News and updates from our programmes and services


A note from our CEO

Welcome to the Winter 2021 edition of the Community First Headlines newsletter with news and updates from across our programmes and services. This is our last e-newsletter of 2021 and what an eventful year it has been for our teams and for the individuals, groups and organisations we support across Wiltshire and Swindon.

It has been over a year since the vaccine rollout began and, whilst the outlook is a lot more positive compared to this time last year, we must continue to do all we can to support the continued rollout of the vaccine booster programme and adhere to all public health guidance as it relates to the omicron variant of the virus.

As a team we are looking forward to the start of a new year and we are actively making plans to adapt our service delivery to meet new challenges that may arise.

On behalf of the team at Community First, we hope you have a restful festive break and we look forward to connecting with you again in the New Year.

Christmas Hours

  • Community First main telephone number – closes 3pm on 23rd December
  • YAW and Young Carers main numbers – close 4pm on 23rd December
  • Building Bridges telephone number – closes 12pm on 24th December

Our team will return to work on Tuesday 4th January 2022.

Volunteers needed for booster vaccine transport

Could you spare some time to offer transport for people who need a Covid-19 vaccine booster this winter? Link volunteer car schemes in Wiltshire and Swindon are actively supporting the vaccine booster rollout which is gathering pace. This follows a recent government announcement pledging to speed up the delivery of vaccine boosters to combat the threat posed by the omicron variant which had led to a rapid increase in cases of Covid-19.

There are many people in our local communities who are unable to access private or public transport and who need help to get to their Covid-19 vaccine booster appointment. We are looking for volunteers to come forward and help the vaccine rollout effort locally.

Call 01380 722241 or email linkproject@communityfirst.org.uk

Village Hall and Local Council Insurance

Can we save you money on your village hall or local council insurance? We offer low-cost, flexible insurance for village halls, community buildings, local councils and playing fields. The scheme is underwritten by Zurich, a leading provider of insurance.

We will soon be launching an online webpage which you can use to request a quote. In the meantime if you would like to have a chat about insurance or to get a free quote from the team, please contact: communityinsurance@communityfirst.org.uk. Or call 01380 732809.

community insurance banner


“Every village hall has different needs, the team at Community First have insured our hall for 4 years and we are really happy with the service and level of cover. The policy has an array of benefits tailored to meet our needs and at a really competitive price.”

Treasurer Winterbourne Glebe Hall


combined BB funder logo 2020

The Building Bridges Programme recently celebrated 5 years since its launch in 2016. The programme is jointly funded by The National Lottery Community Fund and the European Social Fund. Since launch the Building Bridges partnership has supported 1,487 participants, this includes 338 people who are currently receiving support from partner organisations.

Over half of participants have achieved a positive outcome through the programme to date, with 23% moving into employment, 28% into education (including 245 people who were NEET or at risk of becoming NEET) and 3% into job search.

Through their journey with the programme, 69% of participants gained new skills and qualifications, 27% volunteered, 20% accessed debt or financial advice, 13% undertook work experience and 12% accessed travel training. Overall 60% of participants report increased confidence, wellbeing and self-esteem when exiting the programme.

The Building Bridges Programme has received a further £2m extension and delivery of the programme has been secured to the end of January 2023.

Building Bridges Shortlisted for Wiltshire Life Award

Congratulations to the Building Bridges Programme who are finalists in the Community Group of the Year category in the 2022 Wiltshire Life Awards. The team looks forward to attending the award event next year, we hope you will join us in congratulating them for this brilliant achievement.


Community Information Champions

Our Community Organising team has recently completed another term of online training for Community Information Champions. These champions will play a key role in local communities across Wiltshire, working with others to reach out and connect people with services locally.

A very big thank you to all attendees who took part in training throughout the last year. An online networking event will be taking place in January 2022 to share experiences, ideas and challenges from your area of the county and link up with other like-minded individuals. Everyone is welcome to attend.

A new term of free online training will also be starting in January. If you would like to take part and make a difference as a Community Information Champion, please contact Alex Neale: aneale@communityfirst.org.uk

Community Organisers – New Youth Voice Group Project

Community Organisers have also been busy working on a new youth voice group project funded by Salisbury City Council. The project aims to reach out and work with young people in The Friary to hear their views and have their say on issues which matter to them.

The team is interested in hearing from young people aged 10-23 years who live in this part of Salisbury, please get in touch with Katrina Watson: kwatson@communityfirst.org.uk if you would like to be involved.

Community Organisers – Area Board Youth Engagement Project

The Community Organising team is also working on a community based youth engagement project funded by Warminster, Amesbury, Pewsey, Tidworth and South Wiltshire Area Board.

The project aims to increase engagement with young people in rural areas. If you know any young people aged 13-18 years (or up to aged 24 years with SEND) living in these areas, we would love to hear from them to find out how they feel about youth activities in their area. Email Katrina Watson: kwatson@communityfirst.org.uk to find out more.

We will keep you up to date with information about positive activities and services which emerge following the listening activity. Stay tuned for more.

In addition to our youth voice and engagement work, Community Organisers have been connecting with lonely and isolated individuals following the lifting of restrictions earlier this year.

The team has been able to signpost to sources of support whilst out and about on various listening and engagement projects across the county.

Get Out Get Active – Project Update

The team have been out and about listening to residents in Amesbury and Ludgershall over Autumn to discuss the Get Out Get Active project.

We have also been warmly welcomed by Friends of Ludgershall lunch club and the team has helped their volunteers with Youth work issues, DBS checks and referrals for inclusive Equestrian riding classes offered through the GOGA project.

A successful One-Day Introduction to Community Organising for GOGA volunteers took place on 16th November at Amesbury Baptist Church. The ideas for community activities have ranged from gardening, cooking for health, song-writing, movement to music and walking basketball. We look forward to continuing our work in Tidworth and Bemerton Heath in 2022.

Wiltshire Village Halls Association Networking Events

During 2021 Village Halls and Community Buildings Advisor Helen offered a series of Zoom Networking Events for Wiltshire Village Halls Association members. The events have extremely popular with representatives from 100 halls and buildings attending over the year. A variety of topics are discussed and it is always great to hear new ideas, share information and recommendations from halls.

In 2022, Helen hopes to have a more blended approach with some members joining in person and others taking part virtually. Contact Helen Akiyama to find out more and to book your place on the next networking event, email hakiyama@communityfirst.org.uk or call 07770 490 907.

ACRE Covid-19 Winter Briefing for Village Halls

Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) has released a Covid-19 winter briefing for village halls and community buildings. The briefing provides an interpretation of the Government’s Covid Winter Plan to help those managing halls and buildings.

Over the summer months, many of England’s village halls reopened for the enjoyment of their local communities. As we move through the winter months and with cases of Covid-19 increasing, ACRE is urging hall management committees to take note of the latest government guidance for keeping users safe.

The briefing sets out some practical measures halls can take to address risks when hiring out buildings based on an interpretation of the government’s preferred approach to managing the pandemic over the Winter months. This includes keeping spaces well ventilated, the use of face masks and continued use of Track and Trace QR codes if necessary.

Marking 100 years of support for England’s village halls

On Monday 1st November, ACRE held a special event to celebrate 100 years of support to England’s 10,000+ village halls and community buildings.

The event took place at South Luffenham Village Hall in Rutland which is itself a ‘War Hut’ dating back to the 1920s but recently renovated thanks to the Village Hall Improvement Grant Fund managed by ACRE. People could also enjoy and be part of the event virtually for the first time via Facebook Live.

Deborah Clarke, ACRE’s Village Halls Manager said: We heard about the history of this Hall, as well as talks by the Rt Hon Lord Benyon, Minister for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity and various illuminati from the ACRE Network.”

Also in November, Helen virtually joined other members of ACRE Network Village Halls Advisers’ conference to refresh our knowledge and share good practice carrying on the tradition of the annual training event which has been taking place since the late 1990s.

Wiltshire Association of Local Councils (WALC)

This year, WALC Local Councils’ Adviser Katie Fielding has been busy with training, providing thirty-five training courses for member councils. In addition, we have been working with partner organisations to make their training available to our member councils. This has included finance, VAT, internal audit and controls and end of year and audit training with the Parkinson Partnership; training in social media, engagement, working with young people and communications with Breakthrough Communications and training in website accessibility with Aubergine.

We have seen unprecedented demand for training; Wiltshire and parts of Swindon held local council elections in May 2021 which created a huge demand. The ability to hold many courses remotely via Zoom, has meant that they have been generally easier to attend and to organise. The pandemic, whilst bringing many difficult and challenging situations, also brought a need to provide training online and a willingness to attend such courses, freeing up councillor and clerks’ time and cutting costs for both councils and WALC.

Some councillors and clerks are missing the opportunity to network with one another. We often learn so much from those conversations over a cup of tea and a biscuit at such events. Whilst there is no doubt that remote training is here to stay, we hope that opportunities for face-to-face networking and training sessions will also resume, striking a balance between the two.

If you are from a council that has yet to attend one of our Fundamentals for Councillors or Planning Briefing for Local Councils remote training sessions, but would like to, please let Local Councils’ Adviser, Katie Fielding know. We would like to meet the current demand before moving on to new subjects and it would be helpful to ascertain what that demand is so we know how many courses to organise. Similarly, if the council would like Katie to provide whole council training, do get in touch by emailing kfielding@communityfirst.org.uk

MiDAS Minibus Driver Awareness & Assessment Training

Is your organisation looking to train new minibus drivers?

MiDAS is a membership-based scheme designed to enhance both driving and safety standards for drivers of minibuses. MiDAS is a nationally recognised standard for the assessment and training of minibus drivers.

Community First is now taking new bookings for MiDAS minibus training with our MiDAS Training Coordinator Martin Carter. Martin is a retired Police Advanced Driver with over 35 years’ experience of driving minibuses. For more information or to make a booking contact Martin: mcarter@communityfirst.org.uk 


“It was very informative, supportive and helpful. Thank you”

“A fantastic trainer, thank you!”

“Excellent instruction and venue.”

“Thank you, it was very informative, engaging and useful.”

“Very thorough, extremely well presented. Superb manner and personable, great communication.”


Bold Creative Services

Did you know Community First offer affordable creative design and marketing Services? One of our latest projects include a new website for Spurgeons Children’s Centres in Wiltshire. If you have a design or website project that you would like to chat about, please contact: bold@communityfirst.org.uk

Landfill Communities Fund – Southwick Village Hall Kitchen Refurbishment

For many years the users of the village hall have complained about the state of the kitchen. The village hall committee is pleased to announce that a completely refurbished kitchen has now been installed thanks to funding received from Hills Group Ltd through the Landfill Communities Fund.

Refurbishment work began on Thursday 5th November with an anticipated timescale of three to five weeks. The new kitchen comprises of two new electric cookers which should give flexibility for groups who may wish to fully utilise the kitchen for catering. A new integrated dishwasher has also been installed and with the existing upright fridge freezer the new kitchen should be able to cater for all future potential hirers’ requirements. The constant hot water boiler is still in situ, making the preparation of hot drinks easier for visitors.

The committee is confident that this long overdue project will now benefit all the existing hirers and hopefully bring in more custom to keep Southwick Village Hall a viable proposition for the future.


The team have continued to work flat out to meet the needs of Wiltshire’s young people. Across our services we have seen increasing demand, as the challenges young people face have been intensified by the impact of the pandemic and related periods of lockdown.

In 2021, whilst at all times working to National Youth Agency and Government guidance, we are proud to have been able to provide through our Wiltshire Young Carers, Splash and Project Inspire Targeted Youth Support Services;

  • Face to face group work activities for 841 young people
  • Wide ranging 1:1 support for 450 young people

With a total of 222 ‘bubbled/capped’ face to face group work activity sessions and 11 residential projects all provided.

In a bid to meet increasing demand, whilst maintaining our remote staff led group webinars, school holiday young carers respite & Splash positive activities programmes, we are currently in the process of launching a total of 10 new local young carers clubs & 3 monthly Splash term-time groups. All of which will provide a chance for young people to try new activities, develop their self-confidence, skills and support networks.

YAW Fundraising

Youth Action Wiltshire and Community First are reliant on donations big and small.  We would love to have your support, and there are several simple ways you can help raise funds to enable us to continue supporting Wiltshire’s young people:

  • You could raise free donations for Community First/Youth Action Wiltshire when shopping online by registering with Easyfundraising  –  thousands of retailers will donate a percentage of your total purchase to support our work, at no additional cost to you.
  • You may like to consider supporting Wiltshire Young Carers by entering the Salisbury Community Lottery –  A local lottery with a jackpot of £25,000. All tickets purchased (where Wiltshire Young Carers Service is selected as your chosen cause) will raise 50p for Wiltshire Young Carers Service
  • If you would like to donate to Youth Action Wiltshire this Christmas you can do this via our JustGiving page.
  • If you would like to organise your own fundraising event please get in touch to request a fundraising pack:  fundraising@youthactionwiltshire.org
  • If you are involved in your own charity or good cause you can register with Easy fundraising and raise free donations to support your own work here EasyFundraising

Thank you in advance for your support.


Oxenwood Outdoor Education Centre

Throughout the pandemic, our Outdoor Education Centre at Oxenwood has proved an invaluable asset to us. Where we have been able to implement the raft of required COVID-19 safety measures, it  has therefore provided the base for the majority of our Wiltshire Young Carers, Splash & Project Inspire face to face group activities, alongside offering a venue & activity focus for extended 1 to 1 sessions. Young people have engaged in, wildlife, wide ranging outdoor education, arts, creative, problem solving & adventure sports activities.

External groups have been benefiting from our action packed ‘Dawn to Dusk Days’ & ‘Time Machine’ bespoke historical enrichment activities and our Oxenwood booking calendar is filling up fast for 2022.

Look out for news from us in early 2022, as we are currently working on an extremely exciting addition to our Outdoor Education offer.

Oxenwood Day Activity Leaflet 2021
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