Community First News & Updates

Community First reflects after one year of lockdown restrictions

by | Apr 19, 2021 | News, Press Releases

Covid-19 Wiltshire Community First Reflection


March 23rd marked the one year anniversary of the first national lockdown. Despite the lockdown restriction local charity Community First has continued its support to communities including village halls, local councils, community transport groups, young people and the unemployed through Building Bridges.

Community first is one of 38 members of the ACRE network which collectively reach over 35,000 groups and organisations across England whilst levering in approximately £34m in support of community initiatives. Nationally almost all members report a significant increase in demand for support for village hall support due to coronavirus, whilst there has also been a significant increase in demand for volunteer support (+84%), delivery of projects relating to health and wellbeing (+76%) and funding advice to groups (+73%).

The support the teams at Community First have given to people across Wiltshire and Swindon and the wonderful work that so many volunteers are doing to help others during the pandemic is commendable.

The charity led a recent volunteer recruitment campaign to recruit over 360 new volunteers for the Link schemes. They have over the past 12 months experienced a 20% reduction in volunteers and 50% reduction in journeys particularly for hospital visits as people chose not to take up their appointments.

Pre pandemic, the schemes would predominantly be focussed on taking individuals to medical and social appointments. This changed to support the delivery of food (shopping), collecting medical prescriptions, calling the most vulnerable to make sure they were safe and helping deliver food parcels from Wilshire’s central food bank in Salisbury. A breakdown of trips completed from March to December 2020 showed 4833 journeys for prescription collections, 976 food collection and delivery and 2456 check-in phone calls with the most vulnerable. Throughout this time Community First has been giving advice and support to the volunteers.

From December 2020 to the March 2021, the Link schemes have again diversified to support the most vulnerable of their communities to receive the Covid19 vaccination. Currently over 779 Individuals have been supported in this way

The Youth Action Wiltshire team and the Building Bridges partnership continued to offer critical support, and despite the difficulties, challenges and restrictions presented by the COVID-19 pandemic the teams have given support face to face to those people with most challenges. The Building Bridges team continued to actively support an average of 343 participants into both education and employment outcomes throughout the pandemic period through a blended mix of remote support and Covid-safe face to face delivery when this has been permissible within Government guidelines. Over half (56.1%) of our participants have achieved a positive outcome with the programme.

  • 69 young people and Building Bridges participants benefited from Chromebooks and sim-card dongles as part of a IT project funded by the National Lottery Community Fund which enabled them to successfully engage in online home-schooling, stay connected to friends and family and engage with our online activities.
  • Vodafone provided free unlimited data sim-cards for participants who didn’t have Wi-Fi access to use during the lockdown over the first three months of the year
  • Community First remains linked into the Wiltshire “Get Connected” digital exclusion steering group to share learning and future development ideas

Youth Action Wiltshire has continued to support young people right through these difficult times including young carers, victims of crime and those struggling with challenges at home. We are very proud to have been able to have;

  • Provided face to face respite & support group sessions for 237 young carers.
  • Carried out 680 individual welfare checks for young carers, during England’s first two lockdown periods.

 “Wiltshire Young Carers, is my safe space, it’s where I have friends & can be myself” A young carer.


“Having someone to talk to & share my worries with, has helped me get through the lockdown”. A young carer. 

  • Delivered face to face positive activities & support groups for 311 vulnerable young people through our Splash service.
  • Provided one to one coaching, mentoring or counselling programmes for 254 young people who were engaging with Splash.

 “Splash has changed my life” – A young person


“Splash has given him some wonderful memories and support, when life at home has been very difficult this year” – A parent

  • 40 young people who were Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) & 10 young people in danger of becoming NEET, have engaged in our Project Inspire group work activities, non-formal learning programmes & benefited from individualised support.
  • Following their engagement, 83% of young people reported increased skills.

My confidence is so much better & I believe in myself more, I now want to get more qualifications to help me find a job. A young person

Wiltshire parents praised the support teams

“This year has been really hard, so it’s been great to know that you are always there for the kids”


“Being able to see other young people onscreen throughout the past year has really helped my daughter to feel less isolated”


 “The support the team have given my son to help him overcome his anxieties and return to school has been absolutely amazing”


Lynn Gibson, Chief Executive says “it’s been a difficult year for everyone but I am incredibly proud of the important role the team and its partners has played to help communities cope and thrive. We are looking forward to the new programmes we plan to roll out over the coming months”

James Moody, Chair says “During what has been the most challenging of years, it has been fantastic to witness the extraordinary resilience of our local communities across Wiltshire and Swindon. As the chair of Community First, I am incredibly proud of the work undertaken by our amazing staff and volunteers throughout the pandemic. They have each played a pivotal role in ensuring the continued provision of key services and activities, enabling us to maintain support where it is needed the most.”

The charity is delighted that Oxenwood Outdoor education Centre is now open for business from 29th March. The offer includes Dawn to Dusk activity days, offering the flavour of a much missed residential trip without the sleepover. A full day of activities before a BBQ dinner provided, followed by an evening hike. History enrichment days and adventure sports are also back on the menu. Programmes are tailored so schools and other groups. For more information contact, Ed Plank, Centre Manager and Chief Instructor, Oxenwood Outdoor Education Centre, 01264 731274,

We are also really proud to be leading a not for profit Kickstart consortium. Kickstart is a new Government employment programme offering six month placements to 16 – 25 year olds over the next 18 months 55+ jobs across Wiltshire. The not for profit consortium aims to create at lest 55 new jobs for young people helping them get onto the employment ladder.

An awards evening with the High Sheriff, Major General Ashley Truluck C.B.E and the Lord Lieutenant, Sarah Troughton CStJ DL was the perfect way to mark this contribution with an award given to the outgoing Chair, Martin Hamer on his contribution to the charity over the 11 years including the acquisition of Oxenwood Outdoor Education Centre, and the purchase of their office base at Hopton.

Ashley Truluck, Wiltshire’s High Sheriff saidI was delighted to have the opportunity to present a High Sheriff’s Award to Community First just before handing over to my successor, Sir Charles Hobhouse, last month, and will continue to take a close interest in their work in my ongoing role as Chair of Wiltshire Community Foundation:  Their contribution over many years across a whole range of community projects has been outstanding – as much for their impact as their breadth which includes the Link Scheme, Youth Action Wiltshire, Building Bridges, Wiltshire Young Carers, Splash and Kickstart. Despite successive lockdowns they have adapted innovatively to maintain contact with many of the people they set to support – and I am delighted to see that their innovative Oxenwood Education Centre will soon be re-opening for youth outdoor activities”

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