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Devon County Council Bulletins

We’re investing in specialist educational provision in local communities; local children send anti-smoking message to grown-ups and engagement events to be held for communities hit by flash floods

From left: Dan Morrow, CEO of Dartmoor Multi Academy Trust; Mel Stride MP; Cllr Percy Prowse, Chairman of Devon County Council; Gareth Howells, Principal The Promise School

We’re investing in specialist educational provision in local communities

We want all children in Devon to achieve the best possible outcomes and fulfil their potential. High-quality education is an important part of this. With the number of children and young people who need specialist support in Devon increasing, we’re investing in new facilities. This ensure that the right provision is available in our communities to support pupils with additional needs to access a broad and inclusive curriculum in the very best environment.

This week we’ve celebrated the openings of not one, not two but three specialist educational buildings!

The custom-built Promise School in Okehampton (part of Dartmoor Multi Academy Trust), caters for up to 100 children aged four to 16-years-old who have social, emotional, and mental health (SEMH) needs. Its location was chosen to specifically address the lack of special school provision in the west Devon area, and means that children and young people in the area no longer have to travel distances to access quality learning that meets their individual needs.

A new £4.5 million extension at the Lampard Community School in Barnstaple also opened this week. It’s one of 12 special schools in Devon and it caters for children, aged five to 16-years-old, with complex needs. Their new two-storey Ocean Building is the final part of a refurbishment that will increase pupil capacity by 60 places and provides an additional five classrooms, sports hall, changing rooms, resource space, offices, stores and toilets.

In partnership with Great Torrington School, we’ve jointly funded a new £1.45m two-story teaching block connected to their main school building. As well as three new classrooms and a new library resource area, the expansion has also provided additional space for the school’s Hardy Centre, which supports pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and those who sometimes struggle with daily school life.

Local children send anti-smoking message to grown-ups

Play areas across Devon will soon be displaying signs asking people not to ‘smoke where we play’ after three school children won a competition to design a new sign.

We’ve been working with our neighbour, Torbay Council. We are both members of the Smokefree Devon Alliance, a partnership of local authorities and the NHS in Devon created to combat smoking in the county, and we set up a competition with a number of primary schools to find the best designs.

Our announcement of the signs coincides with the start of Stoptober next week, when smokers are encouraged to think about quitting. The signs are intended to reduce a child’s exposure to smoking to help prevent them from taking up the habit in the first place.

Their signs will be displayed in 23 play parks throughout Torbay while in Devon 112 signs, have been distributed to the county’s eight district councils, with Teignbridge District council opting to purchase additional signs.

You can read more about it on the news page of our website.

We are corporate parents to nearly 1,400 children. But what does that mean?

There are currently nearly 900 children and young people in our care, aged up to 18-years-old, and a further 500 young adults aged between 18 to 25-years-old who have left care, that we continue to support. 

Young people come into our care for a range of reasons. Sometimes it’s for a short time, for example if a parent is unwell and there’s no-one else to look after them; and other times it’s for longer, if it’s necessary for a child to be cared for by someone other than their parents for their own safety. It means that we have parental responsibility for that child, and that’s known as corporate parenting.

Corporate parenting is wider than just caring for a child or young person though. It is about working with partner agencies to ensure that care experienced people have good access to health, education, love and affection, and are supported to realise their dreams, goals and aspirations. It is about championing them, and ensuring that they are able to recover from any challenges that they have faced before entering our care. It is about ensuring that their previous experiences are validated, but that these do not define them and that they can live, grow and achieve, as well as and if not better than their peers.

Earlier this week we sent a special edition of our Connect Me newsletter, highlighting some of the work that we’re doing to support children and young people in care, and those young people who have now left our care. If you missed it in your inbox, you can catch up online.

Engagement events to be held for communities hit by flash floods

Communities impacted by the recent flash floods are being supported with a series of drop-in sessions over the coming weeks.

Initial investigations have found that more than 200 homes were flooded during the torrential rainfall on Sunday 17 September. As part of the ongoing flood recovery effort, we’re working with the Environment Agency, Exeter City Council, South Hams District Council, Teignbridge District Council and the Environment Agency to organise community engagement events.

The drop-in sessions will be an opportunity for residents to speak directly to teams involved in the flood recovery operation. They will be able to provide information on the flooding in their community and to discuss flood resilience measures with staff from all of the authorities and agencies in attendance.

Read the full story on the news page of our website to find out more about where and when the drop-in sessions are taking place, and which agencies will be there.

Volunteer Trainee Rangers

Would you like to develop your skills, gain training, qualifications and experience working as part of the Ranger Team at Stover Country Park? We have two full time trainee volunteer roles available. 

Applications close on Sunday 15 October.

Essential work planned for major structures as part of North Devon Link Road upgrade

The westbound carriageway of the A361 North Devon Link Road, between North Aller roundabout and Landkey roundabout, will be closed for a month from Wednesday 11 October to allow essential maintenance work to go ahead.

Online Speech, Language and Communication Workshops

Action for Children is running free online workshops with an Early Language Consultant about how to best support your little one with communication:

Respiratory infection guidance for a safer season

As we brace ourselves for chillier days, more indoor gatherings and seasonal social events with friends and family, now is the ideal time to revisit the current guidance on face coverings, isolation, vaccination and other behaviours that can reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections.

Impact of flash floods being examined; support for children and young people with SEND to undergo a ‘system-wide transformation’ and a new chapter for St Thomas Library

Impact of flash floods being examined

More than 140 properties are thought to have been flooded across Devon during Sunday’s flash floods, making it one of the most significant flood events in the county for a number of years.

Although this flash flooding wasn’t widespread, it hit pockets of communities across several areas of the county, and for many residents, the impact has been devastating. 

We’ve been out with the Environment Agency and local city and district council officers as part of the flood recovery operation, visiting the worst affected areas to investigate the extent of the damage caused by the torrential rainfall.

Support is available should residents need it, and anyone who would like to submit information about flooding in their community should email

Residents are also being advised to check if their property is at risk of flood and find out if they are eligible to sign up for FREE flood warnings.

Follow @EnvAgencySW on X (formerly Twitter) for the latest flood updates or visit the Government’s website to check for flooding.

Support for children and young people with SEND to undergo a ‘system-wide transformation’

The partnership responsible for services supporting children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) has listened to families and expanded its SEND improvement plans to create ‘system-wide’ change.

It follows a recommendation by the Children’s Scrutiny Committee SEND Task Group and reflects what families have told us about the current system of SEND support. 

The commitment, made in a meeting last week (14 September) by the Devon SEND Improvement Partnership Board, of which we are a part, means that Devon will look at not just areas of weakness identified by Ofsted and Care Quality Commission but at the whole experience.    

The board said that the ‘system-wide’ transformation programme would address the significant challenges that the local area faces, improve the experiences of children, young people and their families in Devon and lead to the financial sustainability of the council.

Find out more about what the plans include in the news story on our website.

Calling all businesses and entrepreneurs in East Devon, Exeter, and Mid Devon – Prosper is here to help!

new, free, business support programme aimed at helping businesses and entrepreneurs in East Devon, Exeter and Mid Devon achieve their business development ambitions has been launched.

Prosper offers a mixture of online support and in-person one-to-one sessions or workshops to help businesses improve productivity, become more environmentally sustainable, move into new markets, develop new products and take on additional staff.

It’s being funded by East Devon, Mid Devon and Exeter City Councils through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, and we’re project managing the programme with business support provided by Business Information Point and Cosmic, both of whom have a wealth of experience and local knowledge.

To access the programme, businesses need to complete the enquiry form on the Growth Hub website.

A new chapter for St Thomas Library

The library in St Thomas has been in its current premises since 2013, and has been a popular and well-used hub for people of all ages in the local community since then.

However, earlier this year the landlord of the building applied for planning permission to turn the property into accommodation, which surprised us, and we said at the time that we’d hoped to be able to renew our lease when it expires in November. The planning application was subsequently withdrawn, but conversations since have led to an offer from the landlord to renew the library’s lease at a considerably higher rent and for a much longer period.

Reluctantly, we simply can’t afford to agree to those terms, and so we’ve decided that we will not renew the lease and instead look for new premises. We’re working with Libraries Unlimited, which run libraries in Devon on our behalf, and asking local people to help identify possible alternative premises as well as inviting community and church groups, landlords and property owners in the area to contact us if they are interested in helping to provide a library service in St Thomas.

Please use this form on our website to get in touch or share your suggestions.

National booking system opens for COVID-19 autumn boosters

If you’re eligible for a free COVID-19 booster, you can now book your autumn vaccine on the NHS website, by downloading the NHS App, or by calling 119 for free.

People eligible for this offer include anyone aged 65-years-old and over, pregnant women and those with an underlying health condition. These people will also receive invitations from the NHS to encourage them to get their COVID-19 and flu vaccines.

This year’s autumn flu and COVID-19 vaccine programmes started earlier than planned in England as a precautionary measure after a new COVID variant was identified.

The NHS is encouraging everyone who’s eligible to come forward for their jab as soon as they are invited to do so.

Overnight closures planned for Fore Street in Heavitree, Exeter

The road will be closed between the junctions with Whipton Lane and North Street from 9pm to 7am each night from Monday 2 October until Friday 6 October and then again on the evening of Monday 9 October. Please visit our website for details of the signed diversion route.

Strike pressure rises at emergency departments

The NHS in Devon is preparing to take all measures necessary to ensure the sickest patients get the help they need as industrial action by doctors continues.

Visit the One Devon website to find out more, including advice for local people.

Industrial dispute to cause more train disruption

Train drivers union ASLEF has announced two further strike dates for Saturday 30 September and Wednesday 4 October.

GWR say that it will have a major impact on services, so check before travelling.

It’s National Breastfeeding Week

It can take a while to feel confident about breastfeeding, but you’re not alone. Getting the right support can make a big difference, and your midwife and health visitor are there to help you.

The NHS website has lots of helpful information and advice on breastfeeding.

Where’s your nearest community fridge? New pilot will bring accommodation for care leavers; Improving services for children with SEND; Apply now for secondary school places

New pilot will provide essential move-on accommodation for adult care leavers

Young people in our care most often live with foster carers until they reach 18- years-old, when they’re considered to be care leavers. They and their foster carers can choose to continue those arrangements if they wish, with the young person remaining living with their carer. Others however move on to live in their own accommodation.

But we have a number of young adult care leavers and young people in care aged 16 and over currently living in placements that no longer meet their needs nor offer value for money, but who are unable to move on because of a lack of suitable alternative accommodation and support that can meet their individual needs.

We’ve secured a grant of £1.1 million from the Department for Education to run a two year pilot, as part of a national initiative called Staying Close, to help those young adults transition into independent living and support them in quality accommodation. 

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

Councillor Lois Samuel, Cabinet Member for Children’s SEND Improvement Services

New Cabinet member to drive Devon special needs improvement

Our continuing drive to improve services for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) is getting a new champion. Council leader John Hart has promoted Okehampton Rural councillor Lois Samuel to the Cabinet with the lead responsibility for improving SEND services.

It means Exeter councillor Andrew Leadbetter will retain his Cabinet responsibility for education, schools and social care but the massive children’s services brief will now be shared politically between him and Lois Samuel.

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

Ensuring surplus food isn’t wasted

Community fridges around Devon are helping ensure that surplus food, mostly from shops and food businesses, is finding a home quickly, rather than be wasted.

There are 25 community fridges in Devon, collectively redistributing an estimated 150 tonnes of surplus food, worth almost £500,000, each year.

And to help you find one nearest you, we and other partners of Recycle Devon have launched a new community map to show you where they are.

The scheme relies on volunteers giving up their spare time to ensure that surplus food isn’t going to waste.

The food in the fridges is free for people to take and it’s collected primarily from businesses. It may have past its ‘best before’ date, but food in the fridges is before its ‘use by’ date.

Some community fridges take contributions from households as well, such as home-grown gluts, but always check with your local community fridge volunteer as to what they can and can’t take, before dropping anything off.

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

Makers Mews opens new classroom to empower Ivybridge’s creative community

We’ve featured stories before about our network of Devon Work Hubs that offer flexible workspaces including office space, meeting rooms and coworking opportunities for local businesses and entrepreneurs.

Though similar in purpose, they often have their own individual look and feel.

Makers Mews, housed in a 300-year-old barn overlooking the River Erme in Ivybridge, is one such example. And it’s opening new facilities.

In addition to the popular coworking facilities, Makers Mews will be opening a new classroom where events, classes and talks will be held to support the creative community and encourage sustainable practices that reduce consumerism.

To mark the opening, they’re hosting an open day for the public on Friday 29 September, where there’ll be free hot desking in the coworking space, and two taster sessions of the Accountability Alliance.

In the evening, there’ll be food and drink served outside around the firepit as social enterprises, Ivybridge Brewing and Pizza Pirates join the celebration.

Nadine Dommett is founder of Makers Mews.

“The vision for Makers Mews is to provide a creative hub that fuels connection, innovation and environmental responsibility in the creative community of Ivybridge,” she says.

“We are so excited about the opportunities that we are creating with our new community classroom. It will allow us to collaborate with many more makers, teachers and repairers to share skills and knowledge within the community.”

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

COVID-19 Vaccination Outreach Fund available to the voluntary sector

Communities in Devon can apply for a grant to support the improvement of COVID-19 vaccination knowledge and increase vaccine uptake among vulnerable groups.

The COVID-19 Vaccination Outreach Fund has been established to enable organisations from the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector across Devon to deliver innovative projects and activities with vulnerable communities to help increase the uptake of COVID-19 vaccinations during the 2023/24 autumn / winter vaccine campaign.

Activities that can be supported through this fund include outreach to support vaccination uptake; building vaccine confidence via workshops; group meetings; engaging with vulnerable communities to explore barriers to uptake; or providing vaccination clinics.

Communities can apply for more than one grant although limited funds are available and will be granted on a first-come-first-served basis. The programme will run until the end of January 2024 although, in line with Government priorities, vaccinations should be given as early as possible.

If your organisation is interested in applying for funding to support an increase in COVID-19 vaccination knowledge and outreach in your community, visit COVID-19 vaccination outreach fund – One Devon for more information and to submit an application.

Applications now open for 2024 secondary school places

September 2024 may seem a long way off but if your child is currently in Year 6 of primary and due to start secondary school next year, you need to start the application process now.

We are taking applications from families whose children are due to start secondary school in September 2024.

The deadline for secondary school applications is Tuesday 31 October 2023.

You can apply for a place online through our website, where you will find full details on how to apply on the portal and how the admissions system works.

Each school now has its own admission criteria, so it’s important to look at the information relating to specific schools on their websites.

A young girl playing on a beach

Now is the time to adopt

Could you consider adopting a child with a disability?

All children long for the love and stability of being part of a family, yet children with additional health needs or disabilities wait longer to be adopted.

Amanda White, Operations Manager at Adopt South West, explains:

“I talk to adoptive parents a lot and they will all tell me that their lives now feel fuller and more worthwhile as a family. There’s no doubt that it’s hard work – any parent will tell you that – but it’s so rewarding.

“There is ongoing support, from our service, support from other adopters, as well as your own support network. The adoption process is thorough – it has to be, of course – but it’s not as difficult or onerous as people first think. In talking to adopters they find it to be a journey of self-discovery and a time when they learn so much about children who are waiting for a family.”

“Now is the time to think again about adoption and be open to adopting beyond your first thoughts about a child’s ability, their age, or gender. and consider. If you are considering adoption, or adopting a child or children with additional needs, please talk to us about taking the next steps.”

If you are interested in adopting any of the children currently waiting the longest, please get in touch with our friendly team. We’ll support you – contact us.

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

Care leavers spoke at our Full Council meeting this week

Council pledges to make care experience a protected characteristic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heat alert issued across the South West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Work to start on road improvements south west of Exeter

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

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

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

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

The main elements of this current scheme include:

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

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

Creating Hope Through Action for World Suicide Prevention Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have your say using this online form.

Double Waters Footbridge closed for replacement

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

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

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

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

Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete, Devon Schools and our properties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Staying safe during hot weather

Although the summer holidays are over and it’s officially meteorological autumn, we’re experiencing some high temperatures in Devon this week. The UK Health Security Agency has issued an amber heat-health alert from midday today (Tuesday) until the evening of Sunday 10 September. 

The main risks during hot weather are:

We’ve put together this special edition of our newsletter to share top tips for staying safe in the sunshine and urge you to look out for those in our communities who may struggle to keep themselves cool and hydrated.

Take extra care if you are vulnerable and look out for those most at risk

The heat can affect anyone, but the most vulnerable people are:

  • older people – especially those over 75 years old
  • those who live on their own or in a care home
  • people who have a serious or long-term illness – including heart or lung conditions, diabeteskidney diseaseParkinson’s disease or some mental health conditions
  • those who may find it hard to keep cool – babies and very young children, people who are bed bound, those with drug or alcohol addictions or with Alzheimer’s disease
  • people who spend a lot of time outside or in hot places – those who live in a top floor flat, the homeless or those whose jobs are outside

Stay hydrated and keep cool

We sweat more in hot weather, so it’s really important to drink plenty of water to replace what our bodies have lost. It also helps cool the body and prevents heat exhaustion.

Dehydration means your body loses more fluids than you take in, and if it’s not treated, it can get worse and become a serious problem, so make sure you know how to spot the signs and reduce the risk.

What we wear can make a real difference to how our bodies handle heat. Avoid the temptation to strip off, because you may be at greater risk of sunburn, which can affect your body’s ability to cool itself. Instead wear light colours (dark colours absorb more of the light, converting it into heat) and loose cotton or linen garments that are more breathable, absorbent and encourage ventilation.

If you’re indoors, close curtains in rooms that face the sun to keep indoor spaces cooler, spend time in cooler parts of the house (especially for sleeping), open windows when the air feels cooler outside and try to get air flowing through your home. Placing a bowl of ice at an angle in front of a fan can also help cool the air indoors.

Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially young children and animals.

Sunscreen and sun safety

After a wet and cool summer, it can be tempting to get outside and make the most of the sunshine when it does finally appear, but it’s important to strike a balance between getting enough vitamin D from sunlight and protecting yourself from the sun’s harmful rays.

Spend time in the shade when the sun is strongest, which is between 11am and 3pm from March to October. And if you are out in the sun, cover up with suitable clothing, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, and regularly apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 to protect against UVB and at least 4-star UVA protection. Sunscreen doesn’t have to be expensive – look for supermarket and pharmacy own brands to help reduce the cost.

Make sure you never burn, as this can increase your risk of skin cancer. And remember, you can burn in the UK even when it’s cloudy. 

Heatstroke and heat exhaustion

When it’s too hot, there are risks to our health, particularly the elderly or people with underlying conditions, and during heatwaves, more people than usual get seriously ill or die.

If you or someone else feels unwell with a high temperature, headache, loss of appetite, dizziness or shortness of breath during hot weather, you should consider the possibility of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

If someone is showing signs of heat exhaustion:

  • move them to a cool place
  • get them to lie down and raise their feet slightly
  • get them to drink plenty of water
  • cool their skin – spray or sponge them with cool water and fan them

Heat exhaustion doesn’t usually need emergency medical help if you can cool the person down within 30 minutes. However, if they’re still unwell after half an hour, and have a very high temperature, fast heartbeat, shortness of breath and are confused or lack coordination, call 999.

Water safety

Although it might be hot outside, please remember that water temperatures can be very cold. As inviting as it looks, don’t just jump straight in, as cold water shock could make you gasp uncontrollably, and you could breathe in water and drown.

Wearing a wetsuit will help increase your buoyancy and reduce the chances of suffering cold water shock, and remember to take plenty of warm clothes for before and after your dip, along with a hot drink to help you warm up again when you come out of the water.

Keep a close eye on friends and family around water, especially children, and don’t let anyone swim alone. Check the weather forecast, tide times and read local hazard signage to understand local risks and if in doubt, stay out. There is always another day to go for a swim!

If you get into trouble in the water, the RNLI urge you to remember ‘Float to Live’ – resist the urge to thrash about, instead lean back, extend your arms and legs and gently move them around to stay afloat, once you can control your breathing, call for help or swim to safety. If you see someone else in trouble in the water, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.

New family structure is helping foster carers; Exeter’s historic Iron Bridge; Making it safer to walk to school; Support for farmers; and a section of the Exe Estuary to close for repairs.

New family structure is helping foster carers and their children

Our fostering service is one of the key ways in which we support children and young people who are in our care. So as well as the young people in our care, our foster carers are also really important to us.

We’ve been piloting a new programme that is improving the way that foster carers support each other and the children that they look after.

It’s called the Mockingbird programme, and it’s focused on building a support network around foster carers and their families.

It’s based very simply on a family structure, with experienced foster carers, Sarah and Andy, as the key ‘hub carers’. They in turn are supporting nine foster families, including 13 fostered children and young people.

The group, our Mockingbird family, meet regularly at Sarah and Andy’s house to catch up, and also arrange regular social activities and opportunities to get together.

It’s bringing fostered children together, and they’re benefiting from regular contact with each other. It’s also bringing foster carers together, some of whom have more experience of fostering than others, and between them, they can support, advise and care for each other with no fear or judgement.

We spoke to the hub carer, Sarah, and some of the foster parents in our Mockingbird family, and they told us what a positive impact this is having on their lives and those of the children they look after.

You can read all about it, and watch our video, in the story on our news page.

Vital measures taken to keep historic Iron Bridge in use

Residents and visitors to Exeter may know the historic Grade II-listed Iron Bridge. Built of cast iron, its full beauty is best seen from ground level looking up. Though built in 1835, the bridge is still an important route out of the city centre.

But because of its age and construction, there has long been a weight restriction prohibiting vehicles over three tonnes in weight from using it.

Our structural engineers regularly assess the bridge to make sure it’s still safe to use, but very recently they’ve witnessed quite a lot of vehicles – large vans and trucks – using the bridge that were thought to be well over three tonnes in weight.

Observing it, they saw that drivers were mounting the curb to squeeze their vehicles between two bollards placed there to restrict the width of the vehicles able to use the bridge.

The weight restriction is vital to the safety of the bridge and its users, and the three tonne limit must be respected.

So to prevent drivers of larger vehicles mounting the curb, we’re placing two concrete blocks as a temporary measure on the curbs to enforce the restriction.

Meanwhile, we’re considering other longer term solutions more in keeping with the history and conservation of the bridge.

“We want to keep the bridge open to traffic, but we must enforce the weight restriction. This is effectively the final step we can take before having to close the bridge to all vehicles,” said Councillor Stuart Hughes.

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

Autumn term is coming – are you ready?

As families this week make the most of the tail end of the summer holidays, the new school year beckons as many young people prepare to return to, or start new schools.

It can be an exciting time, but also for some an anxious one, particularly for parents and carers of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

Earlier this week, we published a special ‘Back to School’ edition of Connect Me, with help and advice on a range of topics associated with the return to school:

  • supporting your child with school anxiety
  • applying for free school meals
  • getting more wear out of your school uniform
  • travelling to school
  • help with childcare costs
  • a healthy start this Autumn
  • immunisations for pre-school, school, and university-aged young people

If you missed it, you can find it here.

Learn Devon’s adult learners celebrate GCSE results

A belated, but still deserving congratulations to everyone on receiving their exam results.

Of course, it wasn’t just secondary school students collecting their GCSE results last week, our Learn Devon adult learners were also collecting theirs.

Across all four of Learn Devon’s centres – Bideford, Exmouth, Newton Abbot and Tavistock – adult learners dropped in to pick up their results and celebrate their efforts with staff, tutors and their families.

Among those celebrating at the Kennaway Centre in Exmouth after getting her grades was Natasha Cox, who got the Maths GCSE qualification she wanted.

Natasha said:

“I’m over the moon with my results. I worked so hard in the last six months. Fast track maths was a real challenge, but I got the grade, alongside my English GCSE grade.”

David Spelman, also in Exmouth, said:

“I’m really happy and pleased with my result. It’s worth studying the English language course with Learn Devon. I’m now off to study for a BA in History at the University of Exeter.”

And in Tavistock, Martin Ashton received his GCSE Maths qualification. 

He said: “The course itself is challenging but with the environment that was set up for me to be able to study, it made things easier. Tavistock staff went above and beyond to create an environment that I felt comfortable in. The tutor was great and had more faith in me than I had in myself. I would like to say thank you to everyone involved as I wouldn’t have done it without them.”

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

Exe Estuary Trail section to be closed for repairs

We’re having to close a section of the Exe Estuary Trail near Lympstone for three months so we can carry out essential repairs.

The Courtlands Boardwalk, on the trail between Lympstone and Exmouth, needs to be replaced after a routine inspection of the boardwalk found that timber elements of the structure are deteriorating.

We need to replace all 74 wooden spans of the boardwalk and we’re due to start on Monday 18 September.

This section of the trail will be closed while the scheme is carried out to replace the timber structural beams and deck planks with a more durable fibre-reinforced material.

You can read more about this on our news page.

Making it safer for students and staff to walk to and from school

We’re implementing new 20mph speed restrictions near Newton Abbot’s schools and colleges to help ensure that pupils, students and staff can walk to and from school in safety.

Work to make changes, such as new signs and road markings on part or all of 13 roads in the vicinity of the town’s primary and secondary schools, starts in mid- September.

Once we’ve completed the works, part or all of the 13 roads will have 20mph speed restrictions during each school’s drop-off and pick-up times.

The schools and colleges that will benefit are St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School; Combeshead Academy; Decoy Community Primary School; Wolborough C of E Primary; Highweek Primary; and Newton Abbot College.

The 20mph restrictions will be a mixture of mandatory and advisory speed limits, marked out with a variety of signs and road markings.

The times of the restrictions on each road will depend on the opening hours of each school in that road’s vicinity and will be active for an hour before school starts and an hour after it closes.

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

New support for innovative farmers in West Devon and South Hams

We are launching a new programme to support farm businesses in West Devon and the South Hams to improve their productivity through regenerative farming methods.

The Agri-innovation programme aims to help farm businesses to maximise their potential through regenerative and innovative practices which promote healthy soil and reduce carbon emissions.

Support will be provided to 20 farms in the South Hams and another 20 in West Devon.

The scheme is seeking farmers who are open to and enthusiastic about embracing new ideas, methods, equipment, and processes.

They will be supported to identify their farm’s unique potential and viable opportunities, and undertake whatever actions are needed to develop and deliver an Innovation Plan. 

A key aspect of the scheme includes up to 30 hours of one-to-one bespoke support for each farm.

Farmers participating in the programme can also access specialist support worth up to £2,000 to help them implement their innovation business plan.

Find out more in the story on our news page.

Autumn term is coming… are you ready?

Helping your child prepare for a new school year

The prospect of starting a new school year will be exciting for many pupils and others might feel anxious after the long summer break.

It can also be a particularly challenging time for parents and carers of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. 

Young Minds has helpful information and advice on supporting your child with school anxiety.

Here are a few things you can do to make their return to school as comfortable as possible:

  • Talk to your child about how they are feeling 
  • Encourage positive talk about school and ask them what they’re looking forward to
  • Try not to leave shopping for uniform or stationery to the last minute – we all know how stressful it can be! 
  • Give your child your full focus when they return from their first day back. 

The Young Minds website also has tips for working with your child’s school if your child is having difficulties and finding extra help if you need it.

It might take a little while for children to get used to the change, and there will be ups and downs. Try your best to support, reassure and comfort them, without putting pressure on yourself to make it better.

New sessions to help parents of teenagers and pre-teens

The next series of the highly successful webinars, aimed at parents of teenagers and pre-teens, begins in mid September.

And again, the Let’s Talk Teenagers and Let’s Talk Pre-Teens series’ will tackle a range of important topics relevant to young people today, providing advice and guidance to parents and carers.

The Let’s Talk Teenagers sessions will run on Tuesday 19 September, Tuesday 26 September and Tuesday 3 October.

And the Let’s Talk Pre-Teen sessions will run on Thursday 21 September, Thursday 28 September and Thursday 5 October.

To find out more and to book your place, visit the Let’s Talk Teenagers; or the Let’s Talk Pre-Teens webpages.

Do you know a young person heading to university in September?

Students going to university in September are being encouraged to ensure they are up to date with their vaccinations ahead of Freshers’ Week to protect themselves against a range of potentially life-threatening illnesses such as meningitis, septicaemia and measles.

The three vaccines students should get up to date with are:

  1. MenACWY – protecting against four common strains causing meningitis and septicaemia
  2. MMR – protecting against measles, mumps, and rubella
  3. HPV – protecting against human papilloma virus related cancers such as cervical cancer and other cancers of the head, neck and genital areas, and genital warts

UK Health Security Agency data shows around one in eight new students going to college and university this year haven’t yet been vaccinated against meningitis. The MenACWY vaccine is offered to those in school years nine and ten, but anyone who has missed it can still get a free jab with their GP until their 25th birthday.

Anyone unsure about their vaccine status can check with their GP practice to see if they are up to date. Ideally, students should have any missed vaccines at least two weeks before heading to university. If that’s not possible, they should arrange to be vaccinated as soon as possible with their current GP or their new GP practice if they are moving to a different area. 

Are you entitled to apply for free school meals?

All children in reception, year one and year two at state schools in England automatically get free school meals.

However, if you receive certain benefits, you are encouraged to apply for free school meals when you enrol your child in school, as this can help your school to attract additional ‘pupil premium‘ funding to support your child’s learning.

Please apply through our website, as this is the quickest and easiest way and will result in you getting an instant decision. Alternatively, call our Education Helpline on 0345 155 1019.

Getting more wear out of your school uniform

When it comes to buying school uniform, the costs can add up. The Recycle Devon website has tips and advice to help families plan and get the most wear out of their school uniform.

If it’s a little tight or too short, but otherwise in relatively good condition, can you alter it? Our website has tips to help you. Or could you hand it on to someone else, or sell online or donate to a clothing bank or charity shop?

Websites such as FreeglePrelovedGumtree or Freecycle are all good places to pick up bargains! And many schools offer low cost, second hand uniform or uniform swaps.

You can also find out what the latest deals are on buying new uniform from the MoneySavingExpert website.

Immunisation advice to parents and carers ahead of the new school year

Steve Brown, our Director of Public Health Devon gave the following advice to parents and carers this week ahead of schools returning for the new term.

“Starting or returning to school is an exciting time for children,” said Steve.

“But as they will be mixing with lots of other children, making sure they are up to date with their routine immunisations gives them the best protection from what can potentially be very harmful infections.”

list of vaccinations that your child should have had, by age and by when, is available on the NHS website.

But if you’re not sure if your child has had all of their vaccinations, you can check their personal health record (their red book), or if you have questions, you can contact your child’s doctor’s surgery.

If you have any concerns about vaccinations, you can read more about them on the NHS website.

There are also vaccination tips for parents and carers to help your child’s vaccination appointment go smoothly.

The NHS also has helpful information online to help parents and carers know how long their child should be kept off school when they are ill.

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

Get a healthy start this Autumn

If you receive certain benefits and are more than ten weeks pregnant, or have at least one child under four years old, you may be entitled to get help to buy healthy food and milk.

If you’re eligible, you’ll be sent a Healthy Start card, with money added every four weeks to buy cow’s milk, fresh, frozen, and tinned fruit and vegetables, fresh, dried, and tinned pulses and infant formula milk based on cow’s milk.

You can also use your card to collect Healthy Start vitamins to support you during pregnancy and breastfeeding and vitamin drops for babies and young children suitable from birth to four years old. 

Find out how to apply for the Healthy Start scheme

Travelling to school

We encourage all children to walk, cycle or scoot to school if they can, because teachers tell us that pupils who travel actively arrive more alert and ready for learning, as well as generally happier.  

Active travel also helps parents and carers stay fit, helps the environment and might save you money. Even if your family can only make the change a couple of days a week, or for just one leg of the journey to and from school, it will make a big difference. Our recycling centres often have bikes and scooters in their resale shops at bargain prices!

If your child isn’t able to walk, cycle or scoot, could they use public transport instead? And if you do have to drive your child to school, please consider parking a ten minute walk away to help keep the school entrance clear of traffic. 

We provide free school transport to more than 16,000 pupils across Devon. Families who qualify should have received information from us regarding arrangements for the new term, and the majority of school bus passes have now been sent out. However, if you have not heard from us, or you have a query, please call us on 0345 155 1019.

Help with childcare costs

The cost of childcare can take up a large chunk of the family budget. Whether you have toddlers or teens, you could get support. 

There are several government schemes to help families with childcare costs, each one tailored to different needs, incomes and children’s ages. They’re not just to help pay for nurseries and childminders during term time, they can also cover wraparound childcare before and after school as well as help during the holidays.

To find out about all the schemes, visit the government’s Child Care Choices website and enter your details to see how you can save money on your childcare.

You can find local family support and childcare providers via our Pinpoint website.

We have a duty to ensure there is enough childcare to meet parents’ needs. Use our online form to tell us if you haven’t been able to find the childcare you need.

Help and advice about what’s next after exams!

Thousands of students across Devon received their A Level, AS Level, T Level, BTEC, vocational and technical qualification (VTQs) and GCSE results this month. 

We are incredibly proud of what learners in Devon achieve through hard work and dedication, and we will continue to ensure that our county is a place that people can thrive and have opportunities to fulfil their potential. 

Whatever the results, there are many opportunities ahead, be that further education, training or employment, and we’ve put together a special edition of our newsletter to highlight what’s available and where to find all the information.

Free trees; exam successes and green your clean!

Well done everyone!

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

Exam successes for care experienced young people

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

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

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

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

Her carer, Michelle, said:

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

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

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

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

Linking rural communities to town centre, rail and tourist attractions 

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

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

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

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

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

Helping care experienced young people secure accommodation

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

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

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

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

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

Free support for self-employed carers in Devon

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

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

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

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

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

Applications invited for free tree scheme

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plumber who defrauded pensioners sentenced

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

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

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

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

On sentencing, Judge Zeb told Coombes:

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

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

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

Re-use your plastic bottles for cleaning products

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

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

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

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

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

Bikeability training in Devon among best in country

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

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

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

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

Help and advice about what’s next after exams! Here are some options for people receiving their A-Level, BTECs, and GCSE results

Your career, supercharged!

Are you planning the first steps in a new career or know someone who is?

Train4Tomorrow Skills Bootcamps offer free, flexible skills training to adults aged 19 and over in Devon and Cornwall and to date have helped thousands supercharge their skills and ignite their careers. The courses take up to 16 weeks and give learners the opportunity to gain industry-specific skills and fast-track to an interview with an employer.

There are lots of courses starting in September across a variety of exciting sectors like green, digital, construction and professional services. Don’t miss out, visit our website to find out more and book your place!

You can also find out what some of our Skills Bootcamps graduates have to say about their experience!

Find a career you’ll care about!

We know a lot of young people are thinking about the next steps in their careers at the moment. If you’re passionate about helping people, then a career in social care and health might be for you!

We’re raising awareness of the many, varied and rewarding careers that are possible in social care and health as well as the different pathways young people can take into the sector, through school, college, vocational courses and university degrees.

Whatever your skill set, there’s a career path to suit you.

Visit the Proud to Care Devon website to explore different roles and read more about some of the amazing people doing them already.

Exam results drop-in sessions at Youth Hub Devon

Whether your results are better than you thought or different from what you were expecting you may be looking for advice or support about what to do next.

Youth Hub Devon is offering dedicated drop-in sessions for everyone receiving their GCSE and A Level results.

The service helps young people aged 16 to 24 to get the right training, support and guidance to help them with their futures.

They provide a range of help including CV and interview support, advice on searching for a job or an apprenticeship, or simply some career guidance..

They’ve got dedicated sessions this week, but support is available throughout the year from their base at Exeter Library.

It’s open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, from 9:30am to 4:30pm; Wednesday, from 10am to 5pm; and Friday, from 9:30am to 4:30pm for virtual appointments.

Young people can drop in for an initial chat (please note that appointments are on a first come first served basis, so we may ask you to wait) and to book a further appointment. Alternatively, you can book an appointment via our website

Think you know local government? Think again.

At Devon County Council all of our employees are supported and encouraged to grow to reach their full potential, whilst doing something good and making a difference for those around you.

We recognise that full-time study isn’t for everyone, and for some, they are ready to take the first step in their career. There are so many exciting early career opportunities with Devon County Council, with lots of varied options, from apprenticeships, work experience, supported internships, and T Level industry placements.

We currently offer apprenticeships in Business and Administration, Customer Service, Civil Engineering, Assistant Accountancy and Social Work, on an annual basis. As well as a variety of apprenticeships from entry-level roles, up to degree-level roles on an ad hoc basis.

Take the First Step in your career journey and gain experience with Devon County Council.

Hear from one of our previous apprentices, Paiton, on her career journey with Devon County Council so far.

Council congratulates young people in care and care leavers for being achievers

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, our Cabinet Member with responsibility for education, has congratulated young people in our care and care leavers on achieving their A-level, AS-level, T-level and BTEC qualifications.

And he wishes good luck to all those with care experience due to receive their GCSE results tomorrow, (Thursday).

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

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

Katie’s carer, said:

“I’m so proud of Katie for all the hard work and commitment that she has shown.”

You can read the full story on our news page.

Qualifications are important, but so is mental health

Getting your exam results can be a worrying time. Even if you got the results you wanted, planning for the next stage of your life can be emotionally challenging. And for those who didn’t get the grades they were expecting, it can be especially difficult.

With many young people’s university and college hopes dependent on exam results, this time of year can prove stressful which, in some extreme cases, can lead to periods of anxiety, isolation and depression.

If you’re upset, disappointed, or worried about your future, it can really help to talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling. 

In Devon, there are two digital mental health offers to help young people. For anyone aged 11 to18 years old, there’s Kooth, and for those over 18 there’s a service called Qwell. Both offer free, safe and confidential online support and it’s really simple to set up an account.

If you’re a parent or guardian of a young person, Action for Children has some useful advice about how you can help support your child during this period.

Congratulations on exam results, and next steps with our Work Hub; Investment scam warning; New powers to ease congestion; and the winter vomiting bug, in August!


We want to start this week’s newsletter by saying a huge well done to everyone who received their A Level, AS Level, T Level, BTECs or other vocational and technical qualification results yesterday.

And thank you to all our education staff for their invaluable commitment and to all the family and friends who provide support to help others achieve their goals.

In particular, we also want to congratulate all of our children in care and care leavers who have worked hard to achieve their results. 

We are incredibly proud of what learners in Devon achieve through hard work and dedication, and we will continue to ensure that our county is a place that people can thrive and have opportunities to fulfil their potential. 

Look out for a special edition of this newsletter next week with details of what education, training and employment support is available in Devon.

Exam results drop-in sessions at Youth Hub Devon

Our Youth Hub Devon service is offering drop-in support sessions to everyone who received their A-Level, T-Level and AS-Level results yesterday and those awaiting their GCSE results next week.

Whether your results are better than you thought or different from what you were expecting, you may be looking for advice or support about what to do next.

The exam result drop-in sessions provide a safe space to have an initial chat and book in for further support.

The sessions are being held at Youth Hub Devon in Exeter Library from 9:30am to 4pm on Thursday 24 August and Friday 25 August.

For anyone who can’t make the drop-in session dates, you can book an appointment for another day.

Youth Hub Devon is also recommending a number of online resources for A Level and GCSE students for results day and beyond. You can read more about that in the story on our news page.

People need to be on their guard, warns scams expert

Consumers’ champion, Martin Lewis, has repeated his advice for people not to engage with online adverts promoting investments.

“Martin never does adverts and never promotes investments,” said his spokesman. “Anything you see suggesting otherwise is fraudulent and a scam.”

The rebuke was in response to a scam that left a Somerset resident £40,000 poorer. Responding to a post that the resident had seen on Facebook, she became embroiled with a cryptocurrency investment scheme that she believed was backed by Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert.

Instead, she was groomed by online scammers who took out several loans in her name. And when thousands of pounds appeared in her account, the scammer called her, demanding that she transfer the money to her online trading platform which was a scam.

“Cryptocurrency, bitcoin, and any type of investment scam is big at the moment,” warned Janet Quinn our Trading Standards lead on scams this week. The best advice is to be really cynical and think everything is a scam,” she said.

You can find more information and advice in the news story on our website, including advice to ‘Take 5 to stop fraud’.

Proposals to take on new powers to ease congestion

Traffic offences, such as driving through a no entry sign, making a turn where you’re not allowed to, driving in the bus lane…they’re all potentially dangerous, and they’re all enforceable by the police.

But we and a few other highways authorities in England are looking to apply to the Department of Transport (DfT) to take on the enforcement of such ‘moving traffic offences’ from the police.

If the DfT give us their approval, we’d initially focus on eight specific sites in Exeter and Barnstaple where we know vehicles are contravening the restrictions – ignoring a one-way restriction, for example.

We’d like to know what you think about us taking on the enforcement responsibility for these sorts of offences, and we’re asking whether people agree, are neutral, or disagree with camera enforcement at each of the eight locations we’ve identified.

You can read more about the proposal including where the eight sites are in the story on our news page.

Or visit our website to find details and a link to where you can leave a comment.

Traders reminded to check ID for sales of age-restricted goods

Test purchase operations are sometimes used to find out if retailers are following the law. Our Trading Standards service has recently carried out some test purchasing to see if retailers in Devon and Torbay were selling age-restricted products to under 18-year-olds.

And some of them were. Trading Standards sent a volunteer, under the age of 18-years-old, to different premises to buy alcohol and vapes. Four out of 19 premises approached sold our volunteer disposable vapes.

“We’ve seen a huge increase in vaping as an alternative to cigarettes over the last few years,” said Sharon Anderson, Group Manager Investigations and Compliance for Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service.

“The bright colours and sweet flavours are now worryingly attracting younger audiences, so it’s essential that store owners ensure that they do not sell these products to children.”

Trading Standards have closed two businesses this year for selling vapes to children. So traders are being reminded that they’re putting their livelihoods at risk by not asking for identification when selling age-restricted goods.

Businesses can contact Trading Standards for advice and guidance on the sale of products to underage people, and there’s a toolkit with training material to help guide businesses.

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

Norovirus, the winter vomiting bug…in August!

We are seeing slightly more norovirus in the community than normal for this time of the year.

Norovirus, also called the “winter vomiting bug”, is a stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhoea. It’s rather unpleasant but short-lived for most. For some though, it can have more of an impact. Symptoms include feeling sick or being sick and diarrhoea, but can also include a high temperature, headache, or aching arms and legs.

The best way to protect yourself and others is to wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water – and always after going to the toilet and before you prepare or eat any food. Alcohol gels won’t kill norovirus.

If you do get it there are things you can do to help yourself and to avoid passing it to others:

  • drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration
  • stay at home until 48 hours after symptoms have stopped
  • avoid cooking and helping prepare meals for others where possible until 48 hours after symptoms have stopped
  • wash any contaminated clothes and bedding at 60 degrees and disinfect contaminated surfaces

If you are concerned about your symptoms, talk to your GP by phone, contact NHS 111 or visit the NHS norovirus webpage

You can read more in the UKHSA blog about what to do if you catch it and how you can stop it spreading.

Don’t forget – repeat prescriptions ahead of the Bank Holiday!

Don’t forget to order any repeat prescriptions you may need now ahead of the August bank holiday on Monday 28 August.

GP practices and pharmacies will have limited opening hours over the bank holiday weekend, so ensure you have the medication you need. To ensure your health is not put at any unnecessary risk, please submit any repeat prescriptions that are due for renewal now as most practices ask patients to order prescriptions at least three working days in advance.

It’s now also quicker and easier to order repeat prescriptions is by using GP online services, via the NHS App or through your GP practice website.