New figures suggest that there are now more than 135,000 people in Devon who are unpaid carers.
Worryingly though, only a minority are accessing vital information and support that is available to them.
Today is Carers Right Day – a national event, which is run annually, to ensure unpaid carers are aware of their rights, to let them know where to get help and support and to raise awareness of the needs of carers.
An unpaid carer is anyone who looks after a friend, family member or neighbour who due to old age, illness, disability, addiction or physical or mental illness, cannot cope without their support.
‘Looking after’ can mean helping with things like shopping, domestic tasks, emotional assistance and personal care.
Anyone could be an unpaid carer – a 15-year-old girl looking after a parent with alcohol dependency, a 40-year-old man caring for his partner who has cancer, or an 80-year-old woman looking after her husband who has dementia, providing that they are not a volunteer or a paid care worker.
All unpaid carers in Devon have free access to the Carers UK Digital Resource, which includes guides, tools and training, with information available on topics such as technology, health and wellbeing, financial planning and work.
Unpaid carers in Devon can register via the Carers UK website and enter the unique access code when required: DGTL8827.
Unpaid carers in Devon can also use this code to access the Jointly App for free. The App is designed to make communication and coordination easier for those who share care. For example, carers can post messages, allocate tasks, save notes, and manage medication.
It’s important that unpaid carers know their rights in order to access support that may be essential to maintaining their own health and wellbeing.
Juggling work and care can be very challenging, but there are steps you can take to help you manage your work commitments alongside your caring role.
Many carers find it easier to continue in their caring role if they can get some support.
We provide care and support for unpaid carers through Devon Carers. Because everyone is different, they may carry out a Carer’s Assessment to help them decide the most appropriate way to support someone.
Children under 18 years old with caring responsibilities have different assessments to adult carers. A young carer’s assessment can be carried out to help decide what support a young carer might need.
If you provide unpaid care, you can ask your GP practice to identify you as a carer on your patient record.
Carers are at a much higher risk of becoming ill themselves and your GP can help keep you fit and well by recognising the effects caring can have on your health, such as depression, stress, high blood pressure or back pain.
Unpaid carers are also entitled to a free flu vaccination each year and are a priority group for COVID-19 vaccinations, meaning many carers can get protection sooner. All carers over 16 are now able to access their COVID-19 booster.
For more information about support for parent carers with disabled children (up to the age of 18 years old) please contact our Disabled Children’s Service Helpline on 01392 385276 or for more information about Parent Carer Needs Assessment, please visit our website.
Whether you listened to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement live yesterday, or have caught up with it since, most of us now will have heard at least some of the detail behind the Government’s plans to see us through the nation’s current financial turmoil.
The devil is always in the detail, and since yesterday councils everywhere have been pouring over it to understand its full impact on their own financial difficulties. In Devon, we’re facing a black hole in our finances of £75 million caused by soaring inflation, surging demand for our vital services for vulnerable children and adults and rapidly rising costs.
“I had hoped the Chancellor would spare local government the cuts he is having to make to get the nation’s finances back on an even keel,” said our Leader, Councillor John Hart.
“However, I welcome his comments concerning his decision to postpone the introduction of the social care reforms and to allocate those savings to local authorities.
“And I welcome any decision that will allow local authorities flexibility with regards to potential council tax rises. I recognise though that people across Devon are facing real issues with the cost of living and I will not want to increase their burden any more than necessary.
“This will however be an option to consider in our budget preparation when we will be faced with increasing council tax by more than we would like or potentially making deep cuts in services that are valued by people across the county. Unfortunately, we may well have to do both next year. It will be a very difficult balancing act.”
Most of us have important men in our lives – fathers, husbands, brothers, uncles, friends. Their health and wellness matters to us so this International Men’s Day we’re encouraging them to be more aware of potential health issues and to ask for help if they need it.
The average life expectancy for men in Devon is around 80 years old, but one in five men die before they reach the age of 65.
According to the charity Men’s Health Forum:
75 per cent of premature deaths from coronary heart disease are male
Middle-aged men are twice as likely to have diabetes as women – and twice as likely not to know they have diabetes
67 per cent of suicides are men – suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35 years old
Men are three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent and twice as likely to have liver disease
We are here to support you on your journey to a healthier, happier you.
Visit One Small Step, our free service to support the health and wellbeing of Devon residents, for information on everything from stopping smoking, drinking less and taking up more physical activity.
We’ve submitted an outline business case to the Government this week for the reopening of the Tavistock to Plymouth rail line, setting out why reopening the line is needed.
Among the plans, the scheme would reinstate about five miles of track, with a new single platform station at Tavistock, which would serve around 21,000 residents of Tavistock, Horrabridge, Lamerton, and Mary Tavy. Annual passenger demand at the station is forecast to be 394,000 passengers a year, which is comparable to Barnstaple station.
An hourly Tavistock-Plymouth service would stop at Bere Alston, Bere Ferrers and west Plymouth stations, while maintaining the existing two-hourly service between Plymouth and Gunnislake.
There’s a free information and advice fair specifically for unpaid carers taking place on Thursday 24 November from 10am until 4pm at the Exeter Corn Exchange on Market Street.
Advisors from Devon Carers, who provide carer support on our behalf, will be there, along with other organisations offering information about services which are beneficial to people in their caring role.
If you have any questions or are looking for information or advice about caring, your rights as a carer, or how you can be supported, please pop along for a chat and refreshments.
There will also be a pop-up vaccination hub from 11am to 2pm for any carers who need their COVID-19 vaccination booster. There is no need to book but please note there will only be limited vaccine supplies.
As the costs of operating a business continue to rise, local business owners across the region are being urged to find out how they can benefit from free support to boost their resilience.
The combination of rising costs of commodities, energy and fuel, recruitment difficulties and rising inflation is making life difficult for many businesses. Our Heart of the South West Growth Hub, which provides a range of support for local businesses, is hearing first-hand the challenges that many businesses are facing, and are helping them through these difficult times.
Next week, they’ve arranged a Business Resilience event, in Yeovil, with South Somerset District Council. It’s free, and it aims to bring together businesses to provide practical support and guidance in response to the current rising costs. Businesses will hear about the grant funding available to them, and be guided on how to apply successfully. And there’ll be a panel of expert speakers from Innovate UK.
C-category roads may be minor to their A and B counterparts, but vital all the same to those who rely on them. So true when the C229, Ashburton Road, Bovey Tracey, had to close in February 2020 due to a large landslip, affecting local residents’ journeys to the town centre.
Now, a newly aligned stretch of the road is reopening, much to local residents’ delight.
It wasn’t a straight-forward repair job. The area has a history of mining, and that raised significant safety concerns about the stability of the ground beneath the road, with the very real possibility that there could be former mining tunnels and features beneath the surface.
Victims of an international scam are being compensated for their loss
Our trading standards service will be returning thousands of pounds to residents from across the region who were defrauded in an international lottery scam.
It’s thanks to The National Trading Standards Team, who worked with the United States Federal Trade Commission, to identify US-based fraudsters who targeted UK households with scam mail offering alleged cash wins and claiming ‘guaranteed’ cash prizes.
Victims were enticed to pay an upfront fee ranging from £25 to £40, with some paying the fee several times before realising that there was no prize. But a Federal Judge has ordered that $25 million of forfeited cash and assets be made as compensation to the scam’s victims around the world.
Here’s what else we’ve been doing and saying this week.
Devon remembers, this Armistice Day
Shortly before 11am, in the grounds at County Hall, Exeter, councillors and staff gathered to mark Armistice Day.
“At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the guns fell silent on the Western Front, bringing the First World War to an end,” said Councillor Roger Croad, our Cabinet Member with responsibility for Armed Forces.
Armistice Day is also a time to reflect on the sacrifices made by our Armed Services personnel in the Second World War and in more recent conflicts around the world, including the Falklands War, which mark its 40th anniversary this year.
Councillor Croad, a veteran of that war, led today’s exhortation:
“They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning. We will remember them.”
Most councils surveyed say it’s ‘likely or very likely’ that they’ll have to cut back on key public services.
Many would have to tighten eligibility for adult social care services and reduce reablement and community-based adult social care services.
Most say that they would have to scale back school transport services and cut support packages for young people with special educational needs.
Bus route subsidies, streetlighting, library provision and recycling centre opening times would also likely be impacted. As would action to address climate change.
We revealed last week that surging demand for care, continuing costs of the pandemic, rising costs and inflation, leave us needing to make savings of £73m this financial year, and another £75m next year.
Our Leader, Cllr John Hart says:
“Today’s survey demonstrates that we’re not alone. The predicament we have is reflected across the country, impacting on vital public services relied upon by millions, including the most vulnerable in our communities.
“We need the Chancellor and the Prime Minister to produce an economic recovery plan that is balanced, fair and equitable. And crucially, one that does not single out local government for cuts.”
More help for communities during cost of living crisis
So far, we’ve given more than £250,000 to local projects, many of which are helping communities cope with the sharp increase in food prices and heating bills.
It’s from our Growing Communities Fund, which this week we’ve opened up again for applications.
The extra funding is in response to the fastest rise in the cost of living for 40 years – the cost of food for example increased by nearly 15 per cent in the year to September.
Many of the 128 projects that we’ve helped so far directly help communities to cope with these financial pressures, offering local people a warm safe haven, produce food, distribute surplus food and essentials, food banks and classes showing communities how to cook nutritious meals on a budget.
Some of them – Sweetpea Small Holdings, in Exeter, for instance, which grows fresh produce and donates to local food banks – are mentioned in the news story on our website.
The sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles is expected to end in eight years, as we’re encouraged to use electric vehicles (EVs), so having the infrastructure and capacity in Devon to support EVs is critical.
National Government is responsible for the roll-out of EV charge points, and websites such as Zap Maps show where the public EV charge points are and who’s providing them.
But we’re also involved and are working with district councils to put EV car chargers in public car parks and other locations.
We have a draft Devon EV Charging Strategy, setting out how and where we will need to intervene to help deliver the infrastructure, and we’d like your views on it please.
It includes details on numbers of current and predicted EV users, capacity, number and location of existing charge points, details about current local and national policy, and forecasts of future EV uptake and chargepoint demand.
And we’ve a webinar at 6pm on Tuesday 22 November, and another specifically for businesses at 6pm on Tuesday 6 December, that you can register to attend, by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
New digital support offered to small businesses
New online support is available to help small and medium sized buinesses to be more savvy with their digital skills.
It includes an online self-assessment tool, called the Digital Maturity Index, devised to enable businesses to gain an understanding of their digital strengths and weaknesses.
It also offers insights into digital tools that may help their business to develop and grow.
Once businesses have completed the self-assessment, they’ll receive targeted information that can guide them to access funded digital training courses and resources or further advice from one of the project’s expert digital advisors.
There’s also a Digital Course Finder, providing an extensive database of digital skills training courses delivered by training providers across Devon, as well as online digital skills courses.
Rising costs and inflation are to blame for a decision we’ve made to amend our ongoing North Devon Link Road improvement plans.
Improving road safety while improving economic benefits to North Devon and Torridge economies – two of the main objectives to the scheme – remain very much a priority though.
The majority of the £67 million improvement programme is being paid for by the Department for Transport, but the work was costed back in 2019 when the economic landscape was very different.
Since then, the coronavirus pandemic, the rising costs of materials and energy compounded by the war in Ukraine, inflation, rising interest rates, have all served to drive up costs.
Put simply, £67 million no longer buys as much today as it did in 2019.
Costs for the main part of the work have risen by more than a quarter since then. There’s no more money available from the Government – we’ve asked – so we’ve had to look within the existing budget to see what can be done differently to reduce costs elsewhere, to meet the rising costs in the main part of the programme.
The Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service is advising households about staying warm this winter.
“If you need to heat only a small area of your home, a portable heater is more efficient and cost-effective,” they say.
They recommend an electric oil-filled radiator rather than any other type of heater. And they should always be placed at least one metre away from curtains, bedding and upholstery, and switched off and unplugged before you got out or go to bed.
“Candles are not a safe or efficient way to heat your home,” they warn.
They also advise that people have their chimney swept before the first fire, and to have it swept at least once a year, and every three months if burning wood.
And only to burn seasoned wood, because moisture in the wood can create tar in the chimney, which is flammable.
“Electric blankets are another great way to keep warm,” they say, “but take care of them, check for wear and tear, and replace them after 10 years.”
We’ve been talking a lot about money this week, and the financial black hole that we and many UK councils are facing.
In fact, the Leader of our Council, Councillor John Hart, described our financial situation as “never having been so bleak”.
Our growing deficit is due to surging demand for care and support, continuing costs of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the dramatic rise in costs and inflation.
We have to save about £73 million from our budget this financial year – we’ve budgeted to save about half that so far and need to find the rest – and we’re projecting another £75 million savings needed next financial year.
Warning of loan sharks as households turn to lending money to pay the bills
Sky News published a story this week, drawing on findings from an Ipsos poll that found that more than a quarter of people are using credit to buy food, and a fifth have borrowed money in order to pay their rising bills.
Borrowing from reputable sources is one thing, but people resorting to borrowing from back-street lenders and loan sharks is something very different, and concerning.
“As costs of living rise and household budgets are stretched, and with many having to choose between heating and eating, you can understand the temptation to take up loans to see you through,” said Steve Gardiner, from our Trading Standards service.
“But please don’t. Illegal money lenders exploit financial difficulties to lock their victims into a cycle of debt.”
New speech and language courses to help young children catch up after COVID-19
The reverberations of the COVID-19 pandemic are still being felt, as experts say many children and young people are struggling with their speech and language development.
Research last year suggested that measures taken to address the pandemic deprived young children of social contact and opportunities that would normally have helped develop their vocabulary.
Speech and language experts in Devon have heard from parents concerned that their young children are taking their first words, or articulating their first sentences, later than might previously have been expected.
So, a team has worked together with parents to develop a programme of new speech, language and communication courses and resources for parents and carers of young children to help them support their child’s development.
Free holiday activities with hot meals available for Christmas holidays
School holidays can be particularly difficult for some families because of increased costs, such as food, especially now, when costs of living are so high and rising.
So, we’ve arranged a programme of funded holiday-time activities, with hot meals, to run for up to four days over the Christmas 2022 school holiday.
There are loads of activities to choose from, from cooking and craft, sports and coaching, outdoor and forest play, music and dance, and more.
All children are eligible, although priority will be given to children aged five to 16-years-old (or four-year-olds if in reception) who are eligible for and receiving benefit-related free school meals.
More households using prepayment meters are struggling to pay their energy bills, according to Citizens Advice Devon. The charity has confirmed an increase in the number of calls they’re receiving from prepayment meter households, regarding rising costs of energy.
While prepayment meters are said to be good at helping people budget their finances, users of them often end up paying more for their gas or electricity.
Citizen’s Advice Devon say that the increasing number of calls they’re receiving is a reflection of the increase in households using prepayment meters. And because energy providers often move households on to prepayment meters when they are struggling to pay their energy bills, it’s a reflection that more households are struggling financially.
Farm innovation event aims to help agriculture in Devon
The first in a series of free events organised through the newly formed Devon Agri-Tech Alliance will be held on Friday 18 November.
The Alliance is set up to help make innovation more accessible for Devon’s agriculture sector, by connecting farmers and other agricultural businesses, with agri-tech developers and research organisations.
The first event will be held at a farm near Cullompton on Friday 18 November, and it’ll be an opportunity for agricultural businesses to hear about new technological opportunities and innnovative ways of working.
The best thing to do is go to a professional firework display. They’re safer because they are run by experts. They’re also better for the environment because one big display with lots of people watching is better than lots of tiny displays as it minimises smoke and chemical emissions. Organisers properly clean up the day after, so there aren’t any dead firework remnants left behind to harm wildlife. They’re also cheaper than organising your own display, as well as more impressive, so it’s a win win!
If you do buy your own fireworks, make sure they’re only from licenced retailers. Read and understand the safety instructions and dispose of used fireworks safely by soaking them in water before putting them in the bin.
If you’re having a bonfire, be careful what you put on it. Only burn untreated wood (not wood that’s been painted or varnished) and garden waste. Don’t forget to check for hedgehogs and other critters before you set light to it!
Existing COVID-19 vaccinations do not protect against two highly transmissible new variants which are currently circulating. We are also seeing a sharp rise in the number of people requiring hospital admission across the UK and an increase in the number of health and care workers absent due to COVID-19.
Health experts have also warned that this is likely to be a bad flu season, due to lockdowns causing people to be less immune to this year’s flu virus. Like COVID-19, flu can be life-threatening. It’s easy to pass flu on without knowing, even if you feel well and have no symptoms.
Housing order to be introduced on Monday 7 November to help stop the spread of bird flu
The Government has announced that anyone who keeps birds is legally required to house them indoors from Monday 7 November and follow stringent biosecurity measures to help protect their flocks from avian influenza (bird flu).
The order applies regardless of type or size of the flock, from large businesses, and small holders to people who keep a few bird in their garden.
It’s because over the last year, the UK has faced its largest ever outbreak of bird flu, with over 200 cases confirmed since late October 2021. The introduction of the housing measures comes after the disease was detected at over 70 premises since the beginning of October, as well as multiple reports in wild birds.
The Food Standards Agency advice remains unchanged, that avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk for UK consumers and that properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.
You may have heard or read in the news about the difficulty that Councils are facing financially; the increasing demand on services, especially within adults and children’s social care, and a dramatic rise in costs to deliver those services, and inflation.
We have prided ourselves with our prudent management of public finances, and until last year, went decades ending each financial year in the black.
But the financial conditions have changed, and we are now joining many councils and organisations that represent local authorities, to call on the government to intervene, to help support local public services.
“Our financial situation has never been so bleak as it is now,” says Council Leader
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, was expected to announce his tax and spending plan this week, but last week postponed his announcement for a fortnight.
Our Leader, Cllr John Hart, is urging the Chancellor and Prime Minister, to use the extra time they now have to produce an economic recovery plan that’s balanced, fair and equitable. And crucially, an economic plan that doesn’t single out local government for cuts.
He said: “I have been a county councillor for more than 30 years and leader of Devon County Council for nearly 14 years during which time we have been through the austerity years and the pandemic, but our financial situation has never been so bleak as it is now.”
How extensive is the problem in Devon?
Before the summer, we revealed a black hole in our finances for this year, due to surging demand for help and support for vulnerable children and adults, the continuing costs of the pandemic, and the dramatic rise in costs and inflation.
We have to, by law, balance our books each year, which means when costs rise, we must find equivalent savings in our budget elsewhere.
We have to save about £73 million this financial year. We’re already making £36 million savings, but we still have to find a further £37 million savings before the end of March 2023.
And then our projections show that we will have to make another £75 million savings next financial year. Unless the Government intervenes.
What’s the impact on local services?
We’re not alone. We and many councils are lobbying the Government hard to protect local services. With the support of our Devon MPs, we want the Government to help by not cutting funding for public services.
There are other things that we’re asking the Government to do that will help our financial situation, such as to delay the introduction of new adult social care reforms, planned for next year.
But unless there is Government support or intervention, cuts to services are inevitable.
Some services we provide are statutory, we have to provide them, and some are discretionary. Clearly, services that support our most vulnerable children and adults are a priority, and those must be protected.
We know though that all of our services are important to those who receive them or benefit from them.
“We are here to do the very best for local people and to protect and support the most vulnerable and those in real need,” said Cllr Hart today. “We will do everything in our power to continue to do this and find new ways to do things better and more sustainably.”
What are we doing about it?
We are doing several things simultaneously. We’re lobbying the Government directly, and we’re adding our voice to national campaigns from the Local Government Association and the County Councils Network, calling for financial support.
Our Leader, Cllr Hart, has also written to the new Prime Minister setting out our position and requesting his support and the support of his Government.
But we can’t wait, so we’ve already put a freeze on staff recruitment in non-frontline areas, delayed planned investment in IT and infrastructure projects, and cut our heating and lighting bills.
We’re also squeezing all of our external contracts, we’ve stopped some routine road maintenance, and are reviewing our school transport contracts and public transport subsidies.
When will we know more?
We’ve already made a lot of savings this year, but we must find more before the end of March 2023.
We are continuing to review all of our services in light of our budget.
We may have to wait to hear what’s in the Chancellor’s statement in a fortnight but we aren’t waiting to take action.
More help for people struggling with rising costs of food and energy
We’ve received additional funding from the government’s Household Support Fund to help people in Devon who are struggling with the rising costs of food, energy, water bills and other related essentials.
It means we can help people in our communities that may not be eligible for other support that is already available from the government, by:
continuing to provide supermarket vouchers, to help families with children who are eligible for free school meals to buy food during the school holidays
continuing to help households that are in greatest financial need via our district/borough/ city councils
continuing to help Citizens Advice Devon, so that they can support households that are using pre-payment meters, to help with rising energy costs
piloting a scheme to provide minor but rapid energy efficiency improvements to homes of eligible households
working with Devon Community Foundation to explore how best to deploy funds to voluntary and community organisations
This latest amount, a little over £5 million, should cover the winter period through to Easter 2023, and it’ll take the total Household Support Fund amount given to Devon so far to just over £15 million.
Second instalment of the cost of living payment expected in November
People who are entitled to certain low-income benefits or tax credits are also eligible to receive extra payments to help with the cost of living.
The payments are made automatically – you do not have to apply.
The payment of £650 is paid in two lump sums of £326 and £324, if you get payments of any of these benefits:
income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
income-related Employment and Support Allowance
Child Tax Credit
Working Tax Credit
If you are eligible, you should have received the first payment of £326. Most people who are eligible, will receive the second payment of £324 sometime between Tuesday 8 November and Wednesday 23 November 2022.
Halloween is meant to be all about scares, but there are some horrors that we know you’ll want to avoid. Here are some tips for enjoying the festivities safely:
costumes, wigs and accessories should be fire-resistant
use battery powered tea lights in pumpkins, rather than candles
if out after dark, wear reflective clothing or items that reflect the light. Or carry glow sticks
opt for non-toxic Halloween makeup over masks, which can obscure vision. Test the makeup first to make sure it doesn’t irritate your skin and remember to remove it before bed
encourage your children to stay within the area they’re already familiar with, stick with their friends and agree a time for them to return home. Younger children should be accompanied by a responsible adult
And remember, not everyone celebrates Halloween or wants people coming to their door. Some people, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, may get worried or even frightened if strangers are continually calling at their door during the evening.
Please respect those who don’t want to take part in trick or treating. People who welcome trick or treaters often put a pumpkin outside their house or in their window as a sign. Or, if you’d like to welcome trick-or-treaters but don’t have any decorations, Devon and Cornwall Police has a poster you can download and print to colour in. Or if you would prefer to spend a quiet evening undisturbed – they also have a “Sorry – no trick or treat” poster to put in your window.
Road users reminded to ‘Be Bright, Be Seen’ as clocks go back
We’re getting used to fewer day light hours as we move towards winter, but very early this Sunday morning, 30 October, the clocks go back, marking the end of British Summer Time.
It means it’ll be a little lighter in the mornings, but that it’ll start to get darker earlier in the afternoon, notably during the time most people are travelling home from work or school.
So we’re encouraging everyone to be alert, and to ‘Be Bright, Be Seen’.
Motorists are asked to look out for other road users, including cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders.
Cyclists, pedestrians, motorcyclists and horse riders are all encouraged to wear reflective and fluorescent clothing to ensure that they can be seen clearly.
“Blindfolded walk” explores accessibility for blind and partially sighted pedestrians
Some of our transport engineers and councillors got a fresh perspective on the challenges of navigating one of Exeter’s most popular streets on a recent visit organised by the Royal National Institute of Blind People, RNIB.
They met with local campaigner Marilyn Lant and RNIB’s Steve Hyde for a blindfolded walk along Exeter’s Magdalen Road, home to many independent shops.
The assembled councillors and transport planners wore a range of ‘simulation specs’ to replicate what people with different eye conditions experience.
They encountered just some of the challenges faced by people who are blind or partially blind, particularly in relation to the height of kerbs, street clutter and furniture, tactile paving, and difficulties with hearing approaching cyclists.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) say that cases of flu have climbed quickly, indicating that the season has begun earlier than normal, and that they are seeing hospitalisations and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admissions rising fastest in children aged under five years old.
Vaccinations to protect against flu are down on last season. Just 12.1 per cent of two-year olds and 12.8 per cent of three-year olds have been vaccinated against flu this time, compared to 17.4 percent in two-year olds and 18.6 per cent in three-year olds last year.
Dr Mary Ramsay, Director of Public Health Programmes at the UKHSA, said:
“Our latest data shows early signs of the anticipated threat we expected to face from flu this season.
“We’re urging parents in particular not to be caught out as rates of hospitalisations and ICU admissions are currently rising fastest in children under five.
“This will be a concern for many parents and carers of young children, and we urge them to take up the offer of vaccination for eligible children as soon as possible.”
Children can have the free flu vaccination at school or via their GP surgery.
This month we’ve been celebrating World Menopause Month, an annual campaign to raise awareness and combat stigma and misinformation about the natural stage of a woman’s life when her hormone levels decline and her periods stop.
But menopause is not just a gender or age issue. Helping everyone to understand the direct effect it can have on individuals as well as the indirect impact on friends, family and colleagues, is vital to helping people talk openly and feel better supported.
With that in mind, we put together a special edition of our newsletter. If you missed it in your inbox, you can read it online.
Face coverings required in some healthcare settings across Devon
Leaders welcome reports that government is considering delaying reforms
Even just a few days is a long time in politics it seems, so we’re watching this space closely, but earlier this week we heard that the government is considering delaying the introduction of its new social care reforms.
On the face of it, we think that’s a good thing. We agree with the reforms – they’re to enable more people to receive financial support for adult social care, which is good – but it is the government’s duty to ensure they are fully costed and adequately funded.
If the government doesn’t, it will mean councils will have to find millions of pounds from cuts in public services to pay for the reforms. And so we, and lots of councils, are concerned that the impact of introducing the government’s reforms without adequate funding will therefore be very heavy on residents and communities.
“With all that’s happening at Westminster, we’ll have to see what comes out of it, but if reports that the government is considering delaying the introduction of these reforms become fact, then that’s good news,” said Cllr James McInnes, our Cabinet Member responsible for adult care and health, today.
“Otherwise, the extra pressures that the reforms will bring on a social care system right now that is not properly funded and that does not have sufficient workforce capacity to meet demand, could worsen current services, leaving people waiting longer for care and impacting on the quality of that care.”
Local libraries announce movie nights throughout November
Recently we announced that libraries across Devon (which are run on our behalf by Libraries Unlimited) are providing warm spaces this winter, as part of our support for people struggling with rising costs of energy and food.
Some are also providing community fridges with free food available, and some have coat rails for people to donate winter coats for others to use.
“The first time we got to meet our children, it was incredible!”, says Lizzy. “We always have wonderful memories of that Easter, our first Easter as a family, because we had just met the children and we just had the best time.
“It’s life-changing and has changed my life for the better. And it opens my eyes to a world that I didn’t know existed.”
The company, Algapelago Marine Ltd, is working with experts to research the potential for the seaweed market in capturing carbon and improving coastal habitats.
As well as carbon capture, which is important in addressing the climate emergency, seaweed crops offer an array of uses, including animal feed, fertilisers, bioplastics and cosmetics – reducing the carbon footprint of these products due to the low intensity of the cultivation process.
Our Green Innovation Fund has already provided £750,000 towards innovative projects and technologies that will drive green growth in Devon’s economy.
Unpaid carers – people who provide care for someone else on a voluntary basis – are being asked to take up a free seasonal flu jab and autumn COVID-19 booster.
The NHS in Devon put out a call this week, asking people aged over 16-years-old who provide care, unpaid or paid, to consider whether they would be putting the person they care for at risk should they catch flu or COVID-19.
Susan Masters, NHS Devon’s Deputy Chief Nurse, said:
“Both flu and COVID-19 can be life-threatening and increases the risk of serious illness to you and the person, or people, you care for.
Exeter City Football Club is kindly supporting our efforts to raise awareness of the amazing job that social care workers in Devon are doing.
The problem is, there are just too few people working as care workers in Devon, and demand for care is rising, so there’s a large shortfall. We’ve been campaigning hard for a long time and working closely with social care providers to increase recruitment and retention, and to raise the profile of care workers and the incredible jobs they do.
And tomorrow, Exeter City players are also backing our campaign, to be Proud to Care. The club has been encouraging people to nominate their favourite carer or care worker, and they’ve given free tickets to tomorrow’s match against Fleetwood Town to 15 of those nominated!
We’ll share photos and clips from the game on our news website and social media channels after the match and early next week. In the meantime, best of luck tomorrow guys!
Usually, these 16 week training courses cost between £1,500 and £3,000, but we’re making the courses available for FREE!
Learners are also guaranteed an interview with a local employer once they’ve completed the course.
They’ve been developed with the help of training partners and employers to meet vacancies covering a number of specialisms including regenerative farming, digital marketing, electrical vehicle maintenance, data analytics, green construction and software development.
So far, over 1,000 people in Devon have started careers in the growing tech and digital sectors after attending these courses, at the Train4Tomorrow Skills Bootcamps.
‘Extra care’ refers to the fact that while residents live there independently, they have an in-house care provider available on site 24 hours every day, should they need any support.
They’re also offered a two-course hot meal every day and a variety of activities, that help residents make new friends.
It’s a scheme that we’re involved with, alongside Exeter City Council and the care provider, Radis Community Care.
It’s the first ‘extra care’ facility in Exeter, but it’s also the first one in the UK to be built and certified to Passivhaus standards. That means that it’s super insulated and is heated so efficiently as to require only a fraction of the usual energy, saving on fuel costs.
If you’re looking for fun, free activities to share with your family during the half-term holiday, Devon has a lot to offer. Our Explore Devon website has lots of great autumn activity ideas.
There is a great selection of traffic-free cycle routes, perfect for families of all ages and abilities. There are routes to suit every level of cycling experience, each with their own special attractions. Or you could try exploring the county using some of the beautiful walking routes; there are over 3,500 miles of footpaths waiting to be discovered with lots of accessible trails suitable for pushchairs, scooters and little legs.
Stover has over 114 acres of woodland, heathland, grassland, a lake and a huge variety of wildlife to look out for. It’s also home to the Ted Hughes poetry trail, aerial walkway and picnic areas. Well-behaved dogs on leads are also welcome!
The Grand Western Canal stretches more than 11 miles through beautiful countryside. With its play park and visitor centre, famous horse-drawn barge, cafes and picnic areas, it’s an excellent day out for all the family.
Local waste reduction groups are helping the planet and families
Volunteer waste reduction groups across Mid Devon and Teignbridge are ‘thriving’ thanks to our Community Action Groups Devon (CAG Devon) project.
The project, which is funded by us and managed by Resource Futures, has helped these groups more than double the amount of carbon that they have prevented from going into the atmosphere.
Together their actions have increased carbon dioxide emissions savings from 60.6 tonnes to 139 tonnes, equivalent to the electricity needed to support 100 homes for one year.
CAG Devon food projects have saved over 32 tonnes of food from waste, equivalent to 40 supermarket delivery vans full of food, enough to feed a family of four for 10 years.
And some of these projects are also helping local communities cope with the cost-of-living crisis with community larders and fridges, that were developed during the pandemic, becoming increasingly popular.
School children from across Devon had the opportunity to experience ‘everything agriculture’ this week, as Farmwise returned for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. The event, which was held at Westpoint near Exeter, saw more than 1,000 children roll up their sleeves and get stuck into a range of activities to learn first-hand where food comes from and how it is produced.
Children had the chance to make sausages, turn cream into butter, press apples for juice to drink, as well as mill and create oil from grain.They also learnt how our fruit is produced and how to reduce our carbon footprint by buying local and in season produce. Our tenant farmers introduced the children to a Ruby Red cow and her calf, a large Black Pig, and her piglets as well as sheep and goats as they learnt about the importance of good animal husbandry.
Earlier this week the NHS announced that people aged 50 years old or over have joined the list of those eligible for the COVID-19 booster and flu jab, and from today (Friday 14 October) they can book their appointments.
It follows a warning that COVID-19 cases are rising and that people should avoid vulnerable friends, colleagues and relatives if they feel unwell.
Chief Medical Advisor at the UK Health Security Agency Dr Susan Hopkins said:
“The double threat of widely circulating flu and COVID-19 this year is a real concern, so it’s crucial that you take up the free flu vaccine as soon as possible if you are offered it. It will help protect you from severe flu this winter, and even save your life.
“All those over 50 are now eligible for the jab, many of which will have low natural immunity due to COVID-19 restrictions over the last two years”.
If you’re eligible it’s important to have your COVID-19 and flu vaccinations as soon as possible, so please book online, or phone 119.
Schools learn about Windrush at conference
Last week we hosted a school conference to help raise young people’s awareness of the Windrush generations and to celebrate the contribution and achievements of people of Caribbean heritage to this country.
Students heard from three Devon residents of Caribbean heritage, Nadia Gorton, Euten Lindsay and Dave Samuels.
The speakers explored the history of the Windrush ship, the experiences of people and their families who came to the UK, and the ‘hostile environment’ policy which contributed to the ‘Windrush scandal’.
Gabriel, a student from Ivybridge Community College, said about the day:
“It’s been enlightening to hear about the experiences of people who have helped to build Britain.”
Greg, also a student at Ivybridge Community College, added:
“Understanding diversity teaches us to love and respect everyone and keep an open mind, and to appreciate people who helped to make this world a better place.”
Child Trust Funds are long-term savings accounts set up for every child born between 1 September 2002 and 2 January 2011. To encourage future saving and start the account, the government provided an initial deposit of at least £250.
The savings accounts mature when the child turns 18 years old. Eligible teenagers, who are aged 18 years old or over and have yet to access their Child Trust Fund account, could have savings waiting for them worth an average of £2,100. Many eligible teenagers who have yet to claim their savings might be starting university, apprenticeships or their first job. The lump-sum amount could offer a financial boost at a time when they need it most.
If teenagers or their parents and guardians already know who their Child Trust Fund provider is, they can contact them directly. This might be a bank, building society or other savings provider. Alternatively, they can visit GOV.UK and complete an online form to find out where their Child Trust Fund is held.
The World Health Organisation recommends that childhood immunisation programmes need 95 per cent coverage to help prevent the spread of avoidable serious – and sometimes deadly – diseases such as measles and polio.
But the latest statistics show that nationally, only 89.2 per cent of children at 24 months had completed their first dose of the MMR vaccine, and coverage for the second dose of MMR by age 5 years was also down by nearly 1 per cent.
Parents and guardians are being urged to ensure their children are up to date with all their routine childhood immunisations including polio and measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccinations.
Anyone who is unsure if their child is up to date with all their routine vaccinations should check their child’s red book (personal child health record) in the first instance. If you are still not sure, or if you need to bring your child up to date with their vaccines, contact your GP practice to check and book an appointment.
To find out more about childhood vaccinations, please visit the NHS website.
Staying warm safely this winter
As the weather starts to get cooler, you might be thinking about making a few changes at home to bring down the price of your energy bills. Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service is asking you to stay warm safely, and not put yourself at risk as the cost of living increases.
Sometimes it can save money to use a portable heater to heat a small area, but be aware that they can also be a serious fire hazard. Heaters should always be placed at least one metre away from curtains, bedding and upholstery (never dry washing on them!) and switched off and unplugged before you go out or go to bed. Before using a heater, check it over for damaged wiring, and if something doesn’t look right, dispose of it, or get it checked by a professional. An oil-filled radiator is the safest type of portable heater as they don’t have any exposed heating elements.
If you have an open fire or wood burner, make sure you have your chimney swept before you use it for the first time this winter and only burn seasoned wood. Other wood may have moisture which can create tar in the chimney, which is highly flammable and can lead to chimney fires.
You should have working smoke alarms on every level of your home so you’re alerted quickly in the event of a fire. It’s also recommended that you have a carbon monoxide alarm in any room where fuel is burnt (this includes boilers, gas cookers and ovens, open fires, and log burners).
The government has launched a new campaign to encourage parents and carers to chat, play and read more with their children, developing their communication, language and literacy skills before starting school.
Children with poor vocabulary skills at age five years old are likely to do less well academically and may be up to twice as likely to be unemployed in their 30s.The COVID-19 pandemic has made things worse and there has been a rise in the number of children starting school with language skills poorer than would have been expected before.
All the little things you do with your child – like everyday conversations, make-believe play and reading together – make a big difference to their development. It doesn’t have to cost a penny. You don’t need pricey books or toys, and it definitely doesn’t have to feel like ‘learning’!
The Start for Life online hub has lots of ideas for quick, easy activities your child will love and will help boost their learning for when they go to school.
Councils need more time to prepare for social care reforms
We echoed a call from the County Council’s Network (CCN) this week for the government to delay the introduction of new social care reforms, which are planned for next year.
It’s not because we don’t agree with the reforms – they’re to enable more people to receive financial support for adult social care, which is a good thing – but we and lots of councils are concerned that the impact of introducing them will be very heavy on local councils, financially and in terms of additional activity. This, at a time when councils don’t have enough money and the current social care workforce is already significantly stretched.
The CCN say that introducing them so soon is a ‘perfect storm’. They say that loading extra pressure on an already-teetering social care system to prepare for the introduction of the reforms could worsen services by impacting on the availability and quality of care packages.
They want the government to delay the introduction to give councils more time to prepare, and particularly to recruit the necessary workforce to cope with the additional activity. Otherwise, we’re concerned that it could just make waiting lists for care packages even longer.
Cllr James McInnes, our Cabinet Member for adult social care, said:
“With the shortage of adult social care workers, the national and local challenges in recruiting for those posts, on top of the anticipated increased demand for adult social care arising from these changes, and associated increase in costs to deliver those services, at a time of huge budget pressures….yes, we need more time.”
Gates to be removed on cycle network to improve disabled access
We’re going to remove many of the gates and barriers on Devon’s shared cycle and walking routes, to help ensure that those with disabilities and mobility difficulties can access them more easily.
Most routes on the National Cycle Network include chicane gates and barriers at given points, which can deter some people, including mobility scooter users for example, from using them.
Now, with support from the charity Sustrans, we’ve begun assessing all the gates and barriers and we aim to remove most of them and replace them with a mixture of signs, painted markings, and bollards that will allow enough space for users of mobility scooters, wheelchairs, cargo bikes and trikes, pushchairs and prams.
We’ll look at the older barriers first, many of which need replacing, and we’ll assess to determine if they’re needed and are a benefit. But if they’re just a hindrance, we plan to remove them.
Scheme launched to improve maths skills for Devon adults
A new support programme is being launched to help adults in Devon to improve their maths skills. Devon Multiply, is funded by the government and managed by us.
The training will be available in a number of ways, but part of the programme is to work with local organisations. We’re therefore inviting innovative proposals to deliver numeracy skills training among adults in Devon, particularly to those who are harder to reach.
Grant funding from £20,000 to £250,000 is available to projects that submit a successful application. Organisations, that are eligible to apply include private businesses, public organisations, voluntary organisations, charities, community groups and local authorities.
The programme will support those needing to take the first steps towards gaining a maths qualification as well as helping people use maths to manage their household budgets. It’ll also help parents wanting to improve their maths in order to help their children. And it will work with employers to cover specific maths skills required in the workplace.
NHS urges people to do their bit as COVID-19 patients increase
The NHS in Devon is reporting that the number of patients in hospital that have tested positive for COVID-19 has risen to 250.
This is roughly five times the number when compared to early September.
People are urged to support the NHS by having the seasonal COVID-19 booster and flu vaccination if eligible, by staying away from hospitals, care homes and other healthcare facilities if they have symptoms of flu or COVID-19 and by using the most appropriate service for your needs.
There are small things we can all do to help be kind to our mind and look after our mental health, and these can make a big difference to how we feel, helping us to lead happier, healthier lives and cope with life’s challenges.
With World Mental Health Day just the other side of this weekend, on Monday 10 October, we’re encouraging you to talk openly about your mental health and how you look after it, and reminding you to reach out for help if you are struggling.
12 million people in the UK are going through or have reached the menopause
We are supporting World Menopause Month this October, to encourage all those who go through it to never feel ashamed of a natural part of life.
Menopause is when someone’s periods stop due to lower hormone levels. It usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55 years old, but can sometimes occur in younger people, either naturally or due to reasons such as chemotherapy. Perimenopause is the time before the menopause when hormone levels start to decline, and symptoms start, but periods haven’t stopped yet.
Symptoms can include hot flushes, anxiety, insomnia, problems with concentration and memory, fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint pains and low mood. They can last many years and can have a huge impact on people’s quality of life, including their relationships, social life, family life and work.
The menopause will affect you at some point in your life, whether it’s impacting on your own health and wellbeing, a family member, a friend or a colleague, so it’s important to be armed with knowledge, not only for yourself but so you are more compassionate to those around you.
Throughout this month, we will be sharing information and resources about the menopause on our social media channels and in these newsletters, to help open up discussion and encourage better understanding.
We’re looking for a residential support worker to join our team at Welland Children’s Home in Barnstaple, where we provide a home from home experience for children and young people with disabilities to enhance and promote their life experiences and independence skills.
The work can be emotionally and physically demanding but if you have the drive, dedication, resilience, and passion then you will enjoy an exciting and rewarding career making a difference in the lives of children and their families.
October is Sons and Daughters Month, an annual campaign that raises awareness of, and celebrates, the vital contribution that the children of foster carers make.
Erin explains how becoming a foster carer has been a wonderful way to bring foster siblings into her family alongside her older children and about the ‘absolutely amazing’ support from the Devon team. Watch Erin’s story on YouTube.
“Seeing the changes I’ve been able to make for them is absolutely amazing.” – Erin
Fostering is an extremely rewarding and challenging job. If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer and being part of an amazing team who can make a difference to the lives of children and young people in Devon, get in touch by calling 0345 155 1077 or visiting the Fostering Devon website.
Meet more of our team of foster carers, and the professionals who support them, on the Fostering Devon website. #TogetherWeCan be there to support the children who need us most.
With the rising costs of food and energy starting to bite, councils are focusing on what they can do to help support individuals and families.
This week, we’ve made a few announcements about help or advice available.
Libraries open their doors to support local residents this winter
Our libraries in Devon are throwing their doors open in welcome this winter, to provide a range of help, support, advice and comfort to people who may be struggling, or beginning to struggle with the rising cost of living.
The ‘Libraries for Life’ campaign, launched by Libraries Unlimited which run Devon’s libraries on our behalf, will continue right through until March next year.
warm spaces, where people are welcome to join and spend time in the library. Some will host sessions with advice about energy efficiency, debt advice and other topics
community fridge projects, making surplus food from local supermarkets available to all for free. They’re working with local groups to provide the service
coat rails, where people donate warm winter coats for people to use, and some are also collecting donated clothing
free baby weighing facilities at many of our libraries
free drop-in IT sessions to help people boost their digital skills and confidence
work clubs in libraries can help with CV writing, and developing skills to help apply for jobs, and our Business and IP Centres in Barnstaple and Exeter libraries have webinars with advice for budding entrepreneurs and local start-up businesses
Libraries are always looking for volunteers, and that’s a great way to meet new people and support your local community this winter, so if you have time spare, please contact your local library to enquire about volunteering.
Councils extend pilot to give more unpaid carers access to leisure centres
We’ve heard from unpaid carers – people who voluntarily provide care to a loved one or friend – that the rising costs of living are making them prioritise their spending, and that they’re choosing not to spend on exercise or activities away from their caring roles.
We know everyone is having to adapt to the rising costs of food and energy. We’re concerned about unpaid carers though, because thousands of people in Devon rely on family and friends to help care for them, and when unpaid carers are unwell, it impacts on the people they care for.
Now young carers (under 18 year olds) and parent carers (parents who care for a child or young person, under 18 years old, who has additional needs), as well as adult carers of adults, are all eligible for this pilot in Mid Devon.
If you don’t have enough money to live on, you might be able to get help from your local district council to afford essentials like:
your energy and water bills
household items such as clothes or an oven
You don’t have to be getting benefits to get help from your local council. If you do get benefits, they won’t be affected if you start getting money from a welfare assistance or Household Support Fund scheme.
Online support and guidance for young people and parents
Life can be difficult enough sometimes, and for children and young people, those day-to-day interactions with others, your attitude about yourself, your relationships with people at home, at school or work, can be especially overwhelming.
It’s also a challenge for parents and carers seeing changes in their child’s behaviour or personality and not really knowing what’s going on or the best way to support them.
We’ve launched three websites dedicated to providing help and advice for young people and their parents and carers, from pre-natal right through to teenage years.
Health for Kids – aimed at parents and carers of children primary school aged – includes games, videos, and quizzes. It’s split into four ‘worlds’: healthy bodies, healthy minds, health issues and getting help
Health for Teens – for young people of secondary school age and their parents and carers. It tackles the issues many teens go through, as their bodies change, and they become more self-aware, while also still working out who they are
The sites welcome any additions from local residents. If you have any content, articles or local events you would like to submit for consideration please email our Public Health Nursing team.
Carbon Plan reveals how all Devon can achieve net-zero
Supported by the latest scientific evidence, and built on detailed, ongoing assessments of Devon’s greenhouse gas emissions, the Plan is Devon’s roadmap to becoming net-zero by 2050 at the latest, and spells out exactly what we all have to do to create a resilient, sustainable county where people and nature can thrive.
Its publication follows a summer which was the joint hottest on record, where the impact of human-induced climate change has never been more apparent.
Broadly speaking, emissions in Devon can be divided into five key sectors: economy and resources, energy supply, food, land and sea, transport, and the built environment. The Plan’s launch marks the beginning of a new phase of action – it is crucial that everyone in Devon now works to implement the Plan.
It’s because, despite the flu strain being present last winter, the restrictions in place for COVID-19 protected us from catching it. Experts have been watching how the flu strain developed in Australia, where they’ve already had their winter, and from that they’re predicting a difficult winter ahead for us in the UK. And right now, cases of COVID-19 are also on the rise again, including in Devon.
Steve Brown, our Director of Public Health Devon, called it a ‘clarion call’ for everyone in Devon who is eligible for the vaccinations to come forward as soon as they’re invited.
Primary and some secondary school children are eligible for the flu nasal spray this year, which is usually given at school. And GP surgeries are inviting two and three year olds (age on the 31 August) for their nasal spray vaccination at their practices.
#TogetherWeCan be there to support children across Devon who need us the most
We are shining a light on the incredible team who work together to make sure that foster carers in Devon, and the children in our care, receive all the support they need and deserve to flourish. Like Claire, one of our Supervising Social Workers:
“The thing I love most about my job is seeing children thrive and reach their full potential.”
Watch Claire’s story as she explains more about how she supports foster carers through her role as a Supervising Social Worker and why she thinks foster carers are ‘just the best people in the world!’
If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer and being part of this amazing team, visit the Fostering Devon website or contact us by calling 0345 155 1077. #TogetherWeCan be there to support children across Devon who need us the most.
Stoptober starts tomorrow!
Join the thousands of people who are stopping smoking this October. If you can make it to 28 days smoke free, you’re five times more likely to quit for good.
It’s never too late to quit – stopping smoking brings immediate benefits to health, including for people with an existing smoking-related disease. On average smokers spend £38.59 a week on tobacco. So if you can quit this Stoptober, you could save around £2,000 a year.