News and updates from our programmes and services


​A note from our CEO Lynn Gibson

In recent weeks we have all been adjusting and coming to terms with the situation that faces us with COVID-19. As a charity working at the heart of the community, we recognise now more than ever the fantastic community spirit and networks there are across the county and how essential they are.

Community First has been supporting the local networks and the Strategic Planning Groups across the county wherever possible, helping with the coordination of the county response and ensuring the most vulnerable are helped.  We are so proud to work with the many Link and CT schemes helping to distribute essential food and medicines and the village hall networks who have also been supporting the response. We are continuing our support to young people and Building Bridges participants remotely and learning many new creative ways to reach the people we support and stay connected.

While our offices are closed we are still working remotely. Enquiries will reach us by calling 01380 722 475 or enquiries@communityfirst.org.uk


YAW Programme Update

During the current unprecedented times Youth Action Wiltshire, following government guidance has suspended all group work and face to face support sessions.  However it’s not all bad news as we have been busy creating interactive, live, fun sessions which young people can access online with their Youth Support Worker.  These sessions range from skill development, to quizzes to fun activities so there should be something there for everyone to get involved in and enjoy.  From the sessions we have already delivered young people tell us they are fun, it helps to break up their day and they’ve enjoyed seeing people from outside the confines of their own homes.

All of our Youth Support workers are still available to support our young people and can do this by telephone, text, email or face to face online one to one sessions.  We have access to Skype, Whatsapp, Zoom and other online applications so all anyone needs is a device and a connection (internet or phone) and we can arrange an individual or group session for you.  These are testing times for everybody and we appreciate that we will all be affected differently by the current situation, however having someone to talk to, share your fears with or just chat to can help you to feel less anxious and stressed during this time.  We have helped a number of people access community, educational and volunteer support in order to address specific needs, so our message to young people is if you’re finding things tough at the moment, get in touch and we will support you in whatever way we can.

If you would like to discuss our support offer or require urgent support please contact your Youth Support Worker or call the Youth Action Wiltshire office on 01380 729813 or email enquiries@youthactionwiltshire.org


Oxenwood Update

The current outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) presents new challenges for everyone and we would like to express our heartfelt thanks to all of our schools and groups for their co-operation with our team, to re-schedule their course bookings for 2020 due to either guidance from Public Health due to Coronovirus (Covid-19) or the closure of their school.

We are looking to the future, ready to build on our positive relationships with our customers. The team are committed to delivering first class educational visits and are busy planning our tailor-made activity programmes for the children’s future stay.

Please email the office on enquiries@oxenwoodcentre.com if you have any questions about your existing party booking or enquiries.

Ed Plank (Centre Manager and Chief Instructor)


Youth Consultants: Speaking up for young people in Wiltshire

In July 2019 Community First received £30,000 from Wiltshire Council, who were committed to empowering the voices of young people in Wiltshire. They wanted to support and train a team of 7 Youth Consultants aged 16 – 24. The primary aim of the project is to empower the voice of young people through county-wide initiatives, surveys and consultation events, advising Wiltshire Council and others on what is needed to improve services.

A full report will be available later this month highlighting the project’s success factors in the first 9 months.

Youth Consultant AchaynnieAchaynnie’s Story

Why I wanted to be a Youth Consultant

Being a black girl in a predominantly white area made me feel like I did not fit in. I felt that nobody cared about how I felt growing up and that my opinion was not valid. I wish that there were youth consultants that I could speak to when I felt isolated. This is why I am so happy and passionate about being a youth consultant as I can speak to young people who feel like they have nobody to speak to and give them a voice that every human should have.

I have enjoyed meeting so many amazing young people especially the young carers who have given me an insight into what happens within their family and the support that they have been given.

Read more Youth Consultant stories from Charlotte, Tia and Maddy on the blog.


Community First’s Social Action Hub team continue to actively develop community organising skills across Wiltshire and Swindon, motivating, encouraging, supporting and facilitating ideas for change and action!

Grand Ideas Fund approved through Sanctuary Housing!

Following the success of a targeted programme of outreach activities and community engagement with local residents of Barne Barton commissioned at the end of 2019, the Community Organising team have been asked to come back, train and support them further, to ensure they have the tools to support each other through and beyond this regeneration period. With this is in mind the team applied for a grand ideas fund through Sanctuary Housing.

The project is two-phased, we have completed the first two days and phase two is currently postponed.

The project will be aimed at residents living in Barne Barton Plymouth. It will empower residents to become more confident and less socially isolated by working together to make positive change in their neighbourhood. It will build community capacity and resilience, improving community safety and infrastructure to ensure all residents have a voice.

Residents will learn new skills through workshops and will all be given a useful best practice guide about community organising to reference moving forward.

The difference to the wider community will be improved communication and engagement and greater access to community projects giving them the opportunity to get involved and volunteer.

These additional 4 days work will also aid sustainability of Community Organising in the local area by underpinning the work already done and providing additional tools. Advice on external funding opportunities and tips on how to write bids will also be given.

The project will equip participants with the tools needed to achieve their aims through community organising and have a long lasting impact on Barne Barton.

STAR; the residents association in Barne Barton have specifically asked Community First to return to help them develop an action plan in order for them to be effective and focus on the needs of the wider community. We have worked closely with the Torbay Neighbourhoods team throughout the work delivered in Barne Barton and see this as a great opportunity for us to work together to ensure STAR have the skills and capacity to be an effective partner when our work there is finished. The Torbay Neighbourhoods team will be attending the workshops to ensure a smooth transition of continued support.

We will work closely with Sanctuary’s Torbay Neighbourhoods team, STAR residents association and Tamar View Community Centre. STAR are instrumental in ensuring the legacy of community organising continues in Barne Barton. Tamar View will be a key partner moving forward as it provides an excellent venue and access to wider networks of organisations.

We envisage community organising continuing in Barne Barton and further afield in Plymouth long into the future but particularly through the regeneration of Savage Road and Talbot Gardens where residents will have the skills to communicate effectively with Sanctuary throughout the process.

First phase of Grand Ideas Fund

At the end of our second day in Barne Barton we had met and listened to 30 residents that we hadn’t previously met, along with many residents that we had met in 2019.

On our second day we delivered and training on the framework of Community Organising and the best practice, we ran a couple of sessions and planning ahead,  we discussed the use of social media, the do’s and don’ts .  We had discussed different ways of connecting with residents, After we left last time the group set up a Barne Barton Facebook Page. When we arrived on the Monday they had 45 members, by the time we finished on the Tuesday they had just over 90 members. Members are supporting each other through the regeneration, moving, bidding for different properties, but most importantly there is always someone online from the group with give a listening ear. This has been particularly useful through  COVID-19. They are looking out for one another which shows the community has come along way from when we first met in October 2019.


Wiltshire council has set up a number of groups referred to as Cells to help support the County wide response to the current situation. Harry Tipple, Head of Community & Business Development is an active member of the Wiltshire Community Resilience Hub Cell / COVID-19 Wiltshire Council Neighbourhood Cell and Logistics Cell group.

This work involves:

  • Actively working on logistics to identify the community transport groups and link schemes that can help support the transport of food and to the most vulnerable in Wiltshire
  • Providing new information to keep the county wide community directory updated with all of the services that Community First supports
  • Feeding into the creation of the volunteer pack and volunteer agreement and giving ongoing support to Wiltshire’s Wellbeing hub.

For more information, please contact Harry Tipple: htipple@communityfirst.org.uk

Making a difference in your local community

Wiltshire Link LogoWiltshire’s Link schemes help to keep local communities connected to vital services, by connecting volunteer drivers (using their own cars), with passengers who have limited access to transport. Some Link schemes are still offering transport for essential medical appointments only but the vast majority of Link schemes are now collecting prescriptions, shopping and offering telephone support for their clients. Many have joined forces with parish councils, town councils and local COVID-19 support groups.

We have been working in the Melksham area for the last couple of months promoting the link scheme and connecting local residents to different groups & support that is available. The team will research the next stage of this project in the surrounding villages and will explore these places on line ready to engage within the communities for when we are back to normal, post lockdown.

COVID-19 Support (Wiltshire Link Schemes)

North Wiltshire
Chippenham Link – 07769 110761

West Wiltshire
Westbury and District Link Scheme

East Wiltshire
Marlborough & District Link – 01672 288007

South Wiltshire
Wilton Link – 01722 741241

Chippenham Link Scheme

Chippenham Link Transport are pleased to report that we are still operating during COVID-19.  Many of our volunteer drivers fall into the 70+  age group and have reluctantly removed themselves from the rota to observe social distancing guidance.  However, as the NHS and medical centres have cancelled or severely restricted the number of appointments being allocated we are keeping up with demand with the few DBS checked drivers we have available to transport those that need us to their medical appointments.

We are offering additional services alongside our regular business: shopping and collecting prescriptions for elderly, vulnerable and those in isolation. We have made outreach phone calls to more than 250 past clients, letting them know the new services we are offering and the feedback has been phenomenal.  In our first four days of operating these additional services we have completed almost 30 collections/deliveries.  We have informally recruited 10 volunteers to help with this additional workload, linking volunteers in with ’neighbours’ who require help.

We are linking up with the Chippenham Neighbourhood Corona Help Group and other community pages on Facebook to ensure that people know how to contact us.  This has been especially useful to people living out of the area but with elderly relatives that they want to arrange support for.  We’ve had a handful of referrals through these routes.

We are also responding to requests from Wiltshire Council, including delivery of emergency food parcels to people in our area on the list of highly vulnerable people.  Earlier this week we delivered food to 16 people in Calne, Chippenham, Bromham, Box and Hullavington from this list and we are on standby to do more of these trips when required.  And we are in touch with Chippenham Borough Lands, where we have offered support to local food banks if they need drivers to help with deliveries.

Marlborough & District Link

Open from 9.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. Monday – Friday as usual.

Our team for activity are all under 70 years old, have Enhanced DBS certificates and vetted. We are operating a Shopping Service and use card readers which is proving to be extremely helpful to our clients, and very much more hygienic. We have a Telephone Service which means that our temporary “rested” volunteers phone clients on a weekly basis for a chat and to make sure they are all right, in the hope of alleviating loneliness and boredom.

We are undertaking emergency medical appointments.

4 of our drivers have offered their time to the Wiltshire Council initiative of providing food parcels/packages to the extremely vulnerable in Area 3 zone of the county.

Marlborough Town Council, and the various Parish communities are operating alongside of us.

Wilton Link

Our normal Link was has all but dried up. One or two trips to hospital only. Plus prescription collections.

Our secretary (Steve Long) is the Wilton Co-ordinator for Reeves the bakers, drop offs bread basket.  We are taking orders for a bread basket (there are 4 choices/options) The clients ring in before Wed, we collate a list, we pay for the bread, Steve is delivering it (with other drivers if needed) and then we, the Link, bill the clients once a month. (this saves on lots of cheques and transfer of money etc to the driver). This seems to be working well and getting busier as we move forward.

The town council have set up a dedicated phone line which is manned from 9.00am to 1.00pm. Wilton has approx. 50 volunteer drivers and these are tasked with shopping and collecting prescriptions etc.  If we or they get overloaded then we will pass to each other.

COVID-19 ‘It’s a community effort!’

The council has collated all the community groups we have identified so far so that those who need support for themselves or a loved one can make direct contact.

In the time available we have only been able to collate this directory and therefore this is not an endorsement of the groups listed but it is for you to decide what use you will make of the offers of support at this time.

If anyone uses a community group and has concerns about the response/practice please inform us by emailing areaboards@wiltshire.gov.uk  giving the clear reasons for your concern. The council wants to ensure that everybody can access the support they need. If you make contact with a group and they cannot help or you do not get a response within the required timeframe, then please do not hesitate to contact the council by emailing areaboards@wiltshire.gov.uk  and we will ensure you get the support you need

Wiltshire Parish Councils & villagers unite against Coronavirus isolation

The operation to support residents across Wiltshire’s villages is being rolled out with military precision across the county with some Parish Councils crossing boundaries to collaborate and volunteer to support existing vulnerable residents within the community. Bishopstone (Salisbury) Parish Council already had an established Emergency Plan which covers Pandemics (though they never expected to have to use it!). Leaflets have been delivered to all households in the parish and they have 50 volunteers from non at risk groups who stand ready to help, on demand, anybody self-isolating or otherwise affected by the pandemic.

It is particularly gratifying to see how the councils and broader village communities has rallied round to provide support for those who may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wiltshire Association of Local Councils continues to provide advice and support to local councils at this challenging time. For more information please contact: kfeilding@communityfirst.org.uk or visit Wiltshire Association of Local Councils.


LiFERAFT which stands for the Limpley Stoke & Freshford* Emergency Response and Follow up Task-force are working together to beat Coronavirus. LiFERAFT is an fantastic example of two parish councils under different principal authorities working together.

Limpley Stoke Parish Council, Freshford Parish Council, Galleries, the Church, FLiSCA, Friends of Freshford, and the Link and LACG organisations have come together to form LiFERAFT, an organisation set up to support vulnerable people in the wider Freshford and Limpley Stoke communities through the provision of food, medicines and pastoral support.

Wiltshire council sent a community pack to parish councils asking them to help coordinate the coronavirus response locally. Support Hubs has been created to coordinate, help and support residents across the county during the coronavirus outbreak.

Download and share our COVID-19 Community Pack to support you and your community (last updated 2 April 2020)

Crucial Volunteering through COVID19

How do we continue to reach the isolated and vulnerable in this uncertain time?

If you are well and are not at risk from Coronavirus, volunteering that requires going out of the house is now only permitted in certain circumstances

Alex Neale, experienced Community Organiser has discovered some great examples of how people are supporting others beyond food and medication in communities. Community First’s Volunteer Community Organiser, Stevie who lives in Bradenstoke, near Lyneham has been looking at ways to try and keep the older generation from feeling more isolated at this uncertain time.

Stevie and Mandy have been circulating quizzes by posting it through people’s doors and connecting them up with someone else (via phone) to share their answers. This has encouraged people to chat to each other and has also brought a little variety to COVID19 life.

Like so many others in communities, Stevie has been offering support by collecting shopping, prescriptions and other essentials for a few people; and regularly rings people for a chat.

Prior to the lockdown people in the village worked quickly to ensure that people that they knew of that may usually need support; were connected up or had someone close by that could look in on them and help if required. The local pub in Bradenstoke started to offer meals and created a basic shop; offering a delivery service for both to try and support the community.

With VE day approaching Stevie and Mandy felt that they wanted to do a few things to keep people motivated and active at this time. With the next quiz and crossword puzzle that they post they are designing a leaflet to invite people in the community to get involved in the following;

  • To write a short article that describes a military, childhood, homelife experience
  • To crochet or design triangles or squares

The articles will be organised into a booklet that can be shared amongst the community and they have spoken with the local brownie group to get them involved so that there will be a range of age groups participating.

The triangles and squares will be used to form bunting that can be displayed in people’s windows to celebrate VE day (Friday 8th May)

How you can help

To register your interest in volunteering as part of your local COVID-19 response, please fill in our quick and easy online form

To find out more about local groups and organisations who are supporting the COVID-19 response, please click the image below and visit the Wiltshire Council website which has the most up to date information.


WVHA Logo IconVillage Halls & Community Buildings stand united in these challenging times hosting voluntary or public services, such as Post Office, food banks, essential grocery and food shopping, prescription/medication pick up, information, advice, homeless services and food delivery.

We talked this month to Ashton Keynes Village Hall about their positive community actions and how the volunteers are keeping community spirit alive. The Chairman confirmed that the GP’s Branch Surgery is based at the hall, the Post Office and village shop remains open. For local residents who are in isolation or immobile, volunteers are working with the shop to arrange collection and deliveries of essentials. A local resident (an ex-chef) has even volunteered to use the kitchen to run a take-away and delivery service for residents.

This really is a time of community spirit, expressions that engage for the benefit of Wiltshire’s communities.

Meanwhile, Community First is still providing advice and support to village halls and community buildings through Wiltshire Village Halls Association. For more information please contact Helen Akiyama: hakiyama@communityfirst.org.uk


Building Bridges Programme Update

The Building Bridges programme is continuing its excellent work to support participants across Swindon and Wiltshire despite the challenges of the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown period.

The aim of the programme is to help people who face multiple barriers and challenges to move towards the world of work or education and at the moment we are actively supporting 423 participants across the region.

Over 80% of our participants are disadvantaged and over 50% consider themselves to have disabilities or long-term-health conditions, so in these challenging times it is vitally important for us to keep supporting the people we are working with as fully as possible.

Although our key workers are no longer able to meet people face-to-face either individually or for group activities, they have been finding lots of innovative ways to support them through video calls, webinars, vlogs, telephone support and email.

The programme has created a resource centre for key workers to be able share information that may be of help to each other’s participants and the lead team publish a daily newsletter giving links to all of the support available across the region.

In addition, the support being provided to participants hasn’t just focused on helping them to continue working towards their employment or education goals, but has also included a large degree of helping people to maintain their physical and mental wellbeing during the lockdown period. The key workers are absolutely vital to the success of this approach, as they know the participants well and can tailor the support they provide to each person’s individual needs – in some cases this has even included delivering food and prescriptions for those people who have had to self-isolate and had no other support.

The programme team is strongly linked in to the support arrangements being put in place by both Swindon Borough Council and Wiltshire County Council. Through these links, we are also helping our more vulnerable and disadvantaged participants to be aware of and access other support as it becomes available.

We are continuing to receive referrals to the programme during the lockdown period and have put special arrangements in place to enable us to sign people up remotely.

We are also really pleased to report that our participants continue to make fantastic progress and our congratulations go to two of them who have successfully gained jobs since the lockdown period began!

If you would like to learn more about the programme and the support we provide, please contact us on 01380 732821 or email us at hello@buildingbridgessw.org.uk

Meet Gayle Harper

I joined Community First in late 2019 as a Key Support Worker on the Building Bridges programme.

Right from the start, all of the staff at the offices in Devizes made me feel welcome and part of the team and all are clearly committed to supporting the local community and working for the good of others.

I find my job incredibly rewarding, helping vulnerable individuals to overcome barriers, building their confidence and self-esteem and enabling them to live their lives independently whilst moving towards gaining employment or further education.

No two days are ever the same, and I find it both fulfilling and at times challenging with the variety that this brings, as every person I work with has unique needs, aspirations and goals both immediately and for their future.

During this national (and worldwide) crisis, everyone from our Lead Team, our Partners and Key Support Workers have worked tirelessly to offer a seamless transition so that our support services continue uninterrupted, with all staff working from home while maintaining consistent ongoing support to participants on the Building Bridges programme.

Everyone involved has ensured that we continue to provide programme participants with 1:1 support, information advice and guidance, and the additional help for individuals cope with the added anxiety and worry that these unusual circumstances have caused have been quite exemplary.

I am proud to be part of the Building Bridges programme and part of the team who continue to offer unfailing support even during the most unsettling of times when it is needed even more so.

I am certain we all hope and look forward to brighter and better futures for all.


Have you got time seek funding? You may be eligible for a Landfill Community Grant

Throughout these unprecedented times, The Landfill Communities Fund (LCF) here at Community First is still very much in operation!  Project applications (around 40 in all) are all at different stages and most of this work can be done whilst working remotely, including issuing agreements for approved projects.

Our hours have not changed and you can get in touch 9:00am to 5:00pm Monday to Thursday and 9:00am to 4:00pm on a Friday.

If you need to speak to someone about applying for a grant, or an existing grant, please call 01380 732802.  There will be an answerphone message.  Please leave your name and telephone number and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

With all of the spare time on your hands at the moment due to COVID-19, why not use this time to begin seeking funding from the LCF.

For new applicants, please download and complete an Expression of Interest Form here and email to mhardwidge@communityfirst.org.uk.

You will be contacted by telephone to discuss eligibility and if you are eligible, you will be sent application documents and guided through the application process using the telephone and emails.

Can we save you money on your village hall or local council insurance?

Find out more about our low cost policies designed to address the complexities faced by village halls, community buildings and local councils. For more information please contact jemery@communityfirst.org.uk

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