News and updates from our programmes and services


​A note from our CEO Lynn Gibson

Welcome to our New Year e-news bulletin.

Although we are still in the midst of the pandemic this bulletin has many lovely examples of the support the team is giving to people across the county and the wonderful work that so many volunteers are doing to help others. I hope you enjoy reading it.

If you would like to support the work we do please do consider becoming a member. Details can be found at: Community First Membership.

If you are part of a village hall committee or parish council looking at your insurance options, please take a look at our website and the community insurance offer. By choosing this policy you will also be helping us to continue with the services we offer across the county.

Community First Trustee Recruitment

Community First is Recruiting for New Trustees

We have exciting opportunities for up to four new Trustees to join our Board and help us support growth, innovation and development. We are committed to equal opportunities and we looking for Trustees with a variety of different skills, life experience and backgrounds. We are particularly interested in applications from people with business or Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector experience.

For more information please see the Trustee Information Pack

To apply for a Trustee role, please send a short statement and CV addressing the person specification to Bernadette Lowe. Email: blowe@communityfirst.org.uk. The deadline for applications is 22nd March 2021.


Covid-19 Link Scheme Volunteers - Thank You

A BIG Thank you to our amazing Covid-19 Transport Heroes!

Wow! What a busy start to 2021 for the Link Schemes. As expected, a huge number of people in Wiltshire and Swindon needed transport to their Covid vaccinations and turning to local Link schemes. But with low volunteer numbers, Link Schemes were concerned they might struggle to cope with the demand. Community First made an urgent call for volunteers and called on every resource they had in a bid to recruit as many volunteers as possible to help with transporting people.

The responses have been overwhelming – with 250 people signing up to volunteer with Link Schemes across Wiltshire and playing a vital role in getting people to their vaccination appointments.

Special thanks and appreciation goes to Danny Kruger, who has been instrumental in putting the word out and BBC Wiltshire radio for their support with county-wide publicity. We have been overwhelmed with the response from local businesses in Wiltshire, notably Gaiger, TH White, Wadworth and Nationwide all canvassed their staff and, in some cases, donated staff with a company car full of fuel. Just amazing!

Can You Help Make a Difference?

There are 42 Link Schemes in Wiltshire, providing vital transport and practical support to isolated and vulnerable people across the county. Demand for Link services is growing, people are isolated from their community and struggling to carry out simple everyday tasks due to coronavirus (COVID-19)

If you would like to volunteer with your local Link Scheme and support the Covid-19 vaccine roll out by transporting patients to and from their appointment, please get in touch or visit

You will be helping to keep local people connected to their community, healthcare and local services:

Email: linkproject@communityfirst.org.uk 

Telephone: 01380 722 241

Connect 2 Wiltshire

Wiltshire Link LogoThe Connect 2 Wiltshire project aims to keep communities connected, combating loneliness and isolation and supporting volunteer recruitment campaigns to strengthen Link schemes across Wiltshire.

Pre-lockdown 3, Community First Community Organisers, Clara and Sam spent time out in Trowbridge with Wiltshire Council Local Area Co-ordinator, Gemma Novis.

They met with residents to tell them about the Connect 2 Wiltshire project. They targeted different areas of Trowbridge and spent 4 days knocking on resident’s doors to introduce them to Gemma and inform them about local clubs and activities, giving them great ideas on how they could connect with others in their area in person and online. The thought of meeting new people can be a little overwhelming but developing new friendships can be one of the best ways to tackle feelings of loneliness

The team also told them about the Link Scheme which operates in Trowbridge and the free transport and good neighbour service available to local people who are in need, perhaps because they are elderly, disabled, isolated, single parents, or perhaps temporarily in need because of illness.

The time spent in Trowbridge was welcomed by residents, the community organising team look forward to connecting with more communities in 2021 when lockdown ends.

MiDAS Driver Awareness & Assessment Training in 2021

Do you or your organisation operate or use minibuses?

Minibuses provide a vital service for many people and organisations, enabling them to run an impressive range of social and educational activities. We help drivers gain more valuable experience and to feel more confident and competent in driving minibuses.

‘Will your staff require new or refresher training when the National lockdown ends?

MIDAS is a membership-based scheme designed to enhance both driving and safety standards for drivers of minibuses and promote safer operation of minibuses. The scheme is governed by the Community Transport Association (CTA) who promote this nationally recognised standard for the assessment and training of minibus drivers.

The training we offer is delivered by Community First’s MiDAS Training Coordinator Martin Carter. Martin is a retired Police Advanced driver with over 35 years’ experience of driving minibuses. Martin has completed and passed the MiDAS Driver Assessor Trainers (DAT) course.

Don’t forget: MiDAS certificates are valid for only 4 years. Extensions are available but only for 3 months and drivers have to apply to get these extensions before their certificate expires.

“I have recently attended a Midas mini bus driver’s course, and I just wanted to share a quick note to let you know that Martin Carter very professionally put us all at ease and delivered the course content simply and thoroughly. I can now drive confidently with the knowledge of mini bus laws and driving safety.”

Ian T Huxham hux@home the Odd-job man

If you would like any further information on the next MiDAS training course planned this April, please contact Martin today:

Email: mcarter@communityfirst.org.uk
Tel: 01380 722475
Mobile: 07803 954155

Wiltshire’s Youth Consultants

Youth Consultant Zoom CallOur Youth Consultants have been championing the voices of young people in Wiltshire for over a year now, and what an experience it has been for them all!

They have listened to more than 300 young people, including young carers, victims of crime, and children in care, as well as other young people in our communities across the county. All findings have been passed on to Wiltshire Council so that improvements to services can be made.

The council, Wiltshire Police, and the NHS have taken counsel from the team, asking for advice about how to reach young people, helping them to understand what it is to be a young person in Wiltshire.

They spoke about Covid-19 and the importance of sticking to restrictions, crime & youth-police relations, and health, aiming to share youth perspectives on these important topics. They’ve also worked on making reports and forms easier for young people to read, so that as many young people as possible can reach important information.

They hope that they have given young people a voice, a solid platform to speak and be listened to and that their work has paved the way for a more active youth role in our community. The team would like to wish every young person the very best, not only for their own future, but in becoming the future we all want to see.

Feedback from the team:

“Most recently, it has been so humbling to see some changes within Wiltshire Council as a direct result of our listening. It’s great to know that we can and we are making a difference.”

Tia Fear, Youth Consultant

“Being a youth consultant has been an incredible experience and has highlighted the career path that I want to do in the future.”

Charlotte Thorn, Youth Consultant

Community Information Champions Training 3rd February

Sign-Up for Free Community Information Champions (CIC) Virtual Training May 2021

Community Information Champions is a new project led by Community First, in partnership with Wiltshire Council, Your Care Your Support Wiltshire and Wessex Community Action. The project aims to recruit, train and support a network of Community Information Champions across Wiltshire to help provide signposting to health and care information, local services and support as well as practical advice around key issues like benefits and debts.

The team have just finished the first training programme of 2021 and have held 3 Wiltshire wide network meet ups on zoom allowing people to connect and link up despite not being able to see each other in person during lockdown. We look forward to getting to know them all and to continue building the network as we go. To join the next term of FREE training or to find out more, contact Alex Neale (aneale@communityfirst.org.uk) or Katrina Watson (kwatson@communityfirst.org.uk)

Positive feedback from our trainees who signed up for our online programme last month:

‘It made me focus and I felt able to share things that I found difficult in an open yet secure environment. I perhaps would not have done so with a group that I already knew’

‘Surprisingly good as I was dubious of what can be learnt via zoom. A great way to meet like minded people, share experiences and learn from excellent course leaders’

‘Highly recommended course, gives you an insight and knowledge on how to reach the local and wider community. Makes you reflect on your own practices and services offered and makes suitable suggestion on how you can improve and make a bigger impact in whatever job or volunteer role you deliver’

To join the next term of FREE training in May or to find out more, contact Alex Neale (aneale@communityfirst.org.uk) or Katrina Watson (kwatson@communityfirst.org.uk)


Wiltshire’s Local Election Plan

WALC New LogoWiltshire Association of Local Councils (WALC) is looking forward to the local council elections following the Government announcing that the 2020 elections would be postponed in response to the growing concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Local elections take place on Thursday 6th May. 

The Parish, Town and City Councils of Wiltshire and Swindon play a vital role in the effective management of local community affairs and in encouraging and supporting locally based community initiatives. Community First provides the secretariat to (WALC) in turn helping it to provide specialised support services to Town and Parish Councils across the county. The post-election period is a busy one for the membership organisation and Katie Fielding, our Local Council Advisor is busy planning and setting up a comprehensive online training offer, exclusive to members.

We will be offering twelve remote training sessions for new councillors, dates to be confirmed however we anticipate the programme to roll out, early summer. These will be supported by whole-council training sessions, also delivered remotely. In addition to this we are preparing an elections’ timetable and a list of information, publications and relevant policies which may make up a new councillors pack for 2021.

In February we are running a training session called How to Find New Councillors course all places are SOLD OUT however due to popular demand we are considering scheduling a second session. If you would like to register your interest in any of these sessions planned or if your council are interested in finding out more information about the benefits of becoming a member of Wiltshire Association of Local Councils please contact Katie Fielding at the WALC office.

Telephone: 01380 732 808

Email: kfielding@communityfirst.org.uk

Also watch this space! We’ve got a brand new website coming in early 2021

community led housing free event

Community Led Housing: Free Virtual Event

Thursday 25th February at 12:00pm

Homes of Our Own is hosting a special online event for people to find out more about community led housing and how it could help to solving local housing problems in Wiltshire and Swindon.

Community led housing is gaining momentum nationally as a method of local people playing a leading and lasting role in creating genuinely affordable homes and strong communities in ways that are difficult to achieve through mainstream housing delivery.

Homes of Our Own is the community led housing hub covering Wiltshire and Swindon. It is a partnership between Community First, Wiltshire Community Land Trust, Swindon Borough Council and Wiltshire Council. Homes of Our Own supports and enables groups seeking to deliver alternative solutions to their community housing needs beyond the mainstream delivery mechanisms.

The Homes of Our Own team offers support to assist with the work associated with setting up a community led housing group; for example, supporting communities to establish a group, plan community housing projects, source funding and support grant applications.

The free online event, on Thursday 25 February at midday, will include explanations of how community led housing works, a full story of how it’s working elsewhere in Wiltshire, and plenty of time for questions and discussion.

Trevor Cherrett, Chair of the Wiltshire Community Land Trust, will be a key speaker, and there will also be a presentation by Seend Community Land Trust, which is currently working on an exciting project in partnership with White Horse Housing Association to deliver Community Led Housing in Seend.

The event will also have updates on funding available for community led housing groups provided by Ian Crawley, Technical Adviser, and a panel of speakers will be ready to answer any questions people may have.

Details of the event are here:
Housing Events | Homes of Our Own

Link to register for the event is here:
Community-led housing in Wiltshire and Swindon Tickets, Thu 25 Feb 2021 at 12:00 | Eventbrite

And In Other Housing News…

January saw the launch of another government consultation. The proposal has ties to the Community Right to Contest, which allows members of the public to request the government directs the disposal of unused or underused publicly owned land, such as vacant homes and garages. The Right to Regenerate consultation can be found here.

It was disappointing that the Spending Review did not include funding set aside for community led housing. However, it is hoped some of the newly announced Levelling up Fund will be available to communities; with lobbying of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government by the National CLT Network to secure a portion of the fund for community led housing.

The team at Homes of Our Own are continuing support groups and attending remote meetings, including attendance at parish council meetings. If you are a town or parish councillor who would like us to speak at an online meeting to introduce community led housing, please get in touch via this form.

If you think CLH would be something relevant to your community, or if you are a landowner who would like to get involved in helping meet your community’s needs, please contact us.

Work is starting on our spring newsletter; to keep up to date with news from us follow us on social media and sign up to our newsletter!

village halls week zoom

Celebrating 100 Years Together: Village Halls Week 2021

Last month, 25th – 29th January, we celebrated #VillageHallsWeek, championing and promoting the important role village halls play in local communities. We recognised how village halls across Wiltshire and Swindon are survivors. Many have been bringing people together in rural communities since the 1920s. And in the past year, the volunteers who manage these buildings have shown great determination and resilience in the face of Coronavirus, negotiating lockdowns and putting in place Covid Secure measures so they could continue supporting their local community. As social gatherings are currently off limits, Village Halls Week will look at bit different in 2021.

As part of #VillageHallsWeek, Helen Akiyama spoke to BBC Radio Wiltshire and also held a Zoom Networking Event for Wiltshire Village Halls Association members.

A total of 35 halls attended the event over 3 sessions with a variety of topics discussed. It was great to hear new ideas and recommendations from halls – thank you to everyone who attended.


Trowbridge Town Hall – Trowbridge 1825 Project

Trowbridge Town Hall is aiming to have 250 conversations with 18 – 25 year olds in the local area. They want to hear about their ideas for innovative businesses, community projects or creative events to see how the hall can support them to turn their dreams into reality.

Up for grabs is project support, space at the Town Hall and up to £1000 towards the new venture.

Initially we Trowbridge Town Hall is asking people to get in touch by emailing Harriet (harrietlouisewyatt@gmail.com) or sending a direct message to Trowbridge Town Hall on Facebook. They can then arrange to have a chat via phone or video call. Equally if you or anyone in your organisation would like to have a chat about the project, feel free to get in touch.


yaw christmas raffle update

Christmas raffle raises £7,500 in support of Youth Action Wiltshire

Thank you to everyone that supported our online Youth Action Wiltshire Christmas raffle, to those that kindly donated prizes and those that bought tickets We were overwhelmed and so grateful with all the support received.

The impact of Covid-19 on our work in 2020 included severe restrictions on our face to face delivery and increased costs, alongside lost funding as a result of cancelled fundraising events and a loss of income from our wonderful Outdoor Education Centre at Oxenwood, all at a time of increasing need. With your kind generosity the raffle raised £7,500 which surpassed our expectations but now means we can plan additional small group Covid-safe support group sessions for young people accessing our services.

“Splash has changed my life” – A young person

As we look forward to 2021, we hope to be able to return to hosting some wonderful face to face fundraising events this year; including the annual golf tournament, garden parties, The Stampede Sports Cycling event, entries in the London Marathon and our fantastic Carols by Candlelight service, please keep an eye on our website for more information.

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

Despite the difficulties and challenges presented by Covid-19 from the first lockdown, our wonderful Youth Action Wiltshire team have created and delivered fun, online activities for young people to engage in, and as we continue through Lockdown 3 the team are now delivering daily online activities.

yaw online activities

Activities include themed quizzes, interactive activities and scavenger hunts and provide opportunities for young people to engage with the YAW team, peers and have interaction with others outside of their family unit.

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

Our online activities are safe, structured activities and a great tool to have fun together in a safe online experience.

“Splash made me realise that everything was going to be ok” – A young person

To receive information about our weekly programmes please email dawn@youthactionwiltshire.org

With sincere thanks for your continuing support, from all at Youth Action Wiltshire & the young people we are lucky enough to work with.

Support Wiltshire Young Carers – Salisbury City Community Lottery

Wiltshire Young Carers Service (Community First) provides dedicated youth worker support and respite opportunities for young carers aged 5-18 years.  We provide opportunities for young carers to share fun, positive experiences with other young carers, enabling them to recognise they are not on their own.  We also provide access to a youth worker who can work with young carers to overcome some of the challanges they face and develop resilience for the future. 

Demand on our service is increasing therefore we really need and appreciate your support which will enable us to manage the increased demand and support more young carers from Salisbury. Please help us support young carers by registering for Salisbury City Community Lottery – for just £1 per week and the chance to win a cash prize!



combined BB funder logo 2020

Programme Update

The Building Bridges programme has continued to work successfully, managing the transition to supporting our participants with a blended mix of remote support and Covid-safe face to face delivery, engaging with participants referred to the programme. In each case the specific approach is determined by the delivery model of the partner organisation and the preferences of the individual key worker and the participant themselves.

Face to face delivery in outside locations became increasingly challenging as we moved into autumn, so we identified a diverse range of Covid-safe indoor locations to enable participant meetings to continue safely. As the quarter progressed, partner organisations continually reviewed and adapted their delivery models as we went into the second lockdown and the subsequent tiered restriction periods.

Following the third national lockdown starting in January, all partners have now reverted to fully remote delivery except those working with very vulnerable young people where some face-to-face support is allowed with suitable precautions under specific guidelines issued by the National Youth Association.

Strong feedback has continued from both participants and wider stakeholder groups that they have valued the support being provided by the programme during the pandemic.

  • The programme has supported 1333 eligible participants to date.
  • In the latest review of participant demographics showed that 19.0% of our participants are from areas of multiple deprivation against a regional average for Swindon & Wiltshire of 6.5%.
  • The team are currently actively supporting 368 participants, developing the programme and courses to ensure it meets their needs and helping with mental and general wellbeing during these unsettling times
  • Mental health problems and safeguarding concerns are emerging as larger issues with participants in the current national lockdown than previous lockdowns and restriction periods.

Our participant demographics show we are supporting the hardest to reach with over half (56.1%) of our participants achieving a positive outcome with the programme:

  • 80.9 % of our participants are classed as being disadvantaged and 36.6% of these have achieved positive outcomes
  • 52.2% have disabilities or long-term health issues and 32.9% of these have achieved positive outcomes
  • 10.2% are ex-offenders and 37.5% of these have achieved positive outcomes
  • 4.7% were homeless on joining and 34.9% of these have achieved positive outcomes

Did you know?

Following the launch of the Building Bridges Programme in July 2016 on average the team’s positive work has got a participant into a work or education outcome every two days. In addition to this our Cost Benefit Analysis tool shows that the programme is still delivering £1.53 of benefit for every £1 invested despite the impact of the pandemic.

The National Lottery Community Fund England Board are meeting in late January to consider a further extension to the Building Better Opportunities Programme.

For more information on the Building Bridges Programme watch the YouTube video.


Applications remain open for Covid-19 Emergency Support Grants

In 2020 Bradenstoke Solar Park Community Benefit Fund (BSPCBF) awarded over £18,000 to community groups within the parishes of Bradenstoke & Lyneham, Hilmarton, Christian Malford and Bremhill to help them with their ongoing utility costs and lack of income during the Covid-19 Lockdown.

Due to prolonged restrictions the grant committee have chosen to help more community spaces within the funding area special grants of £1,000 per group, the groups are in great need! As all community spaces remain closed and therefore unable to generate any income.

We asked Lyneham Methodist Church what a difference the grant wold make to them if the application is approved

Thank you for considering this application which if approved will mean so much to us in this troubled time where income is at a low ebb.” 

For information visit COVID-19 EMERGENCY SUPPORT 2021 | BSPCBF Dynamic (bradenstokesolarfund.org) or contact Mary Hardwidge, 01380 732802, mhardwidge@communityfirst.org.uk

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