News and updates from our programmes and services


A note from our CEO

Welcome to our Headlines bulletin, with news and updates from across our programmes and services. As we look ahead to the summer, it is great to see our teams getting out and about connecting with local people, delivering activities and making a difference to the people and places we support across the county.

Our work is only possible thanks to the generous support of funders, donors and members. So if you can, please do consider becoming a member of Community First or making a small donation to support our work. Every penny makes a real difference and ensures we can continue to operate such wide-ranging and life-changing support for those who need our help; including young carers, people who are vulnerable, isolated or economically inactive, local volunteer transport services and community spaces.

We will soon be launching ‘Your Community First’ a new platform to support our work and the communities that matter most to you. Watch this space…


Your Community First logo

This week also marks the start of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebration, with a variety of community events organised for Wiltshire and Swindon. We would like to congratulate her Majesty on reaching this amazing milestone and for her many years of service.

The Community First office will be closed on Thursday 2nd June and Friday 3rd June 2022, for the Spring Bank Holiday and Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday. Our office will reopen on Monday 6th June at 9am.

YAW Young Carers Summer Garden Party

Join us for drinks and refreshments at our Summer Drinks Party in Poulshot, Nr Devizes on Saturday 25th June at 6pm, by kind permission of Nicky and Kate Hunloke. A group of our wonderful young carers will be performing a unique piece of music and art created with Bath Philharmonia’s creative learning team, as previously performed at the Salisbury Art Festival at Salisbury Cathedral. For more info and to request tickets please email Ginnie Keen: ginniekeen@gmail.com

Community First Vacancies

Would you like to join the Community First team? We have the following open vacancies:

  • Local Council Assistant
  • Sessional Catering Assistant
  • Outdoor Education Instructor

To find out more about these roles and how to apply, visit the Vacancies page.

New staff members

I’m sure you will join us in welcoming Val Phillips and Deborah Bourne to Community First. Val is our new Business and Premises Manager and Deborah joins us as Local Councils Officer, providing support and guidance to councils in membership of Wiltshire Association of Local Councils. Welcome Val and Deborah, it’s great to have you on the Community First team.


combined BB funder logo 2020
Building Bridges Wiltshire Life Award

Wiltshire Life Awards

The Building Bridges Programme lead team was delighted to be third runner up for an award as part of this year’s Wiltshire Life Awards. The team was nominated for ‘Community Group of the Year’, one of various award categories which recognise and celebrate excellence across the county. The team attended the award ceremony which took place on Friday 11th March 2022 at The Corn Exchange in Devizes. Congratulations to the team, keyworkers and wider partnership for their fantastic work.

Building Bridges Programme seeks continuation funding to expand highly successful employability support from 2023

The Building Bridges Programme has generated over £10m of benefit locally since its launch in late 2016. We are very proud of the results achieved to date and the programme has been highly effective in reaching and supporting people where more mainstream employability support approaches have not proved successful.

The current tranche of funding from The National Lottery Community Fund and The European Social Fund will come to an end in early 2023 and we are actively exploring opportunities to secure funding to continue delivery.

The unique, highly successful programme operates across Swindon & Wiltshire to support people who are furthest from the labour market with multiple, complex barriers and challenges in their lives to move towards, achieve and sustain ongoing employment and education outcomes. Please see below for some key highlights and stories from people who have taken part in the programme.

    • 1,635 participants supported since programme launch, with over half (59%) achieving a positive outcome to date.
    • 25% of participants moved into employment, 31% moved into education (including NEET/at risk young people) and 3% of economically inactive participants moved into job search.
    • 66% have gained new skills awards or qualifications
    • 27% took part in structured volunteering
    • 24% accessed debt or financial advice/support

The programme has created £10.1m of economic benefits since launch, from an annual spend of £1.2m and has a current return on investment of £1.57 per £1 invested.

The programme has a proven track-record of supporting the hardest to reach groups, with 84% of participant classed as being disadvantaged, 59% with a disability or long-term health issue and 45% lacking basic skills in maths and English. 19% of participants are from areas of multiple deprivation, compared to an average of 7% for the regional population.

Jacob’s Story

When Jacob was referred to Building Bridges, he was suffering with anxiety and was very nervous, with low motivation, low self-confidence and feeling and uncertain of his future.  He felt he had no skills and was concerned that he was just not able to do well or cope with a job.  Whilst he had worked before, they were not jobs that he felt particularly interested in and he struggled being in large groups of people or busy places.  He had some plans for the future but was not sure how to take steps to move towards those goals or have any hope of getting there.

At the time Jacob joined Building Bridges he had never had any careers advice and whilst he already had a basic CV, he was given help to improve it to make sure it sells him better and had some professional careers advice from the National Careers Service. Through some strengths explorations, he learnt that he had some really strong transferrable skills, being reliable and punctual and keen to accept a challenge.  He is also a great listener and someone who loves to make others laugh so whilst he was anxious about being with new people he would, given a little time, become a great team member. Jacob completed some 1:1 and group sessions with Splitz who support individuals coping with Domestic Abuse and Violence and anger management.

Jacob has since then secured employment with Purpol Marketing on a 6-month Kickstart work placement which allowed him to work from home and receive some training on the job.

Jacob was able to start clearing some of the family’s debts now he was earning. He is also looking at doing some voluntary work on a Saturday for a local charity, to help him transition back into a work environment and further build his confidence and also to give something back to his community and for the support given from the charity for the family.

What Jacob had to say:

“I was referred to Building Bridges by a support worker at our local children’s centre. I did not have a job, I was anxious about going into any employment and I had no viable CV available and was not coping well with depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

I moved in with my partner thanks to the support my key worker gave me to gain the courage to contact the necessary support needed. I found a placement as a digital marketing intern at Purpol Marketing doing work I genuinely enjoy. I feel like I’m more mature and evolved as a person and more ready to go into full time employment.

I gained the skills I needed to go out there and find the job that’s what I want to do in the future and to continue down the IT sector of work and hopefully open my own computer-based business.

I would definitely recommend Building Bridges to someone, my support worker was very welcoming and made me feel like I could achieve what I wanted while not being intrusive in my life, I also received a lot of useful signposting.

I feel like I had a friend along the way to help me even when I was stubborn, and I really appreciate you for it. Thank you to my Support worker for making a great difference in my life and thank you to Building Bridges for helping shape my future in an amazing way.”  

The programme is accepting referrals until the end of 2022. To find out more, please visit www.buildingbridgessw.org.uk or contact hello@buildingbridgessw.org.uk


Young Carers Development Trust Development Mentors

Young Carers Development Trusts (YCDT) is a charity that supports Young Carers through a long-term mentoring programme. YCDT is currently looking for a diverse network of new volunteer Development Mentors to support Young Carers with their education and aspirations. YCDT Development Mentors support Young Carers from their GCSE year up to the end of their first year at university or equivalent (4 years).

The support offered to each Young Carer varies but could involve organising tuition (using YCDT budget), accompanying Young Carers to open days, helping them to complete college or university applications and helping them to unlock their potential and improve their prospects. All Development Mentors are offered training, tools and support as they complete their Young Carers’ Action Plans.

The role is very flexible and involves approximately 4 hours of volunteer time each month using face-to-face and remote methods. YCDT will also pay an option honorarium to Development Mentors, as well as reimbursing travel expenses.

For more information about this exciting volunteer role, please see the Volunteer Role Description or contact Melanie Rees: melanier@ycdt.org.uk

Closing date 16th June 2022


Did you know, that in addition to Oxenwood Outdoor Education Centre, Community First also manages the Linkenholt Countryside Adventure Centre in Hampshire? Both Centres make a fantastic choice for group activities and residentials that create memories for a lifetime. For more information, please see our new 2022 information leaflets for Oxenwood and Linkenholt Centres.

For more information or start your groups adventure, please contact Ed Plank, Centre Manager and Chief Instructor: 01264 731274 or email enquiries@oxenwoodcentre.com

Oxenwood Leaflet

Download the leaflet here and price list here

Linkenholt Leaflet

Download the leaflet here and price list here


Get Out Get Active Open Day

The Get Out Get Active Open Day with Wiltshire and Swindon Sport took place on Saturday 7th May 2022 at Five Rivers Leisure Centre in Salisbury. The aim of the day was to promote GOGA, inviting people to come along to learn more about the programme and have a go at some of the sessions we deliver, which include walking football, pickleball, tai chi and seated exercises.

The atmosphere in the sports hall was buzzing, with lots of laughter, banter and encouragement from everyone to get involved. There was even an edge of competitive spirit within the pickleball games!

One lady who bought her son along to the event said how much she enjoyed doing some activity and that to be able to do something like this rather than wait for her son to swim each week would be ideal. She also loved the concept of GOGA and the fact its inclusive for everyone.

The day was also a chance to recruit some new volunteers to the programme. Having volunteers involved with GOGA will provide many new and exciting opportunities, they bring new capacities, abilities and perspectives. We believe that everyone should be able to contribute as a volunteer making it as inclusive as possible.

If you are interested in finding out more about GOGA and getting involved as either a participant, volunteer or both, email Dominique@wiltssport.org or telephone 07786221235. We would love to hear from you.

Community Led Housing Update

homes of our own logoCricklade community led housing scheme gets the green light

The community of Cricklade are celebrating after gaining formal planning permission for the redevelopment of the former Police Station, on Cricklade’s high street. The redevelopment will see the conversion of the former Police Station to two 1-bedroom homes and retail and commercial units with outside community space. 

The project has been driven forward by Cricklade Development Foundation (CDF), a community organisation of 140 local members and growing. CDF has worked closely with the Wiltshire and Swindon community-led housing hub, Homes of Our Own, to lay the foundations for the project, which was started because of concerns over the future of Cricklade’s high street. Key to the project’s success is the hard work and dedication of the Foundation’s Board and members who have worked tirelessly to bring the project forward. 

For more information about this exciting development please visit the Homes of Our Own website. You can also find out more about Cricklade Development Foundation via the Foundation website.

MiDAS – Minibus Driver Awareness Training

midas minibus driver training wiltshire background

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.

Is your organisation looking to train new minibus drivers in 2022? 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.

The MiDAS training course includes a session on how to operate a minibus safely. This is followed by a 30-minute multiple choice assessment with 20 questions. Trainees will need to answer 16 questions correctly to pass the theory test. Finally, there will be a practical test which incorporates a driving skills training session and an assessment drive which will last just over an hour, with the assessment taking 30 minutes. Upon completion of the theory and practical test, trainees will receive a certificate which is valid for 4 years.

“A very concise and informative session, thank you!”MiDAS Training Participant

MiDAS training pricing is based on a minimum group size of 3 drivers per booking and starts at £105.00 per person. For more information or to reserve a training slot, please contact Martin Carter: mcarter@communityfirst.org.uk

Volunteer with your local Link Scheme

Link Schemes offer a vital service to the local community. There are 42 Link Schemes in Wiltshire and Swindon, each service is entirely volunteer led with a team of coordinators, volunteer drivers and committee members.

Due to Covid-19 volunteer numbers have declined over the last 2 years and many Link Schemes are in urgent need of volunteers to come forward and help to provide transport for elderly or other vulnerable people. Mileage and reasonable expenses are paid for volunteers.

For more information about volunteering with your local Link Scheme, please see the information leaflet or contact: linkproject@communityfirst.org.uk

Wiltshire Village Halls Association

Village Halls and Community Buildings Advisor Helen is always busy in April with the membership renewals coming in from the current membership of WVHA. In recent years the number of new members joining the Association has increased by 16 members with 182 Village Halls presently in membership.

The advice and guidance still remain vital to make sure that all community buildings and Village Halls remain sustainable and Helen was pleased to facilitate a webinar with Wiltshire Council’s Climate Team which contained information on Net Zero considerations for community buildings. The webinar was well received by the members and highlighted some case studies of community buildings changing their heating systems or installing solar panels and improving the ventilation and insulation of the buildings.

In terms of grants and funding information that Helen passes on to members, she received the following testimonial recently.

“Just wanted to tell you that the Wootton Rivers Village Hall was successful with the application to Wiltshire Council for an Omicron Leisure & Hospitality grant. I’m glad you encouraged me to apply when I thought we may be only able to apply if we actually paid business rates. As you know village halls are exempt, but we did apply and we got a grant which will make a big difference to us. Just wanted to thank you for telling me to apply anyway!”

Kate Bradford, On behalf of the Wootton Rivers Village Hall

Wiltshire Association of Local Councils

The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) has launched a new campaign video starring viral internet sensation Jackie Weaver. The campaign, called #MakeAChange, encourages people from all backgrounds and experiences to get involved with their local council and consider putting themselves forward for election to help make the council more representative of the community.

Find out more — https://www.nalc.gov.uk/makeachange

Community Organising

The Friary Outreach programme

The Community Organising team are working on an outreach project to form a youth voice group. To date, the team has engaged with 65 families in the Friary and had 22 young people (aged 10-16yrs) willing to attend a 6-week engagement programme. The programme was such a success that Salisbury City Council have followed on with a regular weekly group which the children have named The Hangout. As a reward for the dedication the children showed, they were treated to a day out at Freedog in Swindon followed by pizza.

Out of 22 of the young people, 12 have signed up to extra learning and will be taking part in learning The Introduction to Community Organising and Listening training in June.

Rural Youth Project

The Community Development team is working with 5 Area Boards and their Community Engagement managers at Wiltshire Council on a rural youth project. The project has reached out to young people in specific rural areas to find out what provision and support they would like to see that matches up to their interests in their own communities. By going to where the young people are, where they hang out and knocking the doors of where they live; themes and feedback has been brought together to create activities that young people want to see and get involved with.

So far, the project has listened to around 700 people across 50 locations within the 5 Area board areas; and provided activities to 70 young people so far in rural communities. 3 open days have been held (Shrewton, Ludgershall and Winterslow) where a variety of activities tailored to the young people’s feedback have been offered to see how many young people would attend and gauging the level of voluntary support there is to help continue something within each community. An additional taster day will take place in Codford (for Warminster area) on 8th June.

So, watch this space and don’t forget to get in touch with kwatson@communityfirst.org.uk if you have any questions or would like to get involved.

Community Information Champions

The Community Information Champions project has now finished, reaching over 800 people through the networking, training and facilitating support provided by our Community Development team.

This project has 18 community areas, delivering training to 140 people which will allow them to bring their learning back into their communities. Around 100 sessions were provided both in person and online. This has allowed people to connect with each other across the county to share their ideas and challenges with others.

Community Organising training provides people who like to engage or work in their communities with ideas, support and techniques that can allow them to better engage or work in their communities. The project brought together volunteers and community workers and encouraged a network that would continue to work together and share and learn from each other’s experiences across the whole of Wiltshire. All of the training was provided free of charge to try keep it as inclusive as possible and was offered both digitally and in person

Although the funding is coming to an end on this project there will still be more opportunities to attend training. For more information email Harry on: htipple@communityfirst.org.uk

Feedback from the group has been very positive, including this feedback from a local volunteer and training attendee:

I got involved in being a volunteer when I was advised to give up my career due to being seriously ill for a couple of years. Volunteering was always something I had wanted to do but the nature of the work I did meant I had no time as I also commuted.

Through meeting Alex at an event in Market Lavington a few years ago I became involved with ‘Cancer Support Salisbury’ and with the newly set up ‘Side by Side Cancer Support’ in Warminster.

The training, I found very useful in that it was good to hear what other volunteers thought and to hear in some cases the reason why they wanted to volunteer. It brought each group together as we could share our suggestions and ideas on how we wanted the group to function which meant we could work as a team and not be fragmented. Getting to know each other is a very important part of a volunteering group.

The Community Information Training was very good as it gave tools on how to look at situations with a different approach and the listening skills were very helpful as that is the main part of being a volunteer. It is hearing what a person is really saying with understanding.

I have taken part in training via Zoom and in person. In person, it meant I could get a better sense of a person when we broke off into small groups and took turns in listening to each other and giving feedback on what we heard.

Via Zoom it was training on boundaries which was very useful as it is something I have observed gets forgotten about and intrusion into someone’s privacy must be respected at all times whether it is a volunteer or someone attending a drop-in. The training gave a reminder on how boundaries are important.

In the past I have done Co-Counselling courses and I have found the training through Community Information Training enhanced my knowledge and I have been very pleased that there is training on offer to people.

The training has given me food for thought on how to improve how we meet and greet people attending a drop-in and my observation skills have become more sharpened around how people behave when being a volunteer. I feel more able to speak up about situations where there isn’t correct behaviour and boundaries have not been respected whether that is a volunteer or a person attending a drop-in.

As a volunteer I am representing both ‘Cancer Support’ and ‘Side by Side’ and it is very important to me how volunteers behave, working within the guidelines which have been set up. I will always remember the training I have received and have felt very fortunate to have also been included in helping with some of the training.

Connect 2 Wiltshire

Now into its third year this project has shown real results in the number of people reached in rural communities. The overall aim of the Connect 2 Wiltshire project is to connect people across Wiltshire and reduce isolation and the team was tasked with reaching around 1200 individuals across a three-year project timeframe

The team have continued to reach out into communities amidst the ongoing changes that restrictions have raised. Engagement has continued through door knocking, online training provision, pop ups, online networking and conference events and uniting other engagement projects. Making sure that community organising support and engagement is accessible in as many ways as possible, has supported the team to exceed their target of 1200 and seen over 2000 people supported through this project,

This engagement has helped the team understand the importance of people still being heard and reached out to. With COVID forcing people behind closed doors it has seen an interesting turn where the people who were once volunteering to support the isolated; were becoming isolated. Providing people with alternate platforms (such as Zoom and Teams) has given people a way to express themselves on how their community has changed for them and has allowed the Community Development team to make sure this is considered in future project ideas.


Clubhouse reopens thanks to Landfill Communities Fund grant

A new roof has been installed at the Purton and Cricklade Young Farmers Clubhouse thanks to the Landfill Communities Fund (LCF). The LCF, which is administered by Community First in Wiltshire, distributes tax offset revenue from local landfill operators including Hills, CCG and Crapper and Sons. Thanks to a generous donation of £10,000 from Hills Group, the leaking clubhouse roof has now been repaired and the venue officially reopened on Wednesday 4th May.

Well done to everyone who was involved in helping get this venue back up and running for Purton and Cricklade Young Farmers.

Clubhouse photo

Chippenham LINK Transport launches new website

Chippenham LINK Transport is a volunteer car scheme in North Wiltshire, offering door to door transport for people who are unable to access public or private transport. The organisation recently worked with our in-house website design and development service Bold to develop a new website to provide information about Chippenham LINK and encourage new volunteers to come forward.

Visit the Chippenham LINK Transport website.

If you are interested in website design for your charity, group or service, please get in touch with us at: bold@communityfirst.org.uk. We can develop a variety of different website solutions to suit all budgets.

Community Insurance

We will soon be launching an online presence for our Community Insurance offer. The insurance scheme (which is underwritten by Zurich), offers specialist insurance for local councils, village halls, community buildings and playing fields.

For more information or for a free, no obligation quotation please contact communityinsurance@communityfirst.org.uk or call 01380 732809

community insurance banner


Wiltshire Voluntary Sector Expo

Community First is delighted to (virtually) attend the first Wiltshire Voluntary Sector Expo. The event, organised by Wessex Community Action is a celebration of the diversity and vibrancy of voluntary and community organisations working in Wiltshire to provide a variety of services, support, and activities for our local communities. The week-long Expo aims to raise awareness and promote the essential services available to Wiltshire’s communities and aid connection to and between local community-focused organisations.

For more information about the virtual event and the programme please visit the Wessex Community Action website.

Wiltshire VCSE State of the Voluntary Sector Survey

Wessex Community Action is currently hosting a survey to gather data and information the about the health of voluntary and community sector organisations in Wiltshire. Data from the survey will enable Wessex Community Action to share the challenges faced by the sector with statutory organisations and key stakeholders.

If you are a representative of a VCSE organisation in Wiltshire and you would like to share your views, please visit the link to the online survey.

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