we know that every young person’s individual experience of life in care is different, we also know that we can do better to understand the perspectives of young people themselves as they journey through the system.

Emily and Millie are care leavers, and are part of the team of young people who are delivering the training. They are optimistic that their training will improve how the care system works for young people.

“All workers in the service are there for a reason, and they want to help young people. I think that this training will give them a lot more insight into how to really help young people and how to support them properly, which will be amazing,” says Emily.

You can read what Emily and Millie say in the full story on our news page.

Funding to help set up a community reading space available

We’re inviting community organisations and town and parish councils in rural areas to apply for a grant to help provide access to books and reading.

Grants of up to £300 are available through The Community Support Library Fund which are aimed at helping local groups to set up a reading space alongside existing community activities or services.

Applications are welcome from town and parish councils, charities, voluntary community groups and church or faith groups that have an open and accessible space for readers to enjoy.

Grant applications from schools are also accepted where the reading facilities can be used by other groups, such as parents or by a pre-school.

The funding can be used to enhance an existing space for things like bookshelves, comfy seats, better lighting or books.

Find out more in the full story on our news page.

Weather to turn cold again

Following a very wet December and start of January, we’re expecting a spell of much colder weather for the next week – especially overnight with temperatures expected to drop below freezing.

With the high cost of living, it’s tempting to try and ride out the cold weather to avoid spending too much on heating. But being cold can have a serious impact on your health, particularly if you’re older or have a pre-existing condition, as it increases the risks of heart attacks, strokes, and chest infections.

If you can’t heat your whole home, it’s important to try to heat the rooms you spend the most time in (for example, the living room during the day and the bedroom just before going to sleep). And remember, wearing a few thinner layers is better at trapping heat than wearing one thick layer. The NHS website has lots of useful information about staying well during the winter.

Winter weather can make driving conditions difficult and cause problems on our roads. Our gritting teams will be out treating roads on Devon’s main salting routes. Please never assume a road has been gritted though as rain will wash salt off roads leaving them prone to ice, and in extreme cold even salting will not stop ice from forming.

Drive with care and according to the conditions, allow additional time for your journey and reduce your speed, and leave more space between you and the vehicle in front. Follow Devon Alert on Facebook and X for the latest travel information from our Network Operations Control Centre.

Project to inspire school students to learn digital skills announces logo competition winner

Students from schools across Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay have had the opportunity to showcase their digital skills in a competition aimed at inspiring young people to consider digital careers.

It’s part of the work we’re doing to help schools promote and raise digital career opportunities among pupils aged 11 to 14-years-old.

Schools were invited to take part in the programme’s first competition, titled Marvellous Marketers, and pupils were asked to create an eye-catching logo for the project that grabs the audience’s attention, makes a strong first impression and is understood by the audience.

Twelve year old Samson Evans from Devonport High School for Boys was awarded first place, by a panel of judges.

Samson said: “I feel really happy about winning and I’m glad I entered the competition; I feel like I developed my design skills a lot!”

Find out who the runners up were in the full story on our news page.

New year, new you?

The start of a new year often sees a surge in people wanting to make changes to their lifestyle – its an opportunity for a new start and change in direction.

Perhaps your New Year’s resolution is to give up smoking? Or you might want to aim for a healthier weight or be more active, but you can’t find the time or motivation. Help is available!

Stop For Life Devon provides specialist behavioural support and stop smoking products (such as nicotine replacement therapy and e-cigarettes) to smokers looking to quit.  

The NHS Better Health website has lots of free tools and support to help you lose weight and get active.

You can also find simple ways to lift your mood with Every Mind Matters.

Devon’s economy given wide ranging support from recovery funding

The full impact that funding support has had in helping the county’s economy to recover from the worst effects of the coronavirus pandemic has been revealed.

Thousands of people and businesses benefited from a range of projects funded by the economic support that we provided through the pandemic and beyond.

An investment of £4.5 million was provided by us towards Team Devon’s Recovery Fund as well as £8.6 million of Community Renewal Funding awarded to us in 2021/22 by the UK Government.

From March 2021 to March 2023 Devon’s Recovery Fund focused on long-term recovery through 22 projects. The £4.5 million investment helped to:

  • Support more than 2,200 businesses to adopt digital solutions, improve their business practices, incorporate green innovation or start-up
  • Create 94 new jobs​
  • Provide employment support to more than 1,400 people​ and support over 2,300 training places​
  • Plant 14,000 trees​ and support over 300 farms to become more resilient

You can read more about how funding helped to support the Devon economy during the pandemic in the story on our news page.

Migrating to Tiverton, The Flock That Rock – Tiverton Swan Trail

The Grand Western Canal will host the launch of a new sculpture trail in April.

“The Flock That Rock – Tiverton Swan Trail” will be unveiled by Mid Devon District Council and Visit Mid Devon in Easter 2024.

The project will feature 12 elegant swan sculptures, each with a unique design by a local artist. They will be placed at key locations around the town in what is being billed as “a wonderful blend of art, nature, and community”.

A 13th swan will be “swanning around” appearing in different places around the town as a pop-up for visitors to locate and to maintain interest in the trail, which will run between Easter and October half-term 2024.

With Swans regularly nesting at the canal, the trail is designed to link the popular canal destination to the town centre, promote the shopping quarters, and highlight Tiverton’s key attractions and parks.

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

You snow the drill… It’s our tree-mendous festive round-up of everything yule need to know!

If you need help over the festive period

Lots of public services remain open over the festive period, although operating times may be reduced.

You can find our Customer Service Centre’s Christmas opening hours on our website. There’s also information about our social care services over Christmas.

Opening times for Devon’s district, city, borough and unitary councils and National Park authorities are available on their respective websites. 

If you need to contact your GP practice please check their online services. If you think you need immediate medical help, NHS 111 is available by phone or online to tell you what to do next. Community pharmacies are also available for advice on many minor illnesses and injuries that can be treated at home. 

Urgent mental health support is available through 0808 196 8708. Or you can access Samaritans 24/7 support by calling 116 123 or emailing jo@samaritans.org

If you’re visiting your local library this festive period, please bear in mind their Christmas opening hours and check with your local library as some hours may vary.

Our website is always open and full of useful information

Are you struggling with the cost of living?

The cost of living continues to be high, and the festive period will be difficult for many people in Devon, but there is help available if you need it. If you don’t have enough money to live on, it’s important to make sure you know what support is available, so earlier this year we put together a special edition of our Connect Me newsletter to help. If you missed it in your inbox, you can read it online.

There’s also lots of useful advice on our website for residents and businesses in Devon who are struggling to afford to pay for their energy, water, food or other essential items. It includes information about support for low-income families through the Household Support Fund, such as free school meal holiday vouchers, the Holiday Activities and Food programme and ‘Fuel, Food and More’ grants. There’s also help for those using pre-payment meters, and who are struggling to meet their energy needs, from Citizens Advice Devon.

Find out more about help with the cost of living in Devon

We’re dreaming of a green Christmas!

There’s an average 30 per cent increase in waste over the festive season! But there are lots of ways to have a greener Christmas, and save money too. Check out the Recycle Devon website for advice on wrapping paper alternatives, zero waste gifts and freezing leftover festive food!

There’s also lots of ideas for homemade gifts that are inexpensive, easy to make and are zero-waste so help the environment too, as well as craft decorations to help you save money, reduce waste and spend time having fun making!

This Ultimate Guide to Christmas Food Planning will give you plenty of tips to enjoy a feast without going overboard. And if you find you often cook too much and end up throwing food away, use a portion planner so you only buy and cook what you need.  

Recycling collections vary depending on which district you live in, so check what your kerbside collection includes. You can also find out where in your local area to recycle your Christmas tree.

When is my bin being collected?

Don’t get snowed under this Christmas. Check your household waste collection days and recycling facility opening times over the holidays.

Remember items like cardboard, cans and bottles can all be recycled, as well as many other items.

Recycle Devon has information on what you can recycle in your area, and when your waste and recycling collection days are over the holidays, on their website.

Please visit our website to find your local household waste recycling centre opening times.

Driving home for Christmas? Stay up to date with the latest travel information from Devon Alert

No doubt Devon’s roads will be incredibly busy over the next couple of weeks as many families travel to spend time with family and friends over the holidays or enjoy everything the county has to offer while they have a break from work.

Nobody likes to be stuck in the car, so however long your journey, it’s always advisable to plan ahead, avoid busy periods if you can, check for any delays and leave extra time so you’re not rushing. Follow Devon Alert on X (formerly known as Twitter) or Facebook for regular updates on Devon’s roads from our Network Control Centre.

Winter weather is unpredictable; from snow, high winds and lashing rain to glaringly low sun and darkening skies. We work hard to keep Devon’s roads moving during these various severe weather conditions, and you can help too by following Met Office advice.

If you spot a problem on one of our roads, such as a fallen tree or faulty traffic lights, you can report it on our website.

Christmas is even more special when it’s Made in Devon

Devon is full of great independent, businesses making fantastic products and Made in Devon, our trading standards approved buy-local business support scheme, is here to help spread the word.

Any business that is based in Devon, which has been operating for more than six months and takes pride in buying from and supporting other Devon businesses, can apply to join.

So if you’re looking for a gift this Christmas and want to buy from trustworthy Devon companies, look on the Find a Local Business page or the Love to Shop Local page and be reassured you’re supporting a local, legal and honest Devon business that has the Trading Standards stamp of approval.

Made in Devon Christmas gift guide

Can you be a ‘Lift Legend’ this Christmas?

With many social occasions in December, you may be more tempted to get behind the wheel after a drink. DON’T!

Alcohol can significantly impair many of the functions necessary for safe driving; particularly reaction times and spatial awareness. This may still be the case the morning after, depending on how much alcohol you consumed the night before and when you stopped drinking.

It’s not just you that’s at risk. You could kill or seriously injure someone by drink driving, destroying their lives and those of their families. It’s easy to avoid this by planning ahead, leaving the car at home, and using a taxi, public transport or having a designated driver to get you home.

Devon and Cornwall Police will be out in force rigorously targeting those who are a danger on our roads, day or night. They’ve also teamed up with over 90 licenced premises to offer free soft drinks to those who give lifts home to friends and family after a night out this Christmas. Until 1 January 2024, drivers will be able to purchase a soft drink and receive a voucher to have their second free of charge at participating venues! 

Visit the Devon and Cornwall Police website to find out more.

Make Christmas fire-safe

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service report December to be the busiest month of the year for house fires. It’s important that you have a working smoke alarm on each level of your home, ideally in the hallway and at the top of the stairs. 

Twinkly Christmas lights feel very festive, but make sure they’re in good working order, meet British Safety Standards and were bought from a reputable retailer. And always turn them off before bed or going out! 

Take extreme care with candles. They should only be used when you are in the same room and always place them in a heat-proof holder, and keep them well away from shelves, curtains, furnishings and books. The safest way to use candles is to buy battery-powered ones.

Cooking is the cause of nearly half of all domestic fires. Never leave your Christmas dinner cooking unattended and make sure you switch off the oven and hob if you’re leaving the house (this goes for all high powered appliances including dishwashers, tumble dryers and washing machines). 

Visit the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service website for more advice about keeping fire safe this winter.

Get out and explore Devon this Christmas

Hopefully everyone will have the opportunity to spend some time enjoying the great outdoors this Christmas. From beaches, shores and estuaries to the rolling hills, wood, lowland heaths and imposing moors – there’s plenty to explore in Devon!

Did you know that if you walked every day for a year around Devon, you would never have to walk the same path twice? There are over 3,500 miles of footpaths and trails waiting to be discovered.

If you’d rather be on two wheels, there’s also a superb network of cycle routes for all abilities available.

Visit the Explore Devon website for more ideas!

A wonderfully festive post box topper in Ottery St Mary by the talented ‘Crochet and Chat’ ladies

And finally…

This is the last Connect Me newsletter of 2023, so from all of us here in the Communications Team at Devon County Council, we wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

We will be back in your inbox with the first weekly round-up newsletter of 2023 on Friday 5 January!

In the meantime, if you enjoy our newsletters please forward this one to your family and friends and encourage them to sign up.

Don’t let Christmas go to waste; road repair schemes to benefit from extra funding and number of Devon children receiving school holiday food support continues to rise

Don’t let Christmas go to waste…

The cost of living continues to be high, and food prices are over 25 per cent higher than they were two years ago. 

Reducing the amount of food we throw away can help cut down shopping bills. Recycle Devon are sharing food and money saving tips in the run up to Christmas on FacebookInstagram and X (formerly Twitter).

Research by Which? shows that during the festive period the foods people most often buy too much of are cheese, biscuits, chocolate, alcohol and vegetables. If that sounds familiar, a bit of planning is key to making sure you avoid falling into the same trap. This Ultimate Guide to Christmas Food Planning will give you plenty of tips to enjoy a feast without going overboard. 

To find out what you can recycle over the festive period, visit the ‘What can you recycle at Christmas?’ page on Recycle Devon’s website.

Road repair schemes to benefit from extra funding

More than 65 road repair schemes in Devon are being brought forward with additional funding recently announced by Government.

We’re receiving an extra £6.66 million for highway maintenance this financial year. The money is a share of the Government’s £8.3 billion investment in roads over the next 11 years using funds redirected from the cancelled HS2 rail line extension to Manchester.

The initial schemes prioritised to start in the coming weeks are mostly minor routes and residential roads across the county. The funding will also accelerate patching and pothole repairs across Devon’s 8,000 mile road network – the biggest of any authority in the country. The aim is for the repair schemes to be completed this financial year.

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

Number of Devon children receiving school holiday food support continues to rise

With the school Christmas holidays just around the corner, many families in Devon who are struggling financially are worrying about how to afford household essentials. We are supporting families to help put food on the table for children who would normally receive free school meals during term time.

Over 21,000 supermarket vouchers have already been sent to low-income families in Devon to help them buy food over the winter school holidays. Each child currently eligible for free school meals during term time has received a £45 voucher to spend during the Christmas holiday and February half-term break to replace the meals they would have had at school during the day.

If you were expecting to receive the vouchers, but didn’t, get in touch with our team as soon as possible by emailing freeschoolmeals@devon.gov.uk or calling 0345 155 1019.

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

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

Trial scheme for communities asking to deliver ‘minor’ highways improvements

Communities who ask to use their own money to make minor improvements to roads in their area will soon be able to do so.

Councillors have given the go-ahead for a trial scheme and a step-by-step guide or ‘checklist’ will be published enabling communities to understand the steps that are required before any work is carried out.

Our highways service receive requests from communities for permission to pay for and make small improvements to a highway in their area, such as a 20mph zone or traffic calming measures, for instance. These requests are where communities have funding in place, but our highways service lacks the capacity to deliver it on their behalf as quickly as the community would like. 

The results of the trial will then help us determine if the proposal should be turned into a permanent scheme.

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

ONYX Business Parks commits to delivering Phase Two at Exeter Skypark

We’ve completed the latest land deal at Skypark near Exeter with Onyx Business Parks in a development described as a “massive vote of confidence” in the local economy.

Skypark, which is part of the Exeter and East Devon Enterprise Zone, is one of the South West’s most significant business park developments. Onyx Business Parks’ Phase Two at Skypark will see the construction of 36 high quality, modern business units, providing over 36,000 square feet of multi-functional commercial space. This development is expected to support 132 construction jobs and generate over 288 highly skilled new jobs.

The award-winning developer’s decision to proceed with Skypark came after a high level in enquiries for commercial space from the success of Phase One. As well as the development of Onyx Business Parks Phase Two, key infrastructure works are due to start in the New Year which will service and unlock a further 11 acres of employment space.

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

Festive fun with the Holiday Activities and Food programme

Hundreds of children across Devon aged 5 to 16-years-old, who are eligible for benefit-related free school meals, will enjoy an action-packed start to the Christmas holidays.

Our government-funded Holiday Activities and Food programme offers free physical activities and healthy, nutritional hot meals during school holidays to children of low-income families.

For four days over the upcoming break from school, we’ve teamed up with over 60 different activity providers across Devon to offer a great range of free indoor and outdoor activities to children aged five to 16-years-old, who receive benefit-related free school meals.

Details of activities can be found on our interactive map. If your child is eligible to access the programme, simply search for a provider in your area, have a look at their listing to see what they’re offering, then when you’re ready, book a place with them directly.

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

Support for plans to develop missing link of Tarka Trail

Councillors have approved proposals to construct the latest section of the Tarka Trail between Barnstaple and Ilfracombe. The £583,000 scheme will complete a missing link between Buttercombe Lane and Foxhunters as part of a longer-term route to eventually connect Barnstaple to Ilfracombe.

This new stretch is the second phase of the project and will be built using Active Travel Funding which we received following a successful bid to Government earlier this year.

The scheme is delivering around 700 metres of shared use path, while also installing drainage culverts and creating a picnic area and several other rest areas.

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

Will you be a Lift Legend this Christmas?

Drink and drug driving is one of the ‘fatal five’ causes of serious injuries and deaths on roads in South West England. Last winter, Devon & Cornwall Police arrested 952 people for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

In a bid to tackle drink and drug driving, Devon & Cornwall Police has announced the return of drink drive campaign, Lift Legend; an initiative that looks to reward designated drivers with free drinks as a ‘thank you’ for getting their friends, colleagues and family members get home safely.

Lift Legend runs throughout December until Monday 1 January 2024. Drivers buying a soft drink in one of the participating venues will receive a voucher to get their second drink free of charge.

Sergeant Owen Messenger, of the Road Casualty Reduction Team, said:

“If you think you are safe to drive after drinking or taking drugs, think again. Even the slightest amount of alcohol or drugs in your system increases the risk of causing serious harm to yourself or other road users.

“Tackling drink and drug driving is a priority for Devon & Cornwall Police. Our officers will be out in force, rigorously targeting those who are a danger on our roads, day or night.”

If you suspect someone has been drinking or has taken drugs and is about to drive, please dial 999 and provide the make and model of the vehicle, registration number and direction of travel.

Visit the Devon and Cornwall Police website for more information about the venues taking part.

Dinan Way extension scheme to go out to tender

The layout for a new road which would ‘complete’ Dinan Way and link it to the A376 has been approved.

The Dinan Way Extension scheme would be approximately 830 metres in length, run parallel to Summer Lane, and include the construction of two roundabouts.

Once built, the road will reduce congestion on the A376 and make it easier to access the northern and eastern areas of Exmouth, such as the communities of Brixington and Littleham.

The scheme follows our successful bid to the Government’s Levelling Up Round 2 fund – £15.766m was awarded to the Dinan Way scheme and the Exmouth Gateway improvement scheme. Additionally, contributions from East Devon District Council, Exmouth Town Council and ourselves total £1.75m.

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

Give your views on ‘second’ M5 Cullompton Junction plans

We’re inviting people to share their views on proposals to reduce traffic queues at Junction 28 of the M5 at Cullompton by building a second bridge and junction to the south. 

You can view and comment on our preferred option by filling out a short online survey before Monday 5 February 2024. The results of our survey will form part of our Strategic Outline Case for funding to the Department of Transport. 

There will be two public engagement events: 

  • Monday 8 January from 15:30 to 19:00 at Cullompton Community Centre, Pye Corner EX15 1JX 
  • Wednesday 10 January from 12:00 to 16:00 at Cullompton Library, Hayridge Centre, EX15 1DJ 

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

You’d better watch out…

…for our tree-mendous Christmas special next week!

A round-up of everything yule need to know for the festive season, including where to get help if you need it over the holidays, advice on having a greener Christmas and how to find out when your bin is being collected!

Keeping ‘Positivitree’; Help for hotel owners to realise their vision; New temporary home found for library; and what to do if your child is unwell this winter

Young people, councillors and council staff plant a Rowan tree

Tree planting symbolises commitment to care experienced young people

Care experienced young people, councillors and council staff, planted a tree together outside County Hall this week, to represent our ongoing commitment to supporting young people in our care.

The cheerful crowd, including care leavers, Chairman, and senior councillors and officers, planted a Rowan tree to symbolise our work with care experienced young people to create the best possible support.

It’s part of a national project, called ‘Positivitree’, organised by the National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum, which plans to plant trees with local authorities across the country. We were one of the first!

We’ve been doing a lot of work with care experienced young people to improve our support, listening more to what young people tell us about their experience of the care system, and doing more to make improvements.

Twenty-four-year old Koda is one of the care experienced young people at the tree planting. She said:

“Things have got so much better since I was 18. Six years ago, things were bad, but now it’s actually pretty decent. While I won’t benefit much from any further improvements myself, it’s good to see Devon committing to making things even better for young people who’ve been in the care system.”

Watch our short video of the tree planting event
Alex and Michele Kleiner at Broomhill Estate

Fibre broadband helps hotel owners realise their vision

Over 315,000 homes and businesses in Devon and Somerset have access to superfast broadband as a direct result of investment by Connecting Devon and Somerset, a council-led partnership.

Broomhill Estate, a hotel a couple of miles outside Barnstaple, is one of those businesses now benefiting from new fibre broadband.

The hotel is steeped in history, and its woodland location gives it a distinctly rural feel. That was one of the main attractions for Alex and Michele Kleiner when they bought the business a couple of years ago, but they were also aware that it would make getting a decent broadband connection something of a challenge.

Since then, they’ve turned the hotel into a boutique destination and its regeneration into a sanctuary for the arts is now complete with an ultrafast Full Fibre connection, installed by Airband as part of Connecting Devon and Somerset’s fibre rollout.

You can read their inspiring journey about how the owners have regenerated the hotel and their business, on our news page.

Don’t miss your chance to get vaccinated!

People are being reminded to get their winter jabs with less than two weeks until online bookings close for COVID-19 and flu vaccines. The NHS is urging anyone still eligible for these vaccines to book an appointment and get potentially lifesaving protection ahead of Christmas.

Everyone aged 65 years old and over, pregnant women, and individuals with certain long-term health conditions like diabetes or cardiovascular disease, are eligible for free flu and COVID-19 vaccines.

The NHS online booking system, NHS App and 119 phone service will be closed for flu and COVID-19 vaccine bookings from Friday 15 December, making Thursday 14 December the last day to make a booking. So don’t delay, book today!

Exe Estuary Trail repairs to be completed in the new year

Work to replace the timber on a section of the Exe Estuary Trail between Lympstone and Exmouth has now passed the halfway stage.

It’s hoped that the repairs will be completed as early as possible in the New Year.

The timber structural beams and deck planks on all 72 wooden spans of the boardwalk have deteriorated and become unsafe, so they are being replaced with a more durable fibre-reinforced material.

A delay in the production and delivery of this material at the start of the project hampered progress early on but good progress is now being made.

Courtlands Boardwalk will remain closed until the scheme is completed, which is expected to be by the end of January.

You can read more about the work in the story on our news page.

Library to reopen in its temporary new home before Christmas

St Thomas Library, Exeter, will reopen in time for Christmas in its temporary new home at Emmanuel Hall, Emmanuel Road, on Monday 18 December at 10am.

The former library building in Church Road closed on Saturday 21 October after its lease was not renewed.

A new lease was offered at an increased rent, but it was unaffordable.

The pop-up library in Emmanuel Hall will deliver many popular community services until a new permanent home is found.

We and Libraries Unlimited are still searching for a permanent home for the library.

Book loans will continue to be extended for St Thomas Library customers until the library moves to a permanent location. Books can also be returned or borrowed at Exeter Library.

You can read the full story on our news page.

If your child is unwell, consult HANDi this winter

Doctors in Devon are reminding parents to consult the free HANDi app if they aren’t sure what to do when their child is unwell this winter.

The award-winning app, available to download onto any Apple or Android device, was launched specifically with children in mind and is loaded with expert advice, support and guidance for parents with concerns about their children.

It covers a range of common conditions such as high temperatures, chestiness, abdominal pain, headaches and rashes, which can cause concern to a parent or carer if they are not sure what to do.

The app asks a series of questions about the child’s symptoms and then advises the best course of action to take, whether to treat the condition at home, consult a pharmacist or GP, and if it is serious directing users to their nearest hospital.

Widespread cold and frost…and a little snow!; Plans announced for Family Hubs; Christmas hampers for our care experienced young people; Learn Devon’s ‘good’ say Ofsted; and vaccination take-up ahead of Christmas celebrations

Widespread cold and frost… and a little snow!

With the high cost of living at the moment, it’s tempting to try and ride out the cold weather to avoid spending too much on heating. But being cold can have a serious impact on your health, particularly if you’re older or have a pre-existing condition, as it increases the risks of heart attacks, strokes, and chest infections.

If you can’t heat your whole home, it’s important to try to heat the rooms you spend the most time in (for example, the living room during the day and the bedroom just before going to sleep). And remember, wearing a few thinner layers is better at trapping heat than wearing one thick layer. The NHS website has lots of useful information about staying well during the winter.

Winter weather can make driving conditions difficult and cause problems on our roads. Our gritting teams have been out in force treating roads on Devon’s main salting routes. Please never assume a road has been gritted though as rain will wash salt off roads leaving them prone to ice, and in extreme cold even salting will not stop ice from forming.

Drive with care and according to the conditions, allow additional time for your journey and reduce your speed and leave more space between you and the vehicle in front. Follow Devon Alert on Facebook and X for the latest travel information from our Network Control Centre.

New plans announced to develop Family Hubs

Children in Devon and their families will see a new model of support services, in line with national Government guidance.

First introduced in the late 1990s, Children’s Centres in Devon have supported thousands of young children and their parents, with targeted early years support and other services. But last year, the Government proposed a new initiative, and it’s now working with local authorities across the UK to roll out their ‘Start for Life’ programme and develop Family Hub programmes.

We want to start a transition from Children’s Centres to Family Hubs in Devon. So, we’ll work with partners and stakeholders to shape the model, which is likely to take 12 months, with a view to developing a county-wide Family Hubs programme to begin in 2025.

In the meantime, Children’s Centres will continue to support families, as usual.

The Government says that Family Hubs will improve families’ access to services, describing them as “…a local innovation, developed to meet local needs and better support families.”

They’ll do that by developing and growing partnerships with existing voluntary groups and charities that already support parents of young children in local communities.

We already work very closely with the charity Action for Children, and they will help us and other councils in Plymouth and Torbay to develop Family Hubs across Devon. You can read more about it in the story on our news page.

Copyright: Christopher Martin

New strategy launched to help us adapt to climate change

The Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly (DCIoS) Climate Adaptation Strategy has been published and will help to ensure that the region can make the changes needed to cope with the worst effects of climate change.

It’s been developed by a partnership of strategic organisations, including local authorities, chaired by the Environment Agency.

Its publication comes after a consultation earlier this year in which 76 per cent of respondents expressed concern about climate change and 69 per cent said they have felt the effects of climate change already.  

To respond effectively to the climate crises, it is vital that strategies are put in place not only to deal with the causes of climate change, but also that help us adjust to the negative impacts and opportunities of climate change.

The Adaptation Strategy sets out risks to the region from climate impacts, the conditions for everyone to act on adapting to climate change together, and priority actions for regional collaboration over the next five years.

It describes actions that can be taken by local government and public institutions; as well as actions for organisations, community groups and us all as individuals.

Over the coming months members of the Devon Climate Emergency partnership will consider endorsing the Strategy.

You can read more about the Strategy in the news story on our website.

???? Christmas hampers for our care experienced young people ????

With Christmas around the corner, we want all of our care experienced young adults to have something nice this festive season. Everyone aged up to 22-years- old gets a gift from their personal advisor as part of our local offer, but we want to ensure that older care leavers (aged 22 to 25) will also get something to look forward to this Christmas.

The Devon and Torbay Children in Care Nursing team, Exeter Foodbank, East Devon church groups, the Stand Up Speak Up team, and personal advisors from across Devon and Torbay, once again joined forces to make sure that all of our care experienced young adults will receive a gift this Christmas.

Together, and with the generosity of the general public (who donated more than £3,000 as well as various gifts!), we have packed over 250 Christmas hampers for our care experienced young people. Watch our video to find out more.

Photo courtesy of Tiverton Canal Co

Tourism Award success celebrated at Grand Western Canal

The Tiverton Canal Co has been congratulated on winning a Devon Tourism Award, which has been hailed as a win for Tiverton, Mid Devon and The Grand Western Canal.

The family run company, which is renowned for operating one of the last horse-drawn barges in the country, picked up the Bronze Award in the Small Visitor Attraction of the Year 2023/24 category at the recent Devon Tourism Awards.

It’s the first time in the company’s 49-year history that it’s been named as one of the best tourist attractions in the county, and the owners are sharing the success with our Ranger Team at the Grand Western Canal and Country Park.

Read the full story on the news page of our website to find out more.

Learn Devon receives a “good” result following Ofsted inspection

Learn Devon, our adult education provider, has been praised by Ofsted inspectors for helping all of its learners to “grow in confidence”.

Their report credits Learn Devon with creating a “calm and purposeful learning environment” where learners value the support they receive from tutors.

It says, “tutors support them well to build their knowledge and skills over time” ensuring learners are “motivated to learn”.

Tutors and learning support assistants were praised for their effective support for learners with special educational needs and/or disabilities, (SEND), and as a result, “most learners with SEND make progress in line with their peers” throughout their courses.

Ofsted also highlighted Learn Devon’s effective working with us, Job Centre Plus and other partners to ensure that its curriculum and courses are designed and implemented to align with the needs of the local economy. 

Learn Devon’s wide range of community courses was also lauded for helping to get people back into learning and to undertake further learning. Inspectors noted that Learn Devon is active in re-engaging with learners who had negative experiences of education in the past “to give them the second chances that they often need to be successful”.

You can read the full story on our news page.

Parking proposals for eight Devon towns

We’re asking people to look at our proposals to introduce Pay and Display parking (with the first hour free) in key areas in Braunton, Crediton, Dartmouth, Honiton, Okehampton, Salcombe, Sidmouth and Tavistock.

Pay and Display parking is widely used, both across Devon and nationally. It can help reduce congestion and encourages the turn-over of vehicles and availability of parking spaces, particularly in busy town centres, thereby helping to support the local economy and the use of local shops and businesses.

Eight Traffic Regulation Orders (TRO), one for each community, will be advertised later in December through to the New Year and will set out our plans. Once advertised you have 21 days to view the proposals and comment.

To find out more, read the full story on the news page of our website.

UKHSA encourage vaccination take-up ahead of Christmas celebrations

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) South West is calling on everyone who is eligible to book their flu and COVID-19 vaccinations ahead of Christmas and other upcoming celebrations.

As the vaccines take up to two weeks to provide maximum protection, getting vaccinated soon will help reduce the risk of severe disease in time for upcoming celebrations.

If you are in one of the groups who is eligible for vaccination against flu and COVID-19 and are yet to take up the vaccines, please ensure you get them as soon as possible.

Everyone aged 65-years-old and over, pregnant women, and individuals with certain long-term health conditions like diabetes or cardiovascular disease, are eligible for free flu and COVID-19 vaccines.

Most children are eligible for the children’s flu vaccine. This includes pre-schoolers who were aged 2 or 3-years-old on 31 August 2023, school-aged children (Reception to Year 11) and children with certain health conditions.

Professor Dominic Mellon, Deputy Regional Director for UKHSA South West said:

“The Christmas season is special to a lot of people as families and friends gather to celebrate. However, it also coincides with when respiratory virus activity typically rises. In amongst getting presents sorted and planning what’s on the festive menu, make time to prioritise your health by getting vaccinated to ensure you stay Winter Strong and keep your plans on track.”

A message from The Eddystone Trust on World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day, and this year’s theme is ‘Let Communities Lead’.

Since 1988, communities have stood together on World AIDS Day to show strength and solidarity against HIV stigma and to remember lives lost.

Medical advances mean people with HIV in the UK can expect a long and healthy life and we now have the tools to stop HIV transmissions for good. But HIV continues to be highly stigmatised and misunderstood, which can prevent people from getting tested.

The Eddystone Trust, an independent sexual health charity based in the South West, has released a video in which they describe what leadership means to them.

“Leadership to us means that we have a responsibility. A responsibility to ensure that as many people as possible know about U=U, PrEP and other advances in HIV treatment.

“We believe as leaders, that we have a responsibility to improve the landscape for anyone who is either at risk of HIV, living with HIV or affected by HIV.

“We invite you to join us in fighting HIV related stigma by claiming your status and testing this World AIDS Day; together we can make a change.”

The Eddystone Trust can provide you with a HIV testing kit in three easy steps which you can take at home. To find out more visit The Eddystone Trust website.

Black Friday warning from Trading Standards; Sand art conveys serious message; Have you considered a career in childcare?; FREE tree packs available; and quality mark recognises best practice by Adopt South West

Black Friday warning: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is

Our Trading Standards service is warning consumers to be wary of scams when shopping online this Black Friday. New research shows more than one in four people have been tricked by purchase scams, where you make a payment for goods or services online that never turn up.

Criminals often advertise technology products like phones or computers at low prices on auction sites, social media and fake websites, persuading buyers to make bank transfers, then disappearing once the payment is made.

Protect yourself when shopping online by:

  • checking the legitimacy of a website at getsafeonline.org 
  • reading online reviews on Trustpilot or Feefo
  • never paying by bank transfer
  • never being rushed into making a purchase. Always take five!

If you have been a victim of a scam, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

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Stunning sand art conveys serious message in National Road Safety Week

An enormous piece of sand art has been created on Saunton Beach to commemorate those who lost their lives in road traffic collisions in Devon and Cornwall. 

The huge 50-metre wide circular pattern, made from 47 hearts representing each person who died on our roads last year, was etched by hand by Cornish artist Chris Howarth – also known as One Man and His Rake – and photographed by award-winning drone specialists Bad Wolf Horizon.

It was commissioned by the Vision Zero South West road safety partnership to mark the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims and the start of Brake’s National Road Safety Week.

Read the full story and watch the video on the news page of our website.

Childcare shortage – support is available to help you start a rewarding new career

If you are a job seeker, a school leaver or you are returning to work after starting a family why not consider a career in childcare? We’re concerned that there are not enough professionals in place when funded childcare for working parents is extended next September and we need more people to enter the profession.

One pathway into the profession is through the Government’s Early Years Educator Apprenticeship Scheme. There are Government grants to help people cover the costs of starting up as a childminder and are worth either £600 or £1,200 depending on whether the person registers with Ofsted or with a childminder agency. To find out more about these visit the Government’s Department for Education website. 

If childminding is not an option, there are two different Early Years Educator Apprenticeships available. No previous experience is needed for either. You can find out more on the Government’s Apprenticeships website.  

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

Devon’s Free Tree Scheme about to ’em-bark’ on its fifth season

This year’s upcoming tree planting season will mark the fifth season that we’ve been running our Free Tree Scheme. By the end of this winter around 15,750 trees will have been planted across the county as part of the scheme since it launched in 2019. 

As part of National Tree Week, which this year runs from Saturday 25 November to Sunday 3 December, we will be handing out a total of 50 free tree packs, each containing 45 native broadleaved trees, to landowners and communities who successfully applied to the initiative to help tackle the climate emergency, contribute towards carbon net zero targets and support nature recovery.

We’re also planning for around 10,000 trees to be planted in the county this season through community planting schemes with the help of local not-for-profit social enterprise ParkLife South West. To register your interest in volunteering to help the tree planting co-ordinated by ParkLife, email parklifesw@gmail.com or visit the Eventbrite website.

Read the full story on our news page.

More than 550,000 journeys made in first two years of Dartmoor Line reopening

A special community celebration took place this week to mark the second anniversary of the reopening of the Dartmoor Line. The previously mothballed rail line, which runs between Okehampton and Exeter, was restored in just nine months and delivered £10m under budget.

Its popularity is far exceeding expectations, with more than 550,000 journeys taken by passengers from Okehampton and the wider area extending as far as Tavistock, Launceston and Bude, with connecting bus services, funded by us, to and from Okehampton Station.

In May 2022, the previous two-hourly train service frequency was increased to hourly, seven days a week, and in October last year the Tavistock rail-link bus was joined by direct buses linking Bude, Holsworthy and Launceston with Okehampton station.

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

Quality mark recognises best practice by Adopt South West

Fostering for adoption (which is also called early permanence) aims to provide children in our care with a temporary foster placement but with the potential for this to become their permanent home through adoption. This approach ensures they receive consistent, good quality care, placing them with their future adoptive family at the earliest possible stage and protecting them from experiencing multiple moves within the care system.

The numbers of children who benefit from fostering for adoption placements through our regional adoption agency, Adopt South West (our partnership with Somerset Council, Plymouth City Council and Torbay Council) is consistently above the national average, and has gained recognition, earning the ‘Early Permanence Quality Mark Award’.

Local adopters and former foster carers, Danny and Rita, are among those who adopted a child through fostering for adoption after they decided they wanted to offer a child a permanent home. You can read their story on the news page of our website.

We want your views on plans for a new Sidford to Sidbury multi-use trail

We want to know what you think of our plans for a new multi-use trail linking Sidford to Hillside, Sidbury in East Devon.

Visit our website before Friday 5 January 2024 to view the draft scheme and provide feedback through a short survey before formal planning permission is sought.

Our proposals are for a multi-use trail, approximately half a mile in length, from the north side of the village of Sidford along the western side of the A375 (Two Bridges Road) connecting to Hillside, Sidbury.

You can find out more in the full story on the news page of our website.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are now National Landscapes

All Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) in England and Wales have become National Landscapes, including the five in Devon – Blackdown Hills, East Devon, North Devon Coast, South Devon, and the Tamar Valley.

The new name reflects the importance of these areas and aims to highlight their vital contribution to the environment across the country. 

Over the past two years, Devon’s five AONBs have successfully distributed grants totalling £5.7 million for an exciting range of environmental projects such as enhancing soil quality, mitigating flood risks, and establishing woodlands, hedgerows and flower-rich meadows. They’re also enhancing countryside accessibility and spearheading projects to improve people’s wellbeing, enhance biodiversity, and tackle climate concerns.

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

From left: Ali Eastland, Councillor Andrew Saywell, Michael Gidney, Sue Errington and Councillor John Hart

We’ve pledged to continue supporting Fairtrade

Our council Leader, John Hart and Cabinet Member for Organisational Development, Councillor Andrew Saywell, met the Chief Executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, Michael Gidney as part of his whistle stop tour of Devon.

Devon has been a Fairtrade County since 2008, renewing accreditation every two or three years.

Fairtrade Devon co-ordinates activities in the 15 Fairtrade towns across Devon, plus the University of Exeter.

Michael spent two days to see for himself how the county and Devon County Council is supporting Fairtrade and in turn farmers and producers around the world.

Since 2008, Fairtrade Devon has invited producers to visit the county as guests, explaining the very real and positive impact which being a Fairtrade member has on their lives and communities.

You can read the full story on our news page.

Stay safe during Storm Ciarán

Widespread disruption is likely across Devon this evening and tomorrow as severe weather warnings for wind and rain have been issued by the Met Office ahead of Storm Ciarán.

Heavy rain and damaging gusts of wind could lead to flooding, flying debris, power cuts, travel disruption and damage to buildings.

In this special edition of our Connect Me newsletter you can find advice about:

  • travel
  • flooding
  • power cuts
  • school closures
  • service disruption
  • how to stay up to date

Please do what you can to minimise the risk to yourself and others during Storm Ciarán by reading the Met Office advice about staying safe in a storm.

Prepare

Plan for the severe weather and how it could affect your home and garden – secure garden furniture and trampolines if you need to. Check your home for anything outside that could cause damage in the wind (such as loose guttering or fences).

Safely charge your phone and laptop and check you have batteries for torches in case you have a power cut. Try not to use candles as they are a fire risk. Follow electrical safety advice from Devon Somerset Fire and Rescue.

Travel advice

Conditions could become unsafe over the next 48 hours, so please use your judgement about whether it’s sensible to venture out or to delay your journey. If you do travel, please take the utmost care – slow down, allow extra time and drive according to the conditions.

Roads, bridges and railway lines may close, with delays and cancellations to bus, train, ferry services and flights, so the advice is to stay tuned to travel updates.

Keep an eye on the Met Office’s latest updates and also following Devon Alert on Facebook and X.

Respect road closure signs, whether you’re driving or walking.

You can report a problem on our roads through our website, or by calling 0345 155 1004 if the issue is very likely to present an imminent threat to life or serious injury or serious damage to property.

Please be alert, particularly on minor roads where incidents may not have been reported.

With trees still in full leaf, and the ground already saturated, there’s high chance that the high winds and heavy rain will bring down a lot of debris on to the roads and making the risk of surface flooding in some areas more likely. 

Remember, never drive through floodwater or swollen flowing water, you don’t know how deep it is. Vehicles can become stuck and even swept away in just 30cm of flowing water. If your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and find safety on higher ground.

Don’t attempt to walk through flooded areas as even shallow moving water can sweep you off your feet. Flood water can also hide dangers like open drains, damaged road surfaces, submerged debris or deep channels that can cause serious injuries or even death.

The high winds may result in the temporary closure of Taw Bridge, Barnstaple. Other bridges may also be affected. Wind speeds are being constantly monitored, so please check before you travel. If you must travel during a bridge closure please plan your journey, find a safer alternative route, and leave extra time.

We have additional staff working and monitoring the highway from our Control Centre in Exeter, and additional resources are on standby, including tree surgeons and gully suckers/jetters, to keep drains and gullies as clear as possible.

We are also working with partners to ensure that the highway is as prepared as possible for the storm, including encouraging our contractors to secure locations, such as roadworks and scaffolding.

Flooding

The Environment Agency has issued a number of flood alerts across parts of Devon. 

Stormy seas, large waves and high tides means there may be flooding along our coastline, so stay away from seafronts and coast paths.

Respect road closure signs, whether you’re driving or walking. Remember, never drive through floodwater or swollen flowing water, you don’t know how deep it is. Vehicles can become stuck and even swept away in just 30cm of flowing water. If your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and find safety on higher ground.

Don’t attempt to walk through flooded areas as even shallow moving water can sweep you off your feet. Flood water can also hide dangers like open drains, damaged road surfaces, submerged debris or deep channels that can cause serious injuries or even death.

In the event of flooding, you can speak to a trained operator 24 hours a day seven days a week via Floodline on 0345 988 1188. They can offer you immediate advice on flood risk, and what to do before, during and after a flood.

Power cuts

Energy providers are asking customers to prepare, care and share. You can prepare by:

  • charging devices you might need such as torches, phones and laptops
  • keeping warm clothes and blankets nearby along with food that doesn’t require heating
  • turning off appliances that may be a fire risk if they switch on when the power comes back on, such as hair dryers or electric hobs
  • securing garden furniture, trampolines and plant pots and checking your home for anything outside that could cause damage in the wind, such as loose guttering or fences

Don’t put yourself at risk during a power cut. If you must use candles, follow candle safety advice. If you’re using a portable heater, keep it at least one metre from people or furniture and do not cover with anything. Don’t try and cook using barbecues or using fires (such as wood-burners) inside your home.

Care by checking in with people who might need extra help and share this information so that friends and family know what to do too. 

Energy networks in the UK are resilient and built to withstand strong winds and heavy rain, however extreme weather can still have an impact. 

Visit PowerCut105.com for the latest updates and advice. If you see damaged power lines or lines brought down, stay well clear and call 105 for free to report it, or 999 if there’s an immediate danger to life.

School closures

Some schools may choose not to open tomorrow, and we are supporting any school that decides it needs to close to keep pupils and staff safe. A list of school closures can be found on our website, so please check if your school is open before you set off in the morning.

Our school transport service will continue to operating if it is safe to do so, but please visit our school transport route closure website to check if routes have been closed due to safety concerns.

If students use public transport to get to school or college we recommend that they check with the operator to find out if services will be disrupted.

Other service disruption

All of Devon’s recycling centres will be closed tomorrow as it is not safe for them to operate during extremely strong winds due to the risk from flying debris.

Libraries Unlimited has announced that their mobile libraries will be off the road tomorrow. Please check with your local library for any further updates or disturbances to services.

National Rail has advised passengers to allow extra time for their journeys and visit their website for information about for train service alterations.

Stay up to date

We will keep you up to date with the latest information during Storm Ciarán through our social media channels:

Here are some other useful links:

“I couldn’t see life without her.” Debbie’s adoption story; we can help you support your community this winter and join the BIG Recycling Hunt

“I couldn’t see life without her.” Debbie’s adoption story

Any parent will tell you that sometimes family-life is difficult with the day to day challenges that come with being one. It’s the same for parents who decide to adopt a child.

This week is National Adoption Week, a week in which we highlight adoption and celebrate the good that it brings, not just for children who are adopted, but also for parents who adopt and their extended families.

Parents like Debbie, in Torbay. She adopted her six-year old daughter, Bo, with Adopt South West.

Bo has a disability. Children with disabilities and/or additional health needs tend to wait longer than others to be adopted. Other groups of children who can also wait an average seven months longer than others to be adopted include older children aged five or over; sibling groups; and children from ethnic minority backgrounds. 

Bo’s disability is sometimes challenging, but the joy she brings means that Debbie simply wouldn’t have it any other way. Debbie has developed new skills and strategies for coping with what life brings her and Bo, but one of the things so important to Debbie is the support network around her.

Read the full story on the news page of our website to find out more.

Are you struggling to have enough money to live on?

The rise in the cost of living means that we’re all having to dig a little deeper to pay for household essentials such as food and energy. Many people in Devon are being forced to make difficult decisions, especially those on the lowest incomes.

If you don’t have enough money to live on, it’s important to make sure you know what support is available, so we’ve put together a special edition of our Connect Me newsletter to help. 

It includes all the latest on how we are using the Government’s Household Support Fund in Devon to help people who are struggling to pay for food, energy, water bills and other related essentials.

Find out about:

✅ help to pay your bills if you’re on a pre-payment meter
✅ funding to make your home warmer and more energy efficient
✅ grants for voluntary sector organisations supporting communities
✅ financial help from your local district or city council
✅ free school meals, holiday activities and supermarket vouchers
✅ how to save on childcare costs
✅ free food
✅ how to get cheaper broadband and phone packages

If you missed it in your inbox earlier this week, you can catch up online using this link.

Is your group looking to support your community this winter? We can help…

As the cold nights draw in many local groups and organisations are looking at how best to support their community this winter – and it’s these groups we are calling on to apply for a grant from our Growing Communities Fund.

It’s over a year since we launched it and since then we’ve awarded more than £700,000 to local projects, many of which are helping communities in numerous ways.

Initially, we set it up to support proactive, effective, measurable and sustainable actions to help individuals and communities build self-reliance, improve connections, reduce loneliness and isolation and improve local people’s mental health and wellbeing. Since then, it has developed into one of our main responses to the continued high cost of living, aiming to help local groups and organisations to become more resilient and help those in their communities cope with these financial pressures.

Groups which are encouraged to apply include those that bring communities together for meaningful activities and social interaction, offer local people a warm safe haven during winter or alleviate food poverty by producing or distributing surplus food and essentials or offering communities the means to cook nutritious meals on a budget.

For more information, please read the full story on the news page of our website, or contact our Community Grants Team by emailing communitygrants@devon.gov.uk or call 01392 383379. 

New pension investments will create jobs and renewable energy across the South West

The Devon Pension Fund, the county’s largest single pension fund, is playing a major part in helping to create local jobs in renewable energy and associated infrastructure, while providing clean energy to the National Grid.

The Fund, which looks after the pensions of employees in the majority of Devon’s public sector organisations including emergency service staff and local councils, is relied on by tens of thousands of individuals and families in Devon.

The Committee that oversees the Fund decided to commit £60 million to a new Local Impact Fund focused on the South West. Five other Local Government Pension Schemes in the South West have also committed to the same, totalling £330 million in commitments.

That investment will be targeted in a wide range of renewable energy technologies, including in traditional sectors of solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind, and innovative energy transition sub-sectors such as battery storage and green hydrogen production.

It’s expected that the concentration of investment of this kind in the South West will have significant impact in helping to create jobs across the region, including Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Somerset, Avon, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, as well as Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

You can read the full story on our news page.

We’re listening. Changes made to pilot scheme in Exeter

Pilots or trials are useful ways of seeing whether something is working or not, and by their experimental nature they’re often subject to tweaks along the way where there’s good reason to.

This week, having been listening to what local residents tell us about how they’re finding the Active Streets pilot in Heavitree and Whipton, we’re making a change to make it easier for people who rely on taxis.

The Exeter Highways and Traffic Orders Committee, which includes councillors from both Devon County and Exeter City Councils, introduced the pilot this summer. It’s to reduce traffic on local residential streets to make it safer for residents and pedestrians and to encourage people to walk and cycle more.

Bus gates were introduced at some locations to enable access only for buses and emergency services.

But an emerging theme in feedback we’re receiving is about the impact the pilot is having on some passengers, particularly those with disabilities, including children with special educational needs and disabilities who rely on taxi journeys to special schools.

So, from Thursday 9 November, private hire vehicles and Hackney carriages will also be able to use the bus gates.

“We welcome the decision to allow Exeter Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles access through the bus gates,” says Jonathan Kellaway, on behalf of drivers on the Exeter Hackney Carriage Forum.

“This will help mitigate the negative impact of the LTN (the scheme) on vulnerable children and adults who rely on our services.”

You can read the full story on our news page.

Recycle Week: This year Devon is joining The BIG Recycling Hunt

It’s Recycle Week, the nation’s biggest annual celebration of recycling!

We’re supporting the campaign to get schools and families recycling more by encouraging children across Devon to do their bit to protect the planet by ‘hunting’ for common items that can be recycled but are often forgotten about and find their way into the rubbish bin. 

People in Devon recycle around 54 per cent of their waste and the county has one of the highest recycling rates in England. But there are still many items, such bottles from toiletries and cleaning products, that don’t make it into the recycling container. 

By recycling better, we can have a big impact on our environment, so we are asking children aged five to 11-years-old to take the lead in protecting our planet, and be empowered to become active participants in building a sustainable future. 

By focusing on commonly missed items such as empty aerosols, plastic cleaning product bottles, plastic toiletry bottles, plastic pots and tubs, and food tins, Recycle Now wants to foster a deeper understanding of recycling in the younger generation.   

Claim your free school meal holiday vouchers

If your child receives free school meals, we’ve sent you supermarket vouchers for the October holiday to help you buy food to replace the meals your child would have received during term-time.

Please check your inbox and redeem them as soon as possible. If you were expecting to receive the vouchers, but didn’t, get in touch with our team as soon as possible by emailing freeschoolmeals@devon.gov.uk or calling 0345 155 1019.

People’s circumstances change all the time, so if you didn’t previously qualify for free school meals but your income has recently reduced or stopped, please apply using our website. It’s the quickest and easiest way for your eligibility to be assessed and you will get an instant decision.

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

Next chapter for St Thomas Library

We’ll be sad to say goodbye to our current library building in St Thomas, which will be open for its final day tomorrow (Saturday 21 October).

But rest assured, we’re working hard to agree where next.  We’ve got options for a longer term location for the library in the St Thomas area, but that will take longer to get into place.

In the meantime, we’ve got a few options for a short term pop up library location in St Thomas that we hope to finalise next week. We’ll announce that as soon as we can.

Thanks to all of our St Thomas library users for their kind words and understanding while we make this move, and thanks as ever to our excellent and hard working St Thomas library staff and Libraries Unlimited, who provide library services in Devon on our behalf.

Rogue trader jailed

Our Trading Standards service is warning rogue traders that if they break the law they will be prosecuted, after Ambrose Christopher Reilly from Plymouth was jailed for a year this week after pleading guilty to two offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

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

Don’t bin it, fix it! 

It’s International Repair Day tomorrow (Saturday 21 October) and to celebrate, Recycle Devon (a partnership of Devon councils which includes us) is holding its biggest Repair Café ever!

You’re invited to bring your broken or worn out electrical items, clothes, textiles, laptops, bikes, mechanical goods and furniture to be fixed by expert repairers. Tools and knives can also be sharpened.

The event is being held at America Hall, De La Rue Way, Exeter, EX4 8PX from 10am to 1pm. There’s more information about what else is going on at the event in the full story on the news page of our website.

Devon Work Hubs mark European Freelancer Week

Work hubs across Devon have been celebrating European Freelancer Week this week, designed to empower and unite the freelance community.

The Devon Work Hubs network has 24 member venues offering office space, coworking options, meeting room access, and a thriving business support community. Self-employed workers, freelancers and small businesses are welcomed into the work hub network along with start-ups and hybrid workers.

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

Sexual health survey closes on Monday 23 October

We’ve teamed up with Torbay Council to find out people’s views on sexual health and contraception services in the area.

Complete this survey to tell us how you would like contraception and sexual health services to be delivered in the future. The survey closes on Monday, so don’t delay! Have your say!

Are you struggling to have enough money to live on?

The rise in the cost of living means that we’re all having to dig a little deeper to pay for household essentials such as food and energy. Many people in Devon are being forced to make difficult decisions, especially those on the lowest incomes.

If you don’t have enough money to live on, it’s important to make sure you know what support is available, so we’ve put together this special edition of our Connect Me newsletter to help.

What’s the ‘Household Support Fund’

The Government has made funding available to local councils so they can offer direct support to those most in need in their area. It’s called the Household Support Fund.

There are conditions on how the money can be allocated. It must be used to help people who are struggling to pay for food, energy, water bills and other related essentials, and specifically those households that may not be eligible for other support that is already available from the Government

With winter approaching, we’re working with our Team Devon partners (District and City councils) and other community organisations to provide our most vulnerable residents with rapid short-term financial support through a number of different schemes to help them over the coming months.

Citizens Advice Devon Energy Relief Scheme

We’ve given Citizen’s Advice Devon some money for an Energy Relief Scheme to help people using pre-payment meters and who are struggling to meet their energy needs.

Pre-payment meters are often used by people on lower incomes as a way to help them budget, but they can result in people paying more for their energy requirements.

If you are struggling with bills or worried about debt, get advice from Citizens Advice onlineover the phone, or by contacting your local Citizens Advice office.

Free Retrofit Energy Saving Improvements

We’re working with Energy Saving Devon to help vulnerable households, in most need of support with the cost of living, to make quick, minor improvements to their homes to make them warmer and more energy efficient.

If your household income is less than £32,000 per year and your property has an Energy Performance Certificate rating of D, E, F or G then you may be eligible for free ‘retrofit’ energy efficiency upgrades worth thousands of pounds.

Please contact your local Community Energy Group who can advise you further.

Home Upgrade Grant 2 (HUG2) 

We’ve secured £13.2 million funding to deliver the ‘Home Upgrade Grant’ scheme, which offers low-income households that are not on the mains gas network the chance to improve their homes with free energy efficient, low carbon heating. 

It’s open to households whose homes are not heated by gas (for example, dwellings that use oil, or liquefied petroleum gas, coal, solid fuels or electricity for heating purposes), have an Energy Performance Certificate of D, E, F or G and who are on a low income of £31,000 or less before tax.

You can check your eligibility and apply through the Energy Saving Devon website.

Food, Fuel and More grants

We’re working with Devon Community Foundation to provide grants to voluntary sector organisations supporting communities that don’t always get the help they need, and are therefore likely to be impacted more severely by the cost-of-living crisis. 

The ‘Food, Fuel and More’ scheme offers large grants of up to £25,000 to organisations that support homeless people or people in temporary or insecure housing. Groups supporting households with disabled residents, or those suffering ill-health which has a direct impact on household income and an ability to meet food and energy bills, are also encouraged to apply. Applications are also welcomed from organisations that support Asian, black, traveller, Gypsy, Roma and ethnic minority communities who are not accessing support through other channels. They will also be operating a small grants scheme of up to £2,000 for smaller community initiatives.

The scheme will launch on Wednesday 1 November 2023, so visit their website after then to find out more, including how to apply.

Team Devon hardship schemes

Our Team Devon partners at District and City councils have been given funding to enable them to provide ‘one off’ financial help to households who are vulnerable and struggling financially to secure food, water, energy and other essentials. They can also use the money to provide support in exceptional circumstances, such as rent arrears prior to being in receipt of appropriate housing benefits.

They will look to identify, contact and help those who may not be eligible for the other support the Government has recently made available, but who are nevertheless in need. This is especially the case for low-income households that are struggling with meeting the cost of their energy needs.

Visit the cost of living and support pages on your district council’s website to find out more about support in your local area:

Free School Meals

If you’re struggling to pay food bills, we encourage you to check your eligibility and apply for free school meals for your child.

All children in reception, year 1 and year 2 at state schools in England automatically get free school meals. From year 3 onwards, just children whose parents are receiving any of a range of benefits are entitled to free school meals during term time. However, parents are encouraged to apply for free school meals when they enrol their child in school, as this can help their child’s school to attract additional ‘pupil premium‘ funding to support learning.

You can apply for free school meals for your child on our website, and you’ll get an instant decision. Or you can call our education helpline on 0345 155 1019.

If you have applied unsuccessfully before and your financial circumstances have since changed, you can apply again.

Holidays supermarket vouchers

The financial challenges faced by some families can be intensified during school holidays because of increased costs such as food, especially with the current cost of living, and reduced incomes due to childcare

We want to make sure that no child in Devon goes hungry, so we are using some of the Government’s ‘household support fund’ to help families who receive benefits-related free school meals during term time, to purchase food over the holidays.

Supermarket vouchers worth £15 per child per week of the holidays are automatically sent to eligible families to spend on replacing the meals they would have had at school during the day.

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

Free school holiday activities

Children aged five to 16-years-old who are eligible for benefits-related free school meals are invited to take up an action-packed school holidays, as part of our Holiday Activities and Food programme. It’s to provide free physical activities and healthy, nutritional, hot meals during the school holidays.

Activities including a range of sports and coaching opportunities, indoor and outdoor play activities; outings to local parks and beaches; magic and circus skills; film making; arts and crafts; music; cooking; theatre workshops; yoga and mindfulness; and a lot more! 

For more information please visit our Holiday Activities and Food programme website.

Growing Communities Fund

As the cold nights draw in, many local groups and organisations are looking at how best to support their community this winter.

It’s been over a year since we launched our Growing Communities Fund. Since then we’ve awarded more than £700,000 to local projects which are helping communities in numerous ways.

Grants have been awarded to 475 local groups, and of these 216 are helping to address food and fuel poverty; 281 are helping older people; 399 are addressing health and wellbeing; 313 are supporting people with mental health issues; and 322 are helping families, parents and lone parents.

We set up the fund to support proactive, effective, measurable and sustainable actions to help people and communities build self-reliance, improve connections, reducing loneliness and isolation and improving local people’s mental health and wellbeing. It has now developed into one of our main responses to the continued high cost of living. 

Groups which are encouraged to apply include those that bring communities together for meaningful activities and social interaction; offer local people a warm safe haven during winter; or alleviate food poverty by producing or distributing surplus food and essentials or who offer communities the means to cook nutritious meals on a budget.

For more information and to apply for a grant, please visit our website.

Money worries and mental health

Worrying about money can have a big impact on your mental health and wellbeing, and in turn, having poor mental health can make managing your finances harder. 

So it’s important to do things that help you feel more in control and get support if you need it.

The NHS Every Mind Matters website has lots of support and information that can help if you’re facing money worries, including helping you manage your debt, which can help reduce the immediate stress.

Save on childcare costs

The Government offer a range of schemes to help support families with childcare costs.

The Tax-Free Childcare scheme means you can get up to £500 every three months (up to £2,000 a year) for each of your children to help with the cost of childcare. Put simply, for every £8 paid into your childcare account, the Government tops it up by an additional £2. It can be used to pay towards the cost of nursery, childminders, pre-schools, breakfast clubs after school clubs, holiday schemes, and wraparound care. Visit the Government’s website for more details.

All families with three and four-year-old children can get 15 hours of free childcare a week. (Families on certain benefits can get this from when their child is two-years-old.) Eligible working families with three and four-year-olds can receive 30 hours of free childcare a week. Visit the Childcare Choices website for more information

Get a healthy start

If you’re more than ten weeks pregnant or have a child under four-years-old, you may be entitled to get help to buy healthy food, such as fresh, frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables, fresh, dried, and tinned pulses and cows milk.

If you’re eligible, you’ll be sent a Healthy Start card with money added to it every  four weeks. You can also use your card for infant formula milk based on cow’s milk and to collect vitamins for you and vitamin drops for babies and young children.

To find out more, visit the NHS website.

Community fridges

Devon now has 25 community fridges, and they help ensure that surplus food finds a home quickly – they are open to all and make good food available for free.

Although each fridge is run slightly differently, It is estimated that collectively they redistribute over 150 tonnes of surplus food, worth, almost £500,000 each year. 

The fridges are generally self-service and work on an honesty basis where it is expected that visitors only take a handful of items at most so that as many people as possible find something of interest when they visit.

Winter warmth and community connections in your local library

Libraries across Devon are continuing to throw their doors open to help communities find warmth and overcome loneliness this winter.

Staff and volunteers are pulling out all the stops to make sure people feel welcomed and supported with a range of activities and offers such as community events, free hot drinks and rails full of warm coats for anyone who needs one.

Library teams will be devising their own programmes of services for individual communities, considering customer need for their particular location. You can join any of the Devon libraries for free by visiting Libraries Unlimited’s Devon website.

Cheaper broadband and phone packages

Some broadband and phone providers offer cheaper packages to help customers on low incomes. They’re called ‘social tariffs’, although some providers call them ‘essential’ or ‘basic’ broadband.

They’re delivered in the same way as normal packages, just at a lower price. 

Most providers require you to be in receipt of certain benefits to qualify. You can check if your current provider offers a social tariff on the Ofcom website, and if they do you can contact them and ask to switch.

If your current provider doesn’t offer a social tariff, you can switch to one that does, and your provider might let you leave your current contract without paying a penalty fee.