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Devon County Council Bulletins

Helping children aspire to reach their potential; Pause on plans to stop support for homelessness; Understanding healthy relationships; Childcare availability in Devon; COVID-19 booster; and Let’s Talk Teenagers

Helping our children aspire to reach their full potential

Ask any young child what they want to do when they grow up, and you may possibly hear something influenced by what they’ve seen on TV – for example, a sports person or a pop star.

Or they may have heard about jobs that members of their family, or their friends’ families have, and would like to do that. Or they may simply not have thought much about it at all.

But the conversations around the table at home, and the things that children and young people hear at home, help them formulate ideas and ambitions about their future.

But some young people grow up within an atmosphere where there hasn’t been support or encouragement, and if they’re not seeing or hearing positive opportunities that they’d like for themselves, then perhaps it’s harder for them to see their own full potential.

That’s what we’ve been thinking about for children and young people in our care, who for a range of reasons do not live with their parents, and who have had very difficult starts in life.

For this extended article, we spoke to Wendy Ohlson, Headteacher of Devon’s Virtual School, which links all of Devon’s schools with additional support for children in care.

You can find out about the work that we’re doing with Exeter College and the University of Exeter to help young people in our care to aspire with their education and ambitions in life. And about our mentoring scheme and work with the charity, Young Devon, to help support children in our care who are at most risk of disengaging with their education.

Council Leader pauses plans to stop funding support for homeless people

Our Leader, Councillor John Hart, has paused plans to stop funding support for homeless people.

We currently provide financial support to organisations that help people who are homeless, or are at risk of becoming homeless, even though we don’t have a statutory responsibility to do so.

The proposal to cut our discretionary spending was originally made to help us balance our books in response to soaring demand for our statutory services.

But Councillor Hart has paused the proposal, having listened to members of the public speak passionately of the impact that the proposed cut could have on them and others.

“We need to take stock and understand more fully the impact of any proposal,” he said this week.

“I am putting a pause on the decision so that we can have a full and frank discussion with our eight district and city council leaders and officers. I also want to involve agencies such as the Police and Public Health, to see a full and accurate picture across the county.”

A report will now go to our Cabinet in December with a proposal for how the service could work in future that can be agreed with all of Devon’s district and city councils.

You can read the full story on our news page.

Understanding healthy relationship needs in Devon

We have launched a survey that hopes to gather information from people who sadly have lived experience of domestic abuse.

We want the study to inform how best we can support people, who are experiencing domestic abuse, in the future.

We work with several local organisations that deliver projects that support people experiencing domestic abuse, and some of those services say that they’re seeing growing numbers of cases in which coercive behaviour or financial abuse is present.

Our current contract with providers is due to end in early 2025, so we are thoroughly reviewing the support now to make sure that we will be commissioning the services that people and families need in the future.

To do that, we are working with domestic abuse charities and support providers, and with known survivors of abuse. But we also want to reach people who have experienced abuse but perhaps are unknown to support groups. 

We want to better understand how people in Devon see issues around family relationships, domestic abuse and violence and how these impact on their daily lives. We don’t just mean couples, but also relationships between siblings, child and parent relationships and friendships too.

All information shared will be completely confidential and will help us better understand what people who face abuse in Devon need in order to develop future services.

The survey can be found on our Have Your Say webpage. The deadline for responses is Thursday 31 August.

Helping to ensure that there’s enough childcare available in Devon

We’re asking parents to help us ensure that there are enough childcare places in all areas of the county, by taking part in our online survey.

In the Parents Childcare Survey, we ask questions including where you live; the kind of childcare you use; your entitlement to government-funded childcare; and the number of hours your child spends in childcare each week.

The results will help our Early Years and Childcare Team to plan and ensure that there is enough childcare available throughout the county.

We know, for example, that there are some areas of the county where there’s a shortage of childcare provision.

Our survey is available online and will be open until Sunday 10 September. We would like as many people as possible to take part in the survey, whether you currently use childcare or not.

You can read more about the survey and current provision of childcare in the county in the news story on our website.

Autumn COVID-19 booster programme announced

This week, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI) announced details of the autumn COVID-19 booster programme. People at greatest risk of serious illness from COVID-19, eligible for the autumn vaccine booster, include:

  • residents in care homes for older adults
  • all adults aged 65 years and over
  • people aged 6 months to 64 years in a clinical risk group, as defined in tables 3 and 4 of the COVID-19 chapter of the UKHSA Green Book on Immunisation
  • frontline health and social care workers
  • people aged 12 to 64 years who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression, as defined in the UKHSA Green Book
  • people aged 16 to 64 years who are carers, as defined in the UKHSA Green Book, and staff working in care homes for older adultsThe risk of severe COVID-19 continues to be strongly associated with increasing age and underlying health conditions.

NHS England will confirm details of how and when eligible people can access the autumn booster vaccine soon, although the JCVI has advised that the autumn programme should aim to complete vaccinations by early December 2023.

Vaccines help to protect against severe illness, hospitalisations and deaths from coronavirus. Last year’s autumn booster programme saw almost 84 per cent of over-80s vaccinated and more than 73 per cent of 65 to 70-year-olds, protecting the most vulnerable and helping us to live with COVID-19.

New sessions to help parents of teenagers and pre-teens

The next in the series of highly successful webinars aimed at parents of teenagers and pre-teens, are about to begin.

And again, the Let’s Talk Teenagers and Let’s Talk Pre-Teens series will cover  a range of topics relevant to young people.

The series provides online support sessions and an opportunity for parents and carers of teenagers and pre-teens to hear about the challenges young people are facing today, and discover ways to help them navigate their way through them.

Delivered by parenting experts, they discuss the tools and techniques that can be used to support young people and their communities.

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.

Both series will tackle a range of important topics relevant to young people today, providing advice and guidance to parents and carers.

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

School extension gets underway at Sherford Vale

Sherford, the growing new community near Plymouth, will have, when complete, 5,500 new homes in three distinct neighbourhoods, four schools, community facilities, shops, employment and retail space and open country parkland.

Keeping up with the growth, a major new extension to Sherford Vale Primary School began this week, which will double the capacity of the school from 210 to 420 pupils between the ages of two and 11 years.

The extension of Sherford Vale Primary School will mark the completion of the first of four new schools that will serve the new town and surrounding areas.

Susie Evans, Headteacher at Sherford Vale, said:

“As Sherford continues to grow, the expansion of Sherford Vale means that we can offer school places to twice as many local children. We have already created an exceptional place to learn, play and grow and look forward to welcoming many more families into our community.”

You can read more about the school and the new extension in the story on our news page.

Caught exceeding the speed limit; Coronavirus cases rise slightly in the South West; Active Streets trial starts in Exeter; Broken things fixed at The BIG FIX; and ready for coworking?

Data shows a rise in coronavirus cases in the South West

There was a report this week of a national rise in the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, with the highest rates currently in the South West of England. 

It took data from the ZOE health app, which indicates that there are between 931 and 1,628 new cases per million people, every day in the South West, with a 30 per cent rise overall in daily cases since the start of July.

On the face of it, that sounds quite significant, but the overall levels are very low, says Public Health Devon. 

Simon Chant, Public Health Devon’s data expert, explains:

“Really, what we’re seeing is the regular ebb and flow of coronavirus cases in the UK, which has been present and will be present for some time to come. While a headline grabbing ’30 per cent rise’ sounds like a lot, it’s from a relatively low baseline at the start of July, and therefore we shouldn’t read too much into it at this point. It is however an important reminder to us all that coronavirus hasn’t gone away, and that we need to keep an eye on it.”

As more is known now about coronavirus, and as the virus itself has evolved and changed over time, there are now more symptoms attributed to COVID-19.

The NHS website lists the current symptoms and has advice for people who may have them. It also has advice for people who test positive, although you are no longer required to do a COVID-19 rapid lateral flow test if you have symptoms.

Active Streets trial starts in an area of Exeter

“I want to thank everyone who attended our information events who asked questions and gave verbal feedback,” said Councillor Su Aves, one of our local members in Heavitree, following two public engagement events about the Heavitree and Whipton ‘Active Streets’ trial.

The trial began yesterday, (Thursday 3 August), and aims to address the 2,000 plus vehicles that travel along many of the residential streets in the Heavitree and Whipton area each day, deterring people from walking or cycling.

The trial seeks to make a safer, cleaner less congested environment for people to walk and cycle.

It will run for up to 18 months but may be amended or halted during this timescale. Public consultation will run during the first six months, and local residents are invited to let us know what they think.

More public engagement events are planned to run during September, which we’ll publicise nearer the time.

For more information about the consultation, visit our webpage,

Or you can read more in the story on our news page.

Plea to slow down!

More than 1,800 drivers were caught exceeding the speed limit on a 40mph stretch of the busy A380 Torbay Link Road, in just over six hours of speed monitoring.

1,821 drivers were detected travelling over the speed limit, of which 126 drivers were travelling over 60mph.

The top speed recorded on the 40mph stretch of road was 75mph.

Between 2018 and 2022, there have been nine serious collisions and 30 slight collisions on the A380 between Edginswell and Tweenaway Cross, prompting a safety warning from Devon & Cornwall Police’s Head of Road Safety, Superintendent Adrian Leisk.

“We know that speed is a major cause in fatal and serious collisions,” he said. “Travelling too fast not only gives you less time to react but also significantly increases the likelihood of sustaining fatal or serious injuries in the event of a crash.”

Vision Zero partners – that’s ourselves, Devon & Cornwall Police, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, South Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust, Devon Air Ambulance, Plymouth City Council, Torbay Council and others – have all issued a plea to motorists to slow down.

The Speed Detection Team will be making regular visits to this section over the coming weeks.

“This isn’t about making money, it’s about keeping people safe,” said Superintendent Leisk.

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

Helping transform connectivity in Woolacombe

Owners of a popular caravan and camping site, looking out across picturesque Woolacombe Bay, have struggled for years with a slow internet connection.

Now, through our Connecting Devon and Somerset programme, their business has been ‘transformed’, using Airband’s full fibre network.

“Whatever business you’re running, you have to have a good internet connection,” says Helen, one of the Directors and owners of Damage Barton Caravan and Camping Site.

“Everything’s gone online these days, so updating our accounts, our payroll and online booking was becoming impossible when we had a speed of less than 1Mbps.

“Airband came in and it has transformed it. It’s brought us up to date. We’ve got a fast enough speed now to run our business easily. Our online booking system is more reliable and customers get a good connection across the site, whether they’re in a tent at the bottom of the site or in the biggest motorhome right by our reception. Good connectivity improves the overall customer experience during their stay.”

You can read more about Helen and the difference that good, reliable broadband has made to her business, in the story on our news page.

2,761 ‘broken things’ repaired at BIG FIX 2023

Thousands of broken things were repaired in May as part of The BIG FIX 2023, coordinated by us.

Over 800 volunteers from Devon and across the UK joined forces to help 2,242 residents fix their broken belongings, preventing the items from going to waste.

Skilled volunteers at Repair Cafes up and down the country gave over 3,500 hours of their time to fix everything from jewellery and clothing to electricals and bicycles.

83 Repair Cafes took part across the month, successfully fixing 2,761 broken items.

The repairs resulted in an emission saving equivalent to flying nearly 80,000 miles, driving 125,500 miles and showering 3,966 times!

“Thank you to everyone in Devon and nationally who took part in The BIG FIX 2023,” said Councillor Roger Croad. “It’s great that Devon is leading the way in coordinating this very worthy event.”

You can read the full story on our news page.

National campaign encourages people to ‘Take the Bus’

The government has launched a campaign to encourage people over the age of 66, and others eligible for concessionary bus journeys, to make the most of free bus travel to meet friends, connect with nature and visit new places this summer.

The ‘Take the Bus‘ campaign comes as statistics show concessionary journeys are down by more than a third since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

It reminds passholders of the benefits of using bus travel, including staying active, visiting new places, taking up hobbies and seeing friends and family while saving money on travel.

Along with the current £2 bus fare cap scheme, the campaign aims to get more people using the bus to help reduce congestion and emissions while supporting the bus industry and helping grow the economy.

For those looking for free or low-cost events happening across England this summer, there is a new interactive map, linked to a Help for Households campaign.

And for more local ideas, visit our Travel Devon website.

Ready to give coworking a try?

If you’re an entrepreneur, freelancer, self-employed or someone whose week includes working remotely, and you fancy seeing what coworking is all about, now’s your chance.

Some of our Devon work hubs are marking International Coworking Day next week by inviting people to come and give coworking a try.

People usually become members of a Work Hub, but on Wednesday 9 August, these hubs are offering free trial coworking days for non-members.

  • Devon Business and Education Centre, in Payhembury
  • The Generator Hub, in Exeter
  • The Hub at The Bookery bookshop, in Crediton
  • The Tribe, for female entrepreneurs in Totnes

The day is an opportunity for people to experience coworking and see that our work hubs are far more than simply desk space. The many advantages include flexible working, networking and collaborative opportunities with like-minded people.

You can read more about the benefits of coworking, and details about taking up the invite, in the story on our news page.

Autumn adult learners programme; Holiday activity places available; Grants to help local communities; Summer health tips; and Free summer challenge

Learn Devon’s autumn programme is now live! 

With over 100 exciting courses on offer for adult learners, Learn Devon will have something for you. 

Whether you are looking to learn something new, gain a qualification or just brush up on your skills, Learn Devon has got you covered.  

Learn Devon has a range of courses available from digital skills and IT, English and maths qualifications (including GCSE and Functional Skills) to education and training courses and much more. Learn Devon also has courses for adults with learning difficulties and English courses for speakers of other languages (ESOL). 

The courses provide a mixture of face-to-face and online options to suit your learning needs. 

To see the full programme online and register today, please visit the Learn Devon website.

Summer holiday activity and food programme places available

Sixty seven holiday activity providers; 106 clubs; more than 3,000 places available per week; a total 49,000 places over the summer holidays – that’s the impressive scale of our Holiday Activities and Food programme, 2023.

Take-up so far by young people is good, but there are still places available.

Parents of children aged five to 16, who receive benefit-related free school meals, are invited to take part in a range of exciting activities these summer holidays.

A full list of the activities and how to apply are on our Holiday Activities and Food programme website.

Sports including swimming and football, paddleboarding, kayaking, canoeing, mountain biking, arts and craft, treasure hunts, forest school, magicians and storytellers…the list goes on.

And this year there are more places available for secondary school age ranges, with activities including go-karting, climbing, trampolining, high ropes and surfing.

Parents can find out more on our Holiday Activities and Food Programme website.

Grants available to groups that also help families eat good, nutritious food

Grants available to groups who are giving their community a helping hand

This month we have been marking the first birthday of our Growing Communities Fund.

We set up the fund to help local groups and organisations to become more resilient and help those in their communities cope with these financial pressures.

Since its launch, we have awarded more than £530,000 to 300 different local projects, many of which are helping communities cope with continued high costs of food and bills.

If you’re involved with a group that improves people’s wellbeing, reduces isolation, helps families eat good, nutritious food, or aims to provide a warm safe space this winter, you can still apply for a grant. 

You can complete and submit the grants application form online.

For more information, please contact or call 01392 383379.

Essential summer health tips for going abroad

It’s the start of the school summer holidays, and with lots of people planning a trip abroad, the Government’s UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is reminding summer travellers of simple steps to reduce their risk of common infections such as diarrhoeal illness, measles, malaria, dengue and other infections carried by mosquitoes. 

The advice includes watching what you eat and drink; being aware of the heat; protecting yourself against mosquito bites; staying safe from rabies and reducing your risk of catching sexually transmitted infections. 

Look up local health risks and country-specific advice before you go, including recommended vaccinations as some countries will have specific vaccine requirements or entry restrictions.

It is also important to make sure you or your family are up to date with vaccinations in England’s routine immunisation programmes, including measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), as these infections are more common in some countries than in the UK.

For more information please visit the UKHSA website.

Work starts on Cullompton’s Higher Bullring

The Higher Bullring in Cullompton is being given a facelift, with work underway to create a new square around the war memorial, enhancing its heritage setting.

The improvements form part of the High Street Heritage Action Zone, a national project led by Historic England which aims to unlock the potential of High Streets across England, making them more attractive, engaging and vibrant places for people to live, work and spend time.

Cullompton is one of only 10 places in the South West to receive funding. Historic England is providing £1.1million, and we’ve match funded the project with Mid Devon District Council and Cullompton Town Council.

There will be new high quality paving, drainage, benches, planters, cycle parking and bins as well as a new bus shelter with a green living roof. The works will create a larger, more flexible and functional public space that can be used for events and activities.

Work will be phased during the five month construction period to minimise disruption. However, temporary traffic lights will be in place during the first few weeks of work, which will impact traffic flow.

Being active isn’t always about being sporty. Gardening is also a healthy activity.

Let’s Move – Free Summer Challenge

The summer holidays can mean lots of lovely time together, but finding things to do and keep everyone entertained can be hard work!

Active Devon has launched a free, fun Devon-wide community challenge to help get you, your friends and family moving more during the summer. The Let’s Move challenge invites you to ‘buddy up’ and create a group of your Devon based family and friends to each do a minimum of 26 minutes of activity every day throughout August.

You might decide to go on a dog walk or take part in a scavenger hunt, or maybe go cycling, do some gardening or have a swim. Any activity counts, so it’s whatever suits you.

There’s a free app to download so you can keep track of your team’s daily activity. There’s also a leader board showing which areas of Devon have completed the most logged activity, and lots of different prizes up for grabs.

Please fill in this form to let Active Devon know that you would like to take part.

Get around for £2 all summer!

Make your days out more affordable this summer by switching your car journey for the bus!

With fares for £2 or less all throughout Devon until the end of October, there’s never been a better time to travel by bus to visit some incredible places across the county. 

It’s thanks to the Government’s fare cap, which was introduced in January to help  with the cost of living and encourage more people to travel sustainably. 

For more information on the £2 single fares scheme, terms and conditions and exclusions, visit the Travel Devon website.

World Hepatitis Day

Today (Friday 28 July) is World Hepatitis Day which helps raise awareness of the disease, along with the testing and treatment options available.

Hepatitis C is a viral infection which is passed on through blood-to-blood contact with an infected person and can cause inflammation of the liver. In the UK, it’s most commonly spread through sharing needles used to inject drugs.

Outside of the UK, it’s often spread through poor healthcare practices and unsafe medical injections.

If you think you may have been exposed to Hepatitis C, taking a test will put your mind at rest, or if the test is positive, allow you to start treatment early.

With a free, confidential home finger prick test from the NHS, you can get results in days. You can also get tested for Hepatitis C at GP surgeries, sexual health clinics, or drug treatment services. Find out more on the NHS website.

Play Libraries Unlimited’s fundraising lottery

Fancy the chance to win £25,000 each week and support vital library services in Devon? 

Libraries Unlimited, the charity that runs libraries in Devon on our behalf, are inviting residents to take part in their weekly online lottery.

It’s done through One Lottery, the leading lottery provider for good causes in the UK. Tickets are just £1 and 50 per cent goes back into providing library services in the county.

Celebrations, consultations and competitions… oh my!

Our Country Parks retain the coveted Green Flag Award

Our two country parks are celebrating after receiving a Green Flag Award again. The accreditation retained by Stover Country Park near Newton Abbot and the Grand Western Canal Country Park in Tiverton is the international quality mark for parks and green spaces. This year marks the 20th consecutive year that Stover Country Park has received the award, and at the Grand Western Canal Country Park, it’s 15 years.

The Restoring Stover Park Lottery Project is underway, which will conserve the historic and wildlife interest at the site as well as facilitate new user groups, including the Stover Community Shed initiative. The Friends of Stover Country Park funded the construction of a life-size horse and carriage sculpture earlier this year through the Co-op’s Local Community Fund.

In recent months, the Grand Western Canal has benefited from a range of improvements such as resurfacing a three-quarter mile stretch of the towpath near Sampford Peverell to improve access and installing several new noticeboards. The Canal Country Park has also received police accreditation for the Canal Ranger team and volunteer Community Patrol Boat crew to help deal with anti-social behaviour.

Well done to the staff and volunteers who maintain the consistently high standards that make these parks such great habitats for our local wildlife as well as being special green spaces for the rest of us to enjoy.

Celebrating Keira’s Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award

Like any parent, we like to celebrate the successes and achievements of the children and young people who are, or have been, in our care.

Today, we’re celebrating nineteen-year-old, Keira Connolly’s amazing achievement of gaining her Gold, Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Award.

We spoke to Keira to ask her why she’d decided to complete not just the Bronze, but then the Silver and Gold DofE awards.

“It seemed fun,” she said. “I really enjoyed the first, so did the second one. By the time I finished that, I was determined to do all three. And besides, my Gold gave me something to do through the lockdown, so I didn’t go insane!”

Visit our news webpage to learn more about Keira’s inspiring story of accomplishment, from starting her Bronze award aged 14, through to her Silver award, and as she moved into foster care, her Gold DofE challenge.

We and Keira’s foster carer are proud of her.

“As corporate parents to all of our children in care, it is especially heartening to see our care experienced young people achieving and doing well,” said Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Cabinet Member with responsibility for children’s services.

Manager, Nick Meller, speaking to guests about our Y-Smart and REACH team services

Services helping to safeguard young people celebrate their anniversaries

Two of our services that support children and young people have been applauded by those who have used the services, at an anniversary celebration this week.

Y-Smart supports children and young people who have drug or alcohol-related issues, and those who experience parents or carers and siblings misusing drugs or alcohol.

The service has helped thousands of young people in the 21 years it’s been operating.

In addition our REACH Team, which supports young people at risk of going missing from care or home and potentially becoming victims of exploitation, has been running for 10 years.

Both services play a vital role in safeguarding and protecting vulnerable children and young people from harm.

One man described how Y-Smart had helped him when he was younger, while his mum had alcohol and mental health problems.

Parents have also praised both of our services, with one describing the care worker for her daughter, as ‘amazing’.

You can read the full story on our news page.

Christian Wolmar, Honorary President of Railfuture, presents award to Councillor Andrea Davis

Devon honoured to receive Railfuture award

Britain’s leading independent organisation campaigning for better rail services has honoured us with a prestigious award. Railfuture named us a ‘torch bearer in rail development’ and presented Councillor Andrea Davis, our Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport, with its Judges’ Special Award.

The accolade from the judges of Railfuture’s Rail User Group (RUG) awards is in recognition of our sustained delivery of rail projects across Devon. This was the first time Railfuture has presented an award to a local authority. We were praised for a series of rail and public transport improvements including:

  • the opening of Marsh Barton Station as the most recent of three new stations in the Devon Metro,
  • being awarded Department for Transport (DfT) funding for the Strategic Outline Business Case for the Tavistock to Plymouth Restoring Your Railway project,
  • our role in the reopening of the Dartmoor Line, followed by securing Levelling Up funding for a new rail station on the east side of Okehampton,
  • strengthening bus and rail integration with dedicated bus links including connections between Tavistock, Bude and Launceston with the Dartmoor Line and providing additional funding for bus services in rural North Devon to enhance connections to Barnstaple Railway Station.

They also highlighted that these projects had been achieved through Devon’s close work with train operators and other key stakeholders.

Academy praised for ‘outstanding’ SEND provision

Our Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, has praised Yeo Valley Primary School this week on their teaching of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), which Ofsted inspectors say is ‘outstanding’.

The school in Barnstaple was inspected in May. Inspectors singled out the quality of the school’s SEND and Early Years provision as being outstanding.

Many children with SEND can thrive in mainstream, local schools if the right support is put in place.

Ofsted inspector, Gavin Summerfield said,

“Pupils are proud to come to this welcoming and inclusive school.”

He also said, “Leaders ensure that they have high expectations of pupils, including those with special educational needs and/or disabilities,” and that “leaders identify the needs of pupils with SEND quickly and accurately.”

Councillor Leadbetter said:

“The inspector’s comments show it is possible to identify and support special educational needs in a mainstream setting. We are working hard with the education sector to make Devon schools more inclusive so that more children with SEND can thrive in their local, mainstream school.”

You can read the full story on our news webpage.

Keep it green this summer and win a day out

This summer Devon’s residents are being encouraged to keep it green and take a pledge to win one of five Big Green Days Out.

Recycle Devon has teamed up with Devon’s Top Attractions, Stagecoach South West, Great Western Railway, Devon Climate Emergency (DCE) and Clean Devon to share tips on how to enjoy a day out, the green way. They include:

The prizes consist of a reusable, eco picnic set, reusable water bottles, Devon’s Top Attractions entry tickets, Stagecoach tickets and rail tickets. Each pledge entry will be added to a prize draw, to be drawn on Monday 7 August 2023.

To make the pledge and enter the prize draw, visit the Recycle Devon website.

Better walking and cycling facilities in Exmouth? We want to know your views!

We’re asking people to help us develop proposals to improve walking and cycling facilities around Exmouth’s railway station and help make the area safer, more welcoming, and more pleasant place for all.

The plans include wider footways, improved crossing points, upgraded bus stops and the closure of the existing subway, and are intended to encourage active travel, particularly for shorter journeys, reduce congestion and improve connectivity across the town. They will also help reduce carbon emissions by encouraging more people to use sustainable modes of travel as well as bring benefits to local businesses through increased footfall.

The feedback received will help identify key issues, areas of concern and opportunities ahead of a formal public consultation on more detailed and specific proposals later in the year.

To share your views, please visit the scheme webpage and complete the survey and provide your comments on the interactive map before Monday 21 August. If you need guidance or an alternative format, please email, write to Transport Planning, Devon County Council, County Hall, Topsham Road, Exeter, EX2 4QD, or call 0345 155 1004.

Resilience grant scheme extended to support flood-hit communities

The Devon Community Resilience Forum is extending its current Emergency Resilience Grant scheme to support communities across the county affected by storm events in May.

The initiative currently offers two funding schemes – one to help communities to develop emergency plans and another supporting small-scale works and resilience equipment, which is usually intended for those communities with an emergency plan already in place. However, in response to the recent storm events and to support community flood resilience, the grant of up to £1,500 for small-scale works and equipment is available until the end of September 2023 for those communities that are still in the process of developing their plan or do not yet have one.

Applications are made through a simple two-page Microsoft Word form. Any constituted group (Parish Council or community group) with a bank account is able to apply for the grant.

For more information visit the Devon Communities Together webpage or contact

Consultation underway for bus improvements in Exeter city centre

We’ve launched a consultation to give people the opportunity to comment on proposals for a new contraflow bus lane in Exeter city centre, on the one-way section of New North Road between Longbrook Street and Sidwell Street, outside John Lewis.

It will provide a more direct route to the city centre for buses travelling from Cowley Bridge roundabout to the Exeter Bus Station, and enable passengers to disembark on Sidwell Street. It will also reduce the number of services travelling on Longbrook Street and York Road, which will improve air quality for residents and the local primary school.

The consultation responses will be reviewed before the proposals go before councillors at a meeting of our Cabinet later this year. If the plans are approved the aim would be for work to start by March 2024. Feedback can be provided by completing the online survey before Monday 14 August.

Alternatively, to request a paper copy of the consultation survey leaflet and/or the survey, please email, write to Transport Planning, Devon County Council, County Hall, Topsham Road, Exeter, EX2 4QD, or call 0345 155 1004.

Two weeks left to renew your tax credits

If you’re claiming tax credits, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will have sent you a renewal pack. If your renewal pack has a red line and says ‘reply now’ you’ll need to confirm your circumstances for the current tax year to continue receiving payments. For most people, this must be done by Monday 31 July 2023.

The quickest and easiest way for you to renew your tax credits is online via the government’s website or via the HMRC app. You can also renew tax credits by phone or post.

Please be aware of scams that attempt to trick people into sharing their banking or other personal details. Typical scam examples include emails or texts claiming an individual’s details aren’t up to date and that they risk losing out on payments that are due to them. If a phone call, text or email is unexpected, do not give out private information or reply, and do not download attachments or click on links.

HMRC is also warning people not to share their login details with anyone else. Visit the Government’s website for more information on how to report a scam or suspicious activity.

We have achieved Bronze Trailblazer status with Race Equality Matters; record number of children in Devon receive summer holiday food support and beware of new text message scam impersonating family members!

We have achieved Bronze Trailblazer status with Race Equality Matters

We have been awarded the prestigious Race Equality Matters Bronze Trailblazer Status for taking significant steps to make a meaningful impact on tackling race inequality and becoming a more diverse, inclusive and equal organisation.

The Bronze status was determined by an independent panel of experts all with lived experience of race inequality in the workplace. It recognises the work we are doing to develop a more inclusive culture through our Race Equality Action Plan and maintains momentum to stamp out intolerance for all kinds of racism across our organisation.

Becoming a Trailblazer means the work we have done has resulted in change and made an impact across the breadth of the entire organisation. A step that aims to successfully address racial inequality and become a more diverse, inclusive and equal organisation.

Although this is a fantastic achievement for the progress we have made, we still have a good deal of work to do to ensure all our colleagues feel safe and included. The Bronze Award is the first stage in the Trailblazer series but it’s not a lifetime award, and we have to work hard over the next 18 months, demonstrating that we are continuously improving, to keep it.

Progress on our Race Equality Action Plan can be found on our website as part of our commitment to transparency, and progress is reported every six months to our Corporate Infrastructure and Regulatory Services Scrutiny Committee. 

Record number of children in Devon receive summer holiday food support

Over 20,000 supermarket vouchers, worth over £1.8 million, have been sent to low-income families in Devon to help them buy food over the upcoming summer holidays. Each child currently eligible for free school meals during term time has received a £90 voucher to spend on replacing the meals they would have had at school during the day.

It’s the equivalent of £15 per week of the six-week school holiday, and is being distributed in one lump sum now to allow families some flexibility on how they spend the vouchers and try to help with the additional pressure the summer period puts on household budgets. They can be redeemed in major supermarkets across Devon and arrangements are in place for families who cannot get to a supermarket.

With the end of term fast approaching, we’ve already sent these supermarket vouchers to families whose children currently receive free school meals, so please check your inbox and redeem them. If you were expecting to receive the vouchers, but didn’t, get in touch with our team as soon as possible by emailing or calling 0345 155 1019.

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

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

Beware of new text message scam impersonating family members!

Our Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service has issued a warning that fraudsters are sending a text message purporting to be from children or parents claiming they have a new number or have broken or lost their phone.

“Broke my phone Mum. Can you text my new number on 07425218812 I’m messaging you from a friend’s phone xXx.”

The messages are the first stage in a phishing scam, designed to dupe recipients into engaging with the new number and ultimately parting with personal data that could lead to identity theft and money transfer fraud.

As well as endangering the recipient, the scams also put young people at risk by creating the possibility that they might replace the actual number with the new fake one and be unable to contact their parents or vice versa.

If you receive such a message, phone the sender on their original number to check whether the message is genuine, and if they are unreachable, verify the identity of the sender by asking them a question only they would know. Remember, never pass on personal details or make any payment via your phone unless you are 100 per cent sure the person you are speaking with is who they say they are.

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

£25,000 to support vulnerable library users once mobile service closes

We’re planning to earmark £25,000 to help ensure that vulnerable users can continue to access library services after the mobile service is decommissioned.

Earlier this week our Cabinet approved proposals to stop delivering a mobile library service because it’s become very expensive to run and the number of people using it has fallen considerably over the last few years.

Currently we have four mobile libraries, which costs £217,000 a year to operate. Three of the libraries are 15 years old and at the end of their serviceable lives, and the fourth is nine years old. They are expensive to maintain and unreliable, but to replace all four with new vehicles would cost between £0.5m and £0.8m – and this is not something we can afford to do.

We’re looking to extend our existing library services – our Home Library Service, our Good Neighbours service membership and our digital service – to make sure that people, particularly those who have a disability or health condition and are unable to access a static library, can still receive a library service at home. 

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

North Devon mental health drop-in service consultation extended

We’re extending our consultation on possible proposals to change the way that support services for adults with mild mental wellbeing needs are delivered across North Devon.

It’s not about reducing the support that people receive, but rather to modernise the services, and give fairer access to them in the future as well as better connect people to their communities.

The decision to run the consultation for a further four to six weeks this summer is to ensure all service users, their families and carers have the time and additional information they need to respond.

Although the number of people who use these services is relatively few, we fully understand the value of them and the impact any change could have, which is why we are taking the time to ensure we have fully listened to and considered peoples’ concerns before any decisions are made.

We will take into account all feedback and responses already received from the first consultation and no decisions will be made until after the consultation is completed and we’ve had time to fully digest what people tell us. 

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

Fakir Mohamed Osman pictured with Tendy Lindsay, Chair of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) at the awards ceremony at the CTSI Conference in Birmingham.

Fakir’s a jolly good ‘Fellow’!

Congratulations to our colleague Fakir Mohamed Osman, Head of Heart of the South West Trading Standards, and Chair of our Race Equality Staff Group, who has become a ‘Fellow’ of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI).

Fakir received his award at an award ceremony at CTSI’s Annual Conference, Trading Standards’ flagship event, which was held this year in Birmingham. The event provides opportunities for networking and continuing professional development for those working in consumer protection and regulation from across the whole of the UK.

Fakir has been made a CTSI Fellow for recognition of his work in Trading Standards locally, regionally and nationally – by going the extra mile for the profession and leading projects which have had a significant impact on individuals, communities and organisations.

Find out more about our Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service on the website.

Advice as latest strikes impact NHS services

The NHS in Devon is advising local people and holidaymakers to continue to access the health services they need during the next wave of national strikes. Junior doctors are striking for five consecutive days from Thursday 13 July, followed by consultants on 20 July, and radiographers from 25 to 27 July.

Dr Nigel Acheson, Chief Medical Officer for NHS Devon, said:

“The culmination of months of strikes, combined with the summer holiday season starting in the south-west, means it could be really difficult on the frontline. There is likely to be a significant impact on local services.

“Regardless of any strike action taking place, it is really important that patients who need urgent medical care continue to come forward as normal, especially in emergency and life-threatening cases – when someone is seriously ill or injured, or their life is at risk.”

Call 999 in life threatening emergencies and use NHS 111 for other health concerns. During strike days, it is likely 999 call handlers will be very busy and NHS 111 call centres will have fewer staff, therefore longer call response times are expected. Don’t forget you can use NHS 111 online.

The NHS will contact you if your hospital appointment needs to be rescheduled due to strike action. If they have not contacted you, please attend your appointment as planned. 

GP practices will continue to be open as normal during the strikes, so please attend your appointments unless you are contacted and told otherwise. Visitors to Devon are also reminded that their first port of call for GP care is their home practice, which will be able to provide online, phone and video consultations as well as arranging for prescriptions to be sent to any pharmacy you choose.

We’re supporting the Samaritans Talk to Us campaign

? Throughout July, Samaritans are running an awareness campaign called ‘Talk to Us’, to remind people that they’re there for anyone who needs someone to listen.

They have one simple message: Samaritans are there 24/7 for anyone who is struggling to cope. Talk to them, they’ll listen.

In 2022 there wasn’t a single second when Samaritans volunteers weren’t on the phone with someone.

When life is difficult, Samaritans are there – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at, or visit the Samaritans website to find your nearest branch.

Testing find 56 per cent of sandwich bars in breach of new allergen law; Marsh Barton Station opened by Transport Secretary and our libraries prepare for a summer of fun!

Testing finds 56 per cent of sandwich bars in breach of new allergen law

We’re urging businesses, such as delis or bakeries who prepare and then package food for sale, not to put their customers at risk and to read trading standards guidance to help them stay on the right side of the law.

The warning comes after our trading standards officers found that 56 out of 100 businesses they tested in Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay were in breach of new Government rules which require full ingredient and allergen labelling on all food made on premises and pre-packed for direct sale.

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

Businesses unsure of the new law can find the guidance on our website or on the Food Standards Agency website. Additionally, businesses can sign up for news and alerts from the Food Standards Agency. We also offer bespoke regulatory business support for all sectors of the economy – more information can be found on our business pages.

Marsh Barton Station opened by Transport Secretary

Transport Secretary Mark Harper officially opened the brand-new railway station at Marsh Barton in Exeter earlier this week.

We’ve delivered the £16 million project in collaboration with Network Rail and Great Western Railway (GWR) with contributions from the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, Exeter City Council and Teignbridge District Council and over £3 million from the Department for Transport,

The new station will better connect the community and offer greater access to employment, business and education opportunities. Crucially, it will also provide a quick, alternative link to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, allowing residents to access essential medical services more easily.

The station will be served by hourly Great Western Railway services between Paignton and Exmouth, with half-hourly services at peak times. The two platforms are linked by the pedestrian overbridge which has ramps to facilitate cyclists and provide disabled access to the whole station.

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

Working in partnership to keep you safe from scams

People in the UK lost £1.2 billion to fraud last year – that’s the equivalent of £2,300 every minute! Our Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service works with other councils across the country, the police and adult safeguarding services, to protect the public – particularly the elderly and vulnerable – from being scammed.

This week is the National Scams Awareness Campaign run by Citizens Advice, another of our key partners, who help us to inform and warn the public, and support victims of scams.

Many scams originate from fake texts, calls and emails and to help protect the public the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the City of London Police set up the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS). This enables the public to forward suspicious emails to an automated system that scans them for malicious links. Since its launch in April 2020, almost 21 million reports have been made to the service and 235,000 malicious website links have been removed from the internet.

If you have been a victim of a scam, we advise that you contact the Citizens’ Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133. They will let you know what to do next, and give you support on the issues you might be facing. 

Have your say on proposed improvements in Alphington, Exeter

We’re asking local people for their views on our proposals to reduce traffic speeds, increase parking and improve walking facilities in Alphington, Exeter.

Our online consultation is now open, and over the next three weeks, we want residents to give their opinions on several options including pavement widening, measures to reduce traffic speeds, changes to existing parking and increased parking provision for local people.

It follows our consultation last year where we asked for views on different options for three areas of Alphington. Our new consultation aims to build on that with a range of proposals to improve facilities for active travel in the Church Road/Chudleigh Road corridor, between the Alphin Brook roundabout and the double mini roundabout.

It’s all part of a series of projects to improve local highways infrastructure as the new South West Exeter development is delivered. The development is expected to deliver 2,500 new homes and employment land, and £55.1 million of funding has been awarded to us by the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund to enable the improvements.

You can find out more about the proposals, and how to have your say on them, in the full story on the news page of our website.

All school-aged children eligible for free flu vaccine this winter

All primary and secondary school-aged children in England will be offered a free flu vaccine from September for the 2023 to 2024 season, alongside younger children aged two and three years old.

Earlier this year the Government announced that all primary school children and infants aged two and three years old will be offered the flu vaccine. Now it has been confirmed that the programme will expand to pupils in secondary school years 7 to 11, who will be offered the vaccine as a nasal spray through their school’s vaccination programme from Friday 1 September.

It means that pupils receiving the vaccine will have direct protection from the flu. More vulnerable groups will also be indirectly protected by reducing the spread of the virus.

Anyone eligible for the flu vaccine is encouraged to take up the offer from September before the flu season begins, to give themselves the best possible protection in winter and reduce the spread of the virus.

Ready, Set, Read!

Free fun and games for children are on offer throughout the summer holidays in our libraries across Devon, including the ever popular Summer Reading Challenge, which aims to encourage children to keep up their reading skills at a time when they traditionally dip.

Lucy Banks from Libraries Unlimited said:

“Having regular access to books and encouragement to read for pleasure can be a game-changer in setting children up for a lifetime of learning and enjoyment.

“Finding things for children to do across the summer can really challenge budgets, so we’re pleased to be offering the Summer Reading Challenge, along with many of our summer activities completely for free. That’s in addition to our regular programme of children’s groups and activities including Lego and coding clubs, story times, arts and crafts and more.”

Parents can sign up their children for the Summer Reading Challenge for free at any library in Devon. Children set their own goals on how many books they commit to reading, and collect special stickers along the way. Once they finish, they get a medal and are entered into a free prize draw!

Find out more on the Libraries Unlimited website.

Claim child benefit online

The Government offers parents and carers up to £1,248 a year to help them with the costs of raising their first child – and up to £826.80 for any additional children.  

With the rising cost of living it’s more important than ever that families know they are entitled to claim, as well as how to make a claim.

You can claim Child Benefit from the day after you’ve registered the birth of your child, or once a child comes to live with you, and it can be backdated for up to three months. You’ll also receive National Insurance credits which count towards your State Pension.

Claiming is easy and can be done on the Government’s website.

It’s Food Safety Week!

? Most people love a summer BBQ, but if not done properly, food poisoning can easily become an unwelcome guest.

If you’re planning a BBQ this weekend, remember to follow the Food Standards Agency’s four C’s of food hygiene

? clean hands, equipment and surfaces thoroughly

? keep chilled foods cold and out of the fridge for no more than four hours

? cook food in line with its guide for time and temperature

❌ avoid cross-contamination

Beware of cheap toys that could contain harmful chemicals; we’re celebrating young people helped into education, employment or training and could you be better off drinking less?

Trading Standards warn that cheap toys could contain harmful chemicals

Consumers across the region are being urged to ensure that the toys they buy display the UKCA mark, or the European CE equivalent, on the packaging following concerns that the cost-of-living crisis is driving people to buy cheaper but potentially dangerous products.

The warning, from our Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service which covers Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay, follows toy testing by our national partners the Chartered Institute of Trading Standards.

Despite UK legislation to protect the public, recent testing on a toy bow-and-arrow set revealed that the product contained 100 times the legal limit of phthalates; while a fashion doll set was 300 times over the legal limit. Phthalates are plastic-softening chemicals that are used to make plastic more durable. The use of certain phthalates is tightly restricted in toys across Europe and toy products must contain no more than 0.1 per cent. Restricted phthalates are carcinogenic and can cause reproductive problems and can affect child growth and neurodevelopment.

You can find out more, including what other items failed safety tests and the top products shoppers are seeking to save money, in the full story on the news page of our website.

Grand Western Canal staff granted powers to tackle antisocial behaviour

Our Canal Rangers Team and our Community Patrol Boat volunteers who work on the Grand Western Canal in Tiverton and its country park have been given limited police powers.

It means they’ll be able to deal with any low-level antisocial behaviour which might occur while also fostering a sense of security and reassurance for users and the community.

They will be identified by the logo displayed on their uniform, they will also carry a police ID badge and a card listing their powers.

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

Could you be better off drinking less?

The average person spends tens of thousands of pounds on alcohol over the course of a lifetime. And the personal costs of harmful drinking can be much starker, from mental and physical health problems and financial worries, to relationship breakdowns and family difficulties.

But the cost of alcohol to ourselves, our relationships, our families and our wider community doesn’t have to be so high. We can all take steps to make a change. 

Next week is Alcohol Awareness Week, and we’re inviting you to find out more about what you could gain by drinking less, from saving money and getting better sleep, to feeling better mentally and emotionally.

Visit the Alcohol Change UK website to understand more about the impacts of alcohol on your body, find top tips to cut down your drinking and information about the Try Dry App that helps you track your drinking and set goals. Please also check out the resources on the NHS Better Health website and on our website.

If you’re worried about your alcohol or drug use, The Together Drug and Alcohol Service offers support for adults in Devon who are dependent on alcohol. Call 0800 233 5444.

Y-Smart, the drug and alcohol service for young people under 18 years old in Devon, including those affected by family/carer drug and alcohol use, can be contacted by calling 01271 388162.

Celebrating young people helped into education, employment or training

Young people have described how our Youth Hub Devon service helped them into education, employment or training. They were among guests at a celebration at Exeter Library this week, which is where Youth Hub Devon recently re-located to.

Since the service started in 2021, 500 young people have been referred for a range of support, including career advice, help with CV writing, interview skills, and signposting to other relevant services. And of those, over 200 have been helped to find their way to education, employment and training.

To celebrate the success, not just of the service but also the success of all those so far helped by the service, we arranged a special get-together this week. It was well attended and provided an opportunity for people helped by the service to meet senior council officers, including our Chief Executive, Donna Manson and our Head of Service Economy Enterprise and Skills, Keri Denton (pictured), to talk about their experience.

You can find out what they had to say in the full story on the news page of our website.

If you are aged 16 to 24 years old and would like help into employment, education or training, please get in touch.

Openreach in final stages of current build with Connecting Devon and Somerset

Openreach is entering the final stages of its current collaboration with Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) – having provided access to Full Fibre connectivity to more than 1,800 premises in the region. The progress of its build highlights how the project is helping to fill-in coverage in hard-to-reach areas that until now have missed out on being connected to ultrafast broadband.

Full Fibre is now ready for service for around 550 homes and businesses in parts of Dulverton and the surrounding area, more than 420 premises in the area south of Tiverton, just over 100 premises in the parish of Bickleigh and Wotter, over 80 in Kentibury Ford, more than 80 in Widecombe-in-the-Moor and more than 70 in East Blue Anchor. Other areas included in the build, which also have access to live connectivity, are parts of Coffinswell, Combeinteignhead, Lane End, Satterleigh and Watermouth. The build is ongoing in several areas including parts of Combe Martin, Dulverton, Lydeard St Lawrence, Shaugh Prior, South Molton, Washford and Wiveliscombe.

Thanks to increasing public take-up of broadband services funded through the CDS programme, the Government’s ‘Gainshare’ agreement with Openreach is enabling CDS to reinvest £6 million in additional Full Fibre infrastructure. Openreach is also contributing funding towards the programme.

To find out more about connectivity in your area you can use the fibre checker on the Open Reach website.

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

Upgrade for path in Torrington

Cyclists and walkers can now benefit from improvements to a path on the Commons in Torrington that runs alongside the River Torridge.

Work has been completed to clean and fix the surface of part of Rolle Road between the old creamery site in Taddiport and the Tarka Trail at the Puffing Billy. Using recycled road planings, we have filled in some of the worst parts of the traffic-free section and cleaned back the old mud and debris on the route.

It follows approval from the Torrington Commons Conservators to allow cyclists along this path which is part of the former Rolle Canal and still suffers from very damp sections after spells of rain. We are continuing discussions with the conservators to achieve further improvements along the remainder of the route.

Read more on the news page of our website.

Hay fever advice as hot weather increases pollen impact

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen. It’s usually worse between late March and September when the pollen count is at its highest and the weather is warm, humid and windy. 

Common symptoms are similar to a cold and include sneezing and coughing, a runny or blocked nose, itchy, red or watery eyes and an itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears. You may also lose your smell, get a headache or earache and feel tired. However, hay fever will last for weeks or months, unlike a cold, which usually goes away after one or two weeks.

The NHS in Devon is advising people to treat the symptoms of hay fever at home so that GPs can focus on more complex patient issues. There’s currently no cure for hay fever and you cannot prevent it, but you can do things to ease your symptoms when the pollen count is high. These include pre-emptively taking antihistamines and using steroid nasal sprays, avoiding being outside during peak pollen times, wearing sunglasses to stop pollen getting in your eyes and showering and changing your clothes after you’ve been outside. 

More general advice is available on the NHS website, and if you require further assistance you can visit your local pharmacy. They can recommend suitable products that can be purchased over the counter to help relieve the symptoms of hay fever, and if your condition is more serious, signpost you quickly to get the right medical care.

New digital health check to tackle deadly cardiovascular disease

The Government has announced that a new digital NHS health check will be rolled out in England from next spring. The current face-to-face NHS health check for adults in England aged 40 to 74 years old, which is largely delivered through GP surgeries, can help spot early signs of stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, or dementia. From spring 2024 the new digital check will operate alongside the existing in-person NHS health check to offer more availability and ease pressure on GP surgeries.

Patients will be able to access the digital health check via a mobile phone, tablet or computer. They will complete an online questionnaire, entering their height, weight and blood pressure measurements, and the results of a blood test. The results will be available online and direct people to personalised advice to reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke, as well as advice to stop smoking and weight management support where appropriate. Referrals to GPs will only be made if further tests and treatment are needed. 

You can read more on the Government’s website.

Devon celebrates Windrush anniversary; Marsh Barton train station opening; more skills bootcamps launched; library Work Clubs helping refugees, and Government plans to scrap DIY waste charges

There’s been plenty of sunshine across Devon recently, but there has also been some weather warnings because the heat can pose risks to our health, particularly the elderly or people with underlying conditions.

It’s important to know how to keep yourself safe this summer. Read our ‘Get Set for Summer’ special edition to find out about protecting yourself from the sun’s harmful rays, knowing the difference between heat stroke and heat exhaustion, how to avoid being bitten by ticks and enjoying Devon’s rivers, lakes and coast safely.

Read our ‘Get Set for Summer’ ConnectMe special edition

Devon Windrush Flag raised at County Hall to mark 75th anniversary

We raised the Devon Windrush Flag at County Hall this week, marking the 75th anniversary since the Empire Windrush arrived in Tilbruy Dock and its 492 passengers disembarked to begin new lives in Britain.

The flag raising was attended by members of the Devon Windrush Group, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Devon, and others.

It was a chance to pay tribute to the UK’s Caribean community for their immense contribution, and to acknowledge that many of the Windrush generation suffered hardship, prejudice and abuse – experiences that unfortunately many of their descendants still experience today, including those living in Devon.

It was also an opportunity to recognise that Devon has become increasingly diverse over the last 10 years, according to Census data.

The anniversary coincides with a report to one of our Scrutiny Committees, updating councillors on progress made on our Race Equality Action Plan.

Councillors heard that our commitment, to stamp out intolerance and develop a more inclusive culture within our council through our Race Equality Action Plan, is making good progress.

You can read the full story on our news page.

Marsh Barton Station opening date confirmed

The new Marsh Barton Railway Station in Exeter will open to the public on Tuesday 4 July 2023.

We’ve delivered the £16 million project in collaboration with Network Rail and Great Western Railway and it’s been built by construction and civil engineering specialist firm, GRAHAM.

The scheme also involved the development of a new pedestrian and cycle bridge, which opened in April, improving active travel links – for example, walking and cycling – between Alphington, Marsh Barton and the Riverside Valley Park.

The station features two fully accessible platforms equipped with:

  • ticket machines
  • smart ticket readers
  • live train departure screens
  • waiting shelters
  • help points

The two platforms are linked by the pedestrian overbridge which has ramps to facilitate cyclists and provide disabled access to the whole station.

You can read the full story on our news page.

(left to right) Jordan Cooper and Jo Harper

New wave of skills bootcamps launched across Devon and Cornwall

A £3 million investment in skills across Devon and Cornwall has been announced with the launch of the latest wave of Train4Tomorrow Skills Bootcamps.

More than 50 bootcamps are now recruiting learners with over 1,000 places available, and demand for the training continuing to grow.

Courses are open to adults aged 19 years old or over who are looking to improve their skills and employability. For those seeking new employment a guaranteed interview is offered.

Train4Tomorrow Skills Bootcamps, which we’re delivering in partnership with Cornwall Council, offer a range of fully-funded training courses of up to 16 weeks across a variety of sectors: digital, technical, construction, green skills, healthcare, hospitality and professional services. 

More than 1,300 learners across Devon, Cornwall, and Somerset have already attended a Skills Bootcamp, with many starting careers in growing sectors.

You can read more about the courses they did, including the experience of Jordan Cooper and Jo Harper (pictured), in the full story on the news page of our website.

To check out your eligibility and find out more about Skills Bootcamps across Devon and Cornwall, visit the Train4Tomorrow webpages.

Active Streets trial given green light to proceed

We’re going to trial a new scheme in the residential streets of Heavitree and Whipton in Exeter, to make the roads safer for local residents, pedestrians and cyclists.

Members of the Exeter Highways and Traffic Orders Committee agreed this week that the Active Streets trial can go ahead.

It will involve ‘modal filters’ (bollards or planters) being placed a key locations to reduce traffic on residential streets, and to support local people who want to walk, wheel, scoot or cycle.

All properties in the area will still be accessible by car, but residents may need to use a different route for some journeys.

Bus gates will allow through buses, emergency vehicles and others such as waste collection lorries.

We are going to trial it for up to 18 months, and local residents will be able to tell us what they think.

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

New libraries Work Club launch for Refugee Week

It’s Refugee Week this week, and we’ve been working with Libraries Unlimited, which run Devon’s libraries on our behalf, to launch a new free weekly Work Club services for refugees arriving in Devon, to help them find employment.

Library Unlimited Work Clubs are open to everyone who joins the library. They run in several libraries across Devon, helping hundreds of people into jobs by providing support in CV writing, interview skills, digital skills and reducing barriers to employment.

Now the Work Clubs in Barnstaple, Bideford (when open next month), Newton Abbot and Tiverton, and hopefully other libraries from September, will provide extra support to refugees, asylum seekers and other new arrivals including:

  • access to huge numbers of print and digital resources in many languages
  • access to translation services
  • staff on hand to advise on CV creation, job searches, applications and
    interview techniques
  • signposting to other services specialist support services in the community
  • advice on English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes
  • free access to computers, WiFi and support with digital skills
  • free activities for the whole family including Bounce and Rhyme sessions for young children, baby self-weigh, reading groups and lots of other social
    events and activities.

You can read more about this story on our news page, or to find out more, visit the Libraries Unlimited webpage.

Youth Hub Devon celebration

Youth Hub Devon is inviting young people aged 16 to 24 years old to join a special double celebration event next week, on Thursday 29 June from 1pm to 3pm at Exeter Library.

It’s to mark moving to new premises at the library as well as the achievement that, since opening the service in 2021, 500 young people have been referred to the Youth Hub for a range of support including career advice, help with CV writing, interview skills, and signposting to other relevant services. Of those, over 200 have been helped to find their way into education, employment, and training.

The event will see key influencers and young people share their stories and Youth Hub staff provide information about their service. Pizza and drinks will be available (first come first served!) as well as music, gaming and other activities!

Find out more on the Youth Hub Devon webpages or on Instagram follow @youthhubdevon

Government plans to scrap charges for DIY waste

We expressed some concern this week following an announcement by the Government that they will stop councils charging for DIY waste at Household Waste Recycling Centres.

On the face of it, you might be in favour of it. But the disposal of waste comes at a cost, and we, like so many local councils, introduced charges for some DIY waste, years ago in response to severe cuts to local government funding. And it’s because of the income we’ve got from those charges, that we’ve been able to maintain the comprehensive service across all 19 of our Household Waste Recycling Centres across Devon.

So plans to stop charges for DIY waste will make it harder for us to maintain the service as it is, and could mean us having to consider reducing opening hours.

The lead Councillor responsible for our waste service said this week that it’d be unfair to ask all council tax payers to pay for the DIY waste – from people’s kitchen or bathroom refurbishments for example – of those who can afford to make their own home improvements.

You can read the full story on our news page.

Proposals sought to deliver second year of Devon Multiply maths skills training

Grant funding is being offered to organisations that can help deliver a second year of a successful scheme providing maths skills training to adults in Devon.

We’re inviting organisations to submit innovative proposals to deliver numeracy skills training to adults in the county through our Devon Multiply scheme, which is funded by the UK Government.

Organisations that are eligible to apply include private businesses, public organisations, voluntary organisations, charities, community groups and local authorities.

Funding from £15,000 to £50,000 is available to projects that submit a successful application. Expressions of interest are open and have been extended to Friday 30 June 2023.

Find out more about Devon Multiply on our website.

Is your family up to date with the MMR vaccine?

UK Health Security (UKHSA) data shows that nationally there was a rise in measles cases this year and people are being asked to ensure that their family is up to date with vaccinations.

Children are offered the first dose of the MMR vaccine when aged one year and the second dose aged 3 years 4 months. UKHSA is urging parents of young children, teenagers and adults to check they are up to date with their MMR vaccines, particularly before they travel this summer and before attending summer festivals where measles can spread more easily.

Measles spreads very easily and can lead to complications that require a stay in hospital and on rare occasions can cause lifelong disability or death, so it is  concerning to see cases starting to increase this year.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, in some areas we saw a fall in uptake for the routine childhood vaccinations, including MMR, which leaves us vulnerable to outbreaks of measles, especially as people travel abroad for summer holidays to places where measles is more common.

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness, so anyone with symptoms is advised to stay at home and phone their GP or NHS 111 for advice before visiting the surgery or A&E. This will help to prevent the illness spreading further.

To see if your child is up to date with their MMR vaccines, check your child’s personal child health record (PCHR), commonly known as the red book, or contact your GP practice. If anyone has missed one or both doses of the MMR vaccine, contact your GP practice to book an appointment. It is never too late to catch up.

If you have any concerns or questions around vaccinations, or wish to read more about the benefits of vaccinations and risks of infections, information is available from the NHS online: Why vaccination is safe and importantNHS video (on youtube) about vaccinating your child  and Vaccination tips for parents.

New bi-directional speed camera in Exmouth

New high-tech speed cameras

New high-tech bi-directional digital speed cameras are in the process of being installed on Exeter Road in Exmouth and the A385 Ashburton Road in Totnes due to problems with collisions and speeding vehicles, prompting numerous complaints from residents.

They’ve been erected on bright yellow posts for maximum visibility and have the ability to enforce speed in both directions simultaneously. Unlike older technology, they do not need painted lines on the road, or loops sunk into the road surface. They also use infra-red low light technology so will not ‘flash’.

The work is part of an ambitious target by the Vision Zero South West road safety partnership, which we are a member of, to halve the number of people killed or seriously injured on Devon’s roads by 2030. As part of this, they’re funding a programme of new camera system installation, either replacing outdated technology at existing sites or introducing brand new schemes where an evidenced problem exists.

Read more on the news page of our website.

Free activities and meals available to eligible children over the school summer holiday; How does Devon adapt to a warming world and Let’s talk about loneliness

Staying well in the heat

The Government’s UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the Met Office have extended their Yellow Heat-Health Alert until Monday 19 June as temperatures continue to soar in Devon. 

Please look out for those who may struggle to keep themselves cool and hydrated, particularly older people, those with underlying health conditions and those who live alone as they are more at risk.

Try to keep out of the sun between 11am and 3pm, when the UV rays are strongest, and if you do go out in the heat, walk in the shade, apply sun cream, wear a wide-brimmed hat and remember to take water with you.

Also try to keep your house or workplace cool by closing blinds or curtains. At night, keep your sleeping area well ventilated. Night cooling is important as it allows the body to recuperate.

Read the UKHSA blog post on staying safe during periods of extreme weather.

The Met Office has published advice on how to plan for the heat.

For more information on the common signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke, visit the NHS website.

Free activities and meals available to eligible children over the school summer holiday

For many families, the school summer holiday can be difficult and stressful time, particularly with the cost of food and childcare, which can quickly mount up.

That’s why we’re inviting children aged five to 16 years old, who receive benefit-related free school meals, to take part in a range of exciting activities over the school summer holidays.

Once again, we have teamed up with over 60 different activity providers across Devon to offer a great range of indoor and outdoor activities as part of the Government-funded Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme, which offers free activities and healthy meals during the school holidays.

Activities range from sports such as football and kayaking to other activities like gardening, outdoor treasure hunts, and craft sessions. Some providers are offering special visits from storytellers, magicians, animals, and trips to local attractions. And this year, there are more places available for secondary school aged children and young people, with activities including go-karting, climbing, trampolining, high ropes and surfing.   

A full list of the activities and how to apply are on our website.

Coming together at Exeter Respect Festival

Last week colleagues from across our organisation came together at the Exeter Respect Festival to talk to those attending about the work we’ve been doing to improve equality and diversity, and to support members of ethnically diverse communities in Devon.

Ana Barbosa, our Project Coordinator for Ethnically Diverse Communities, sends her thanks to everyone who volunteered and attended the Festival. She said: 

“The Festival brought people together and celebrated the richness that diversity brings from the food and music we enjoyed, to the sharing of experiences and strengthening of connections to each other and our communities.

“What particularly resonates with me was seeing so many people, from so many backgrounds, joining together to learn more about each other and to take away with them a broader understanding of diversity in Devon.”

Ana and the team encouraged people attending the Festival to draw something about a country that they are linked to, on cotton squares. The squares will be sewn together by the Afghan Women Group and turned into a symbolic item representing diversity, inclusion, togetherness, and respect.

How does Devon adapt to a warming world

Mark Rice, the Environment Agency’s Area Director for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, says that the Climate Adaptation Strategy is vital in setting out what the region needs to do to prepare itself for the affects of climate change.

But what is the Climate Adaptation Strategy and why is it important? 

Two words help explain it, mitigation and adaptation.

We’re all familiar with mitigation in the context of climate change. That’s about what we should be doing to tackle the causes of climate change, to make the impacts of rising global temperatures less severe. It’s about reducing the emission of greenhouse gases to net-zero.

Although we can reduce the severity by acting now, we are already on that path with rising global temperatures. In the south-west, we’re already seeing sea levels rising, which will in time put low lying and coastal communities at risk. We’re going to see more severe and more frequent extreme weather events, leading to increased flooding for communities near rivers and watercourses.

So what are we going to do? 

Well, that’s the Climate Adaptation Strategy. It’s what we need to do to make ourselves, our communities, more resilient to the impact of climate change and what we already know is happening.

The Climate Adaptation Strategy for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is at a draft stage, and experts would like people’s views about it.

“By responding to the consultation, you will have the opportunity to influence the future resilience of your community,” said Mark Rice.

View the Adaptation Strategy and respond to the consultation

You can also order a paper copy by emailing or phoning 03451551015

Our Gypsy, Roma, Traveller, Showmen communities in Devon

June is Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month, and we’re using the opportunity to learn and raise awareness about the cultural heritage and the challenges facing Gypsy, Roma, Traveller and Showmen (GRTS) communities in Devon.

There is a long history of Gypsies and Travellers living in Devon, with some families claiming a local heritage over three hundred years! However, most people know very little about Gypsies and Travellers and may be unaware that the population in Devon includes a significant number, at least 5,000.

Romany Gypsies, Scottish, Welsh and Irish Travellers are people from ethnic minority groups, recognised under UK law and protected by the Equalities Act 2010. 

Romany poet and comedian, Scott Redmond, takes a look at some of the stereotypes associated with being a Romany Traveller, and how they differ from modern reality.

Let’s talk about loneliness

It’s Loneliness Awareness Week this week – an annual event hosted by Marmalade Trust, the UK’s leading loneliness charity.

The campaign aims to reduce the stigma around loneliness and encourage people to talk more openly about it.

Feeling lonely is something that all of us can experience at any point and can have a huge impact on our wellbeing. Sometimes admitting we feel lonely can be hard but it’s important to remember that many others experience similar feelings of loneliness too, and that this feeling can pass.

It can often feel easier to reach out to someone else who may be feeling lonely and there are plenty of simple things you can do, such as going for a walk with someone, inviting someone for a coffee and a chat or joining a local community group to meet like-minded people.

Find more support and advice for ways to lift someone out of loneliness on the NHS Every Mind Matters website – it might help you feel less lonely too.

Help reduce air pollution levels in Devon

Yesterday (Thursday 15 June) was Clean Air Day, the UK’s largest campaign on air pollution. Cleaning up our air is good for us and the planet in many ways; it not only benefits our physical health and the environment but can also protect our mental health.

There are things we can all do to help reduce levels of pollution:

Learn: find out more about how air pollution impacts our mental, physical and planet’s health. Reducing climate change and improving our environment are the biggest ways we can improve our health. You can read more about how Devon is tackling climate change and reducing emissions on the Devon Climate Emergency website.

Act: walk, cycle or use public transport to reduce your exposure and contribution to air pollution. If you drive, try leaving the car behind whenever you can. It’s a triple win – reduce your carbon footprint, reduce air pollution, and be active. Get inspired for local travel on the Travel Devon website.

Ask how clean air measures are being supported in your area. We are already working with partners to reduce transport pollution, and use technology to reduce travel in daily business where possible.

Sexually transmitted infections are increasing in the south-west

Anyone having sex with new or casual partners, whatever their age or sexual orientation, are being urged to wear a condom and get tested regularly.

It comes as new data from the Government’s UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows numbers of new sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnoses in 2022 in the south-west increased by 33 per cent in comparison with 2021.

Infection rates for Gonorrhoea in the south-west are of particular concern as they rose by 166 per cent between 2021 and 2022. Cases of syphilis increased by 32 per cent between 2021 and 2022.

Most STIs are easily treated with antibiotics, but many can cause serious health issues if left untreated. Chlamydia and gonorrhoea can cause infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease, while syphilis can cause serious, irreversible and potentially life-threatening problems with your brain, heart, or nerves.

Some people don’t get any symptoms with STIs, so you may not know you have one.

It’s therefore vital to take up the offer of free and confidential testing if you have had sex with a new or casual partner without using a condom. You can test at home or at your local sexual health clinic. Find sexual health services near you at

We’re back in black; love to ride your recycled cycle and more funding available to help with the cost of living

Our budget is in the black despite unprecedented financial pressures

Our budget remained in the black in the last financial year despite rapidly rising demand for our services and soaring inflation. 

The result follows an unprecedented effort to cut costs and boost income after our Director of Finance, Angie Sinclair, called for urgent action to be taken to curb costs as Devon faced a £30.5 million overspend.

Through an organisational-wide response that resulted in a rigorous in-year savings programme, we finished the 2022/23 financial year £156,000 in the black on a revenue budget of almost £630 million.

However, in common with councils across the country, Devon continues to face tough financial challenges due to soaring demand for services, rising prices and labour market shortages.

Our Cabinet member for finance, Councillor Phil Twiss praised the relentless efforts of council staff to find savings and at the same time continue delivering services for the people of Devon. You can read his full statement on the news page of our website.

Funding will help many different groups as cost of living remains high

The homeless, families, those who are suffering from ill health and ethnic minorities and are just some of the many groups who will benefit from the £10 million we’ve recently secured from the Government’s Household Support Fund

This fourth tranche of funding to cover the period from April 2023 until March 2024, takes Devon’s total level of Household Support Funding, allocated by the Department of Work and Pensions, to just over £25 million.

The funding comes with conditions on how it can be allocated and is to support households in most need – those that are struggling to pay for food, energy, water bills and other related essentials. It is also intended for those that may not be eligible for other Government support.

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

Pick up a bargain; ‘Recycled Cycles’ on offer at recycling centres!

Each year an estimated 10,000 bikes come through our Household Waste Recycling Centres in Devon as residents outgrow them, break them or get frustrated that they’re taking up valuable space in the garage.  

In order to reduce waste and offer more people access to cycling, a specially trained team at SUEZ, who run the recycling centres on our behalf, are repairing and reconditioning these old bikes at their new ‘Re-Cycle Hub’ at the Brunel Road facility in Newton Abbot. They are then being sold through the network of reuse shops at recycling centres across the county. Each bike will be fully serviced and include a warranty.  

With some brands of bike as much as 20 per cent more expensive than a year ago, the initiative offers those who want to saddle up a chance to do so at an affordable price.

So, if you’re thinking of getting fit, the kids have outgrown their bikes, or you’re on the search for a sustainable travel option, then come along to the reuse shops and see what we’ve got in stock. 

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

Pioneering local company on mission to transform battery waste into critical minerals

A pioneering Devon company is helping to transform the UK automotive industry and support the transition to net zero. Tavistock-based Altilium Metals opened its EV battery technology centre in 2022 and is now the only company in the UK recovering critical battery minerals from waste EV batteries.

They’ve developed their innovative electric vehicle battery recycling technology with the support of our Green Innovation Fund. Through its technology focused subsidiary Altilitech, it was one of seven ground-breaking projects in the county to receive a share of the £750,000 we’ve invested to drive green growth in Devon’s economy.

Visit the news page on our website to find out more about Altilium Metals’ cutting-edge technology and why, despite expanding its footprint elsewhere in the UK and Europe, Devon is vital to the future of their business.

We published a special Economy bulletin this week to include our latest economy-related stories. Read it here.

We’ve been celebrating Carers Week

It’s been Carers Week this week, and Devon Carers, who provide support to unpaid carers on our behalf, has been out and about across the county raising awareness.

They’ve had stands at locations including local libraries, North Devon District Hospital, John Lewis in Exeter, and Trago Mills near Newton Abbot.

Did you know that there are over 74,000 people in Devon providing unpaid care to friends and family members?

Almost half of them provide at least 20 hours of care each week; and nearly a third are providing more than 50 hours of care a week.

Recent research shows that around eight out of 10 carers say they have felt lonely or socially isolated as a result of their caring role.

If you provide unpaid care to an adult, support is available to you. Carers can access a range of services, from information and advice, to training, peer support, Carer Assessments, emergency planning and a Carers Hospital Service.

For information, advice and support, visit the Devon Carers website, or email or contact the Devon Carers Helpline on tel: 03456 434 435. The Helpline is available Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm (except bank holidays) and on Saturday from 9am to 1pm.

Help is also available for young carers, aged four to 18, who help look after someone in their family or a friend. For more information, visit the Young Carers website or email or contact the helpline on 03456 434 435 

Find out more about this year’s Carers Week on the Devon Carers website.

Foot and cycle bridge spanning A379 successfully lifted into place

A new pedestrian and cycle bridge, which will eventually link new homes and a school to local amenities in South West Exeter, was successfully lifted into place last week.

The bridge, which was delivered in sections and constructed on the roadside before it was lifted into place in one piece by a large crane, spans the A379 between Chudleigh Road and the Devon Hotel.

It forms part of the infrastructure being delivered to support the new development, which is expected to deliver 2,500 new homes and 21.5 hectares of land for new employment and following £55.1 million of funding from the Housing Infrastructure Fund, which is administered by Homes England, a government agency.

For more information, please read the full story on the news page of our website.

Free personalised support to help local businesses

We’ve been providing free one-to-one support for local businesses, through the ‘Thrive’ programme, overseen by the Heart of the South West Growth Hub.

It’s so far helped more than 600 local businesses across Devon, Somerset, Plymouth and Torbay, providing them with personalised guidance about their unique challenges and opportunities – refining marketing strategies, bolstering resilience, growth, recruitment and more.

And we’ve now been able to extend the Thrive programme until the end of July 2023.

Businesses new to the programme, or those who have attended previous Thrive workshops, are entitled to a complimentary one-to-one support session.

And those businesses that have benefited already, have been very positive:

“The support I received was first rate. The expertise provided has made a tangible difference to our business,” said one business owner.

“Amazing! It was such a fantastic opportunity for our small business to receive the support we needed,” said another.

“Brilliant! My discussions with the advisor were incredible helpful. I have successfully implemented multiple aspects of their advice and now feel more in control,” said another business owner.

If you are a sole trader or run a micro business or small to medium sized business in Devon, Somerset, Plymouth or Torbay, visit Thrive – Heart of the South West Growth Hub, and complete the short registration form, and one of our advisors will be in touch to arrange a one-to-one session.

Praise for roads teams who reopened major route in time for holiday rush

Our Cabinet Member for Highways, Councillor Stuart Hughes, has praised the engineers, work crews and contactors for ‘pulling out all the stops’ to ensure that a major South Hams holiday route was reopened in time for the recent bank holiday rush.

In early May the A381 at Halwell, the main road linking Kingsbridge and Dartmouth to Totnes was closed after a section of the carriageway collapsed. A deep culvert running underneath the road, linked to the drainage system, failed. The road surface began cracking, and it lead to a three-metre-long hole.

Teams worked 18 days straight to excavate fifteen metres of road down to a depth of more than two metres; install three new gullies; rebuild the drainage system; and resurface 43 metres of road – all while coping with bouts of flooding.

For good measure, they also replaced 10 defective gully gratings, and jetted and cleared out every gully from Totnes Cross to Halwell. They even cut back the vegetation, swept the road and removed a large dead ash tree.

You can read Councillor Hughes’ statement in full on the news page of our website.