News and updates from our programmes and services


A note from our CEO

Welcome to our Spring e-news bulletin. We are now one year on from the start of the pandemic and we hope now that we are moving back into some kind of normal. TWe are hopeful that the vaccine programme will make a real difference and that from June 21st all the restrictions will be lifted. Although the last 12 months have been a challenge for us all, 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.

Covid-19 Wiltshire Community First ReflectionCovid-19 Reflection

March 23rd 2021 marked the anniversary of the first national Covid-19 lockdown. In this blog piece we reflect on a challenging but productive year for Community First and our programmes and services. Thank you to all of our wonderful staff and volunteers who went above and beyond to support our work with communities during this time.


Wiltshire Link Schemes Audit 2020 & Impact of Covid-19 on Local Link Schemes

As with many voluntary groups and organisations Covid-19 presented a number of challenges for the 42 Link Schemes across Wiltshire and Swindon.

During the first national lockdown (March-May 2020) the number of active Link Scheme volunteers fell from 1,807 to 414. Despite this significant reduction in volunteer numbers, 38 Link Schemes remained operational throughout this period, with 4 temporarily suspending their service. Sadly, one local scheme (Ridgeway Link) later closed permanently.

The lack of volunteers however did not stop the schemes supporting the most vulnerable individuals in their communities. Whereas the schemes would normally focus on taking people to medical and social appointments, many schemes pivoted to supporting the delivery of food (shopping), collecting medical prescriptions, calling the most vulnerable to make sure they were safe and ok and helping deliver food parcels from Wilshire’s central food bank in Salisbury.

Link Schemes offered a vital and invaluable service to local people in 2020, many of whom were at risk of becoming extremely isolated during an already difficult and challenging time for people across the county. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the amazing volunteers who supported this effort across Wiltshire and Swindon and are continuing to do so as the vaccine is rolled out locally and nationally.

View the 2020 Link Scheme Audit here

Covid-19 Link Scheme Volunteers - Thank You

Make an Impact in Your Community in 2021

Have you ever considered being a volunteer? Can You Help Make a Difference?

Wiltshire Link LogoThere 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 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

Get Out Get Active

The team have been out & about listening to residents in Wilton today to discuss the Get Out & Get Active project. Helen also appeared on BBC Wiltshire radio station to talk about the project including One-Day Introduction to Community Organising for GOGA volunteers which will take place on 28th June at Wilton Community Centre.
More information about the training can be found in our Community Organising training leaflet

Midas Minibus Driver Awareness & Assessment Training NOW taking bookings!

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.

Find out more about the training course and how to reserve your place.

Speaking up for young people in Wiltshire

Between June 2019 – March 2021, Community First delivered three phases of a new Youth Consultant pilot project, which aimed to enhance and strengthen the youth voice in local decisions about services for children and young people in Wiltshire 

The project was commissioned by Wiltshire Council with the aim of supporting its commitment to co-production and youth engagement, as well as ensuring a wider range of youth voices from across the county are heard. Through the Youth Consultant project, Wiltshire Council aimed to ensure that young people are actively involved in co-producing the services they use in Wiltshire and that resources are used effectively. In addition, the project aimed to support young people to feel engaged in democracy and decision making locally, as well as delivering on the Ofsted requirement for youth-led activities and services.

As part of a 3 phase project, Youth Consultants listened to 371 young people across 147 listenings or consultations. Some of the activities included:

  • Reviewing the Youth Offending Team (YOT) referral order to make it more young people friendly
  • Consulting young people in the Family Led Review process
  • Informing change to the Independent Safeguarding review
  • Offering feedback on the MASH telephone answer message to make it more young people friendly
  • Engaged and advocated to 23 Councillors on youth related matters
  • Helped looked after young people become better informed about health services
  • Offering a youth perspective to Wiltshire Police on teen/police relations and communication
  • Helping to make return interviews for missing children more child friendly
  • informing the council on youth communications for Covid-19 adherence amid rising cases

For a visual project summary, please see the infographic below:

Covid-19 Link Scheme Volunteers - Thank You

Life in Lockdown: Wiltshire’s Youth Consultants Covid-19 Listening Project

In March 2021, Wiltshire’s Youth Consultants were approached by Wiltshire Council and asked to carry out a listening project. Wiltshire young people and their families had been in lockdown since 4th January due to a surge in Covid-19 cases following the festive period. Schools and universities were closed, and many young people had not been able to socialise, attend work or see some of their family members for an extended period of time. In addition to the third national lockdown in January, Wiltshire young people had already experienced two national lockdowns in March and November 2020.

Many young people had also faced further disruption to their education when schools were open due to cases of Covid-19 in their class bubble and needing to self-isolate. Overall, the project aimed to gain an understanding of what life was like for young people in lockdown to support a local network of people who promote mental health needs of young people. The anonymised findings from the listening project would be shared with a network of local people and organisations who promote, support and champion mental health needs for young people in Wiltshire. This was important, not just for supporting young people in the short term, but also for making plans to continue supportive measures following the easing of lockdown restrictions.

As part of the listening activity, one young person wrote a poem about their life in lockdown experience:

This year has been marked with reflection and change
some days feel good and others feel strange.
We’ve learned to work differently
and love more unconditionally.
We try to tune out the stress
but sometimes life still feels like a mess.
We find ways to turn negatives into good
and learn new skills that we thought we never could.
We find ways to travel to less congested places
and we meet our friends with covered faces.
Hopefully this year has been filled with opportunity
and we’ve tried to exercise and strengthen our immunity.
2020 hasn’t been like we expected
but we’ve found new ways to stay connected.

A Young Person (Aged 12)

Wiltshire Association of Local Councils (WALC) launches NEW website

Wiltshire Association of Local Councils has launched its new website. Whilst WALC is not subject Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, we are aware that local councils are and so have complied with the regulations for our new site.

Walc new website
We are also pleased to launch our new event booking system. All bookings for our in-house training courses, will now be taken through the website. We have a series of post-election training courses for councillors just for starters and more information about the courses, the dates and the booking may be found at WALC Council Events

Community Organising

Katrina and Alex are starting a new short project working to hear about Rural and Digital inequalities in Wiltshire and BANES around Cancer experiences.

We’d love for you to share your experiences and thoughts around this so that we can feedback to the CCG and give a really clear picture of how being a part of your community affected your thoughts on cancer

Drop us a call or email Alex (aneale@communityfirst.org.uk) or Katrina (kwatson@communityfirst.org.uk) if you would like to be involved.

Wiltshire’s Village Halls

WVHA Logo IconDON’T FORGET! Village halls are eligible for restart grants to support reopening safely now COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and to help sustainability. For more information visit Covid-19 Restart Grants Scheme

ACRE has prepared updated information to help volunteer management committees negotiate the latest easing of Covid-19 lockdown measures. More information can be found here:

FREE Networking event for Wiltshire’s Village Halls

At the end of January 2021 Village Halls and Community Buildings Advisor Helen launched a series of Zoom Networking Events for Wiltshire Village Halls Association members. The events are proving to be extremely popular with a total of 34 halls attending April’s event. A variety of topics was discussed. It was great to hear new ideas, share information and recommendations from halls.

Contact Helen Akiyama to find out more and to book your place on the next event planned 07770 490 907 or email hakiyama@communityfirst.org.uk

Community Led Housing

homes of our own logoHomes of Our Own Online Event

We had a terrific response to the Homes of Our Own Spring ‘re-launch’ on the 25th February. The questions asked during the event have been translated into a frequently asked questions factsheet which can be found on the Resources Page of the Homes of Our Own website and is also included later on in this newsletter. If you would like any help or support with setting up and hosting online meetings, please get in touch and you may also find our Virtual Meetings factsheet helpful.

New grant funding programme for new and emerging community led housing groups.

The funds are available to groups that have not received funding from previous community led housing grant programmes in Wiltshire and Swindon. The grants are to cover community led housing project set-up costs, up to £2,000, including but not limited to:

  • Forming a community organisation;
  • Training sessions for members of the management team where Homes of Our Own are unable to provide this training;
  • Costs associated with public engagement, recruiting members and consulting on your project;
  • Registration fees for the use of online meeting platforms such as Zoom;
  • Publicity materials;
  • Costs of incorporation, membership of a national body, other statutory fees.

For more information please visit our Resources page and download the factsheet called ‘Start Up Grants 2021-2022 Factsheet’



Kickstart Programme offers paid work placements for Wiltshire’s Young People

kickstart scheme logo

We are really pleased to be an approved Gateway Organisation for the Department of Work and Pensions Kickstart programme.  Kickstart is a fantastic scheme for young people aged 16-24 who are in receipt of Universal Credit and at risk of long term unemployment.  Our consortium of 16 partners has 66 six month placements available for young people offering real workplace experience in meaningful roles.  Each employer will provide on the job training for their placements and employability support to help improve future employability.  All posts are fully funded by the Department of Work and pensions, with employers benefitting from grant funding to cover set up and support costs.  As part of our Gateway offer we provide a partner support network and for all consortium placements a peer network programme which includes development workshops including CV writing, confidence building, interview techniques and good employee citizenship.

All Kickstart placements offer 25 hours per week of paid employment for a fixed term 6 month placement.

If you are interested in helping young people have a Kickstart to employment, if you have a new role and can offer support, training and development in exchange for 25 hours of funding (at minimum wage rate) please contact Dawn@youthactionwiltshire.org

Youth Action Wiltshire’s Achievements April 2020 to March 2021

Covid response quality assurance rating:

Telephone & online 1:1 support was good or outstanding 89%
Online activities were good or outstanding 91%
Face to Face small group work support groups were good or outstanding 88%
Individual online & telephone support calls had a positive impact 90%
Small group face to face sessions had a positive impact 97%

Wiltshire Young Carers Service

  • 154 newly referred young carers, have through a blended mix of remote & face to face provision been enabled to create a support plan.
  • 221 young carers have accessed face to face respite & support groups, with a total of 455 day places attended by young carers.
  • 150 young carers have accessed staff led webinars, with a total of 661 webinar places attended.
  • 79 face to face respite & support groups have been provided &148 webinars have been delivered.
  • During periods of Lockdown, a total of 1,075 welfare & follow up checks for young carers have been completed.
  • 36 young carers have taken part in intensive mentoring programmes.
  • 87 young carers have accessed coaching sessions.
  • 178 young carers have requested & received Information, Advice & Guidance (I.A.G).
  • 73 young carers have requested & received intensive help/support with education.
  • 25 young carers have been provided with ICT equipment to support remote learning & connectivity.
  • 95% of young carers attending face to face group sessions stated that they had made new friends & increased their support networks.
  • Following our interventions 92% of young carers reported an improvement in their health & wellbeing.


  • 385 young people ‘facing challenges in their lives’ engaged in Splash provision.
  • 257 young people benefited from individual support; Coaching, mentoring or counselling.
  • 60 days of face to face group work were provided & 192 webinars have been delivered.
  • During periods of Lockdown, a total of 1,060 welfare & follow up checks for young people engaging in Splash have been completed.
  • 97% of returns indicated an increase in self-esteem & confidence for young people engaging with Splash.
  • 96% reported an increase in skills & learning.
  • 85% improved attendance & engagement in statutory education.
  • 96% improved mental health & wellbeing.
  • 98% increased happiness.

Youth Club Support and Youth Volunteering Programmes

  • We have provided a blended mix of remote & face to face training for 35 Youth Leaders & 18 Young Leaders covering; Safeguarding, Risk Assessment & Health & Safety, Mental Health Awareness & How To Run Interactive Webinars.
  • Two new youth groups have been supported during their planning stage & we created & circulated a bespoke newsletter containing resources & provided varied individual support when & where needed, for Wiltshire youth clubs to provide, safe, remote 1:1 & group support sessions for their members during UK Lockdowns.
  • Where needed we have worked individually with member youth clubs, to support them to complete specific COVID-19 action plans & risk assessments & implement risk minimisation measures, so that they can return to providing COVID safe, face to face group work sessions.
  • The 3 youth clubs that we have provided outreach staffing for; Box, Holt & Old Sarum, all delivered remote support for their members during the UK Lockdown periods & returned to providing ‘capped, bubbled’ face to face sessions for their members, adhering to National Youth Agency guidance, at times during the year, when this has been a permitted youth work activity.
  • In excess of £25,000 of funding has been raised to sustain & broaden local youth club provision.
  • 138 young people have young people have engaged in our remote & face to face social action projects.

Project Inspire

  • 44 young people, of which 22 who were Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) & 22 who were at significant risk of becoming NEET, engaged with intensive support.
  • 28 online group sessions (webinars) were delivered, along with 45 face to face day group sessions.
  • During periods of Lockdown, a total of 352 welfare & weekly follow up checks for young people accessing Project Inspire have been completed.
  • 92% of young people reported increased skills.
  • 90% of young people exiting the project stated that their participation had helped increase their ability to gain & keep a job.
  • 90% of supported young people reported an increase in their self-assessed mental health.
  • 80% of young people exiting the project did so to a place in Education, Employment or Training (EET).

Oxenwood Outdoor Education Centre

  • 125 ‘free to access’ face to face day activity group sessions were provided for vulnerable & disadvantaged young people.
  • 24 ‘free to access’ face to face evening activity group sessions were provided for vulnerable & disadvantaged young people.
  • 24 extended 1:1 face to face sessions, were provided for vulnerable & disadvantaged young people.
  • 12 traded face to face day activities were delivered for schools & youth groups.

Youth Action Wiltshire Fundraising Events 2021

We are super excited to (hopefully) return to face to face fundraising events this summer.  After what seems like forever we are looking forward to welcoming friends, supporters, funders, partners, families and beneficiaries to join us as the following events.

21st JuneAn Artistic Evening in Simon Mounsey’s Garden @ 6pm           

A selection of sculptors and artists will exhibit and sell their pieces in the most wonderful landscaped garden at Brillscote House in Lea, Near Malmesbury. Please join Mrs Simon Mounsey and Youth Action Wiltshire for drinks and canapes to this lovely summer evening event.

To purchase tickets please email ginniekeen@gmail.com

8th August – Annual Stampede Sports Cycle Event

A Half Century ride to raise funds for Youth Action Wiltshire taking riders on a scenic route around Salisbury Plain and the beautiful Avon Valley before returning to Melksham. For more information and to enter this fantastic event please click the following link

10th September – Charity Golf Day

This annual event provides a fantastic day of Golf in the gorgeous setting of the North Wiltshire Golf Course, Bishops Cannings, SN10 2LP.  Teams of four are preferred however singles and pairs will be accommodated where possible.

Please contact Becca for more info beccaworsley@gmail.com

3rd October – Virtual London Marathon

We are excited to have 2 places up for grabs in the 2021 London Virtual Marathon on Sunday 3rd October. Run or walk 26.2 miles in a 24 hour period and help raise much needed funds for our Youth Action Wiltshire youth programmes.

We also have 1 charity place in the iconic London Marathon, in London on 3rd October. Fancy running alongside celebrities, athletes and other charity runners? Then please get in touch we would love to hear from you.  Please contact Dawn to discuss these amazing once in lifetime opportunities dawn@youthactionwiltshire.org

10th December Carols by Candlelight

The bi annual Youth Action Wiltshire carol service will again be held at Malmesbury Abbey. Please keep an eye on our website for details later in the year.

Would you like to host your own fundraising event for Youth Action Wiltshire?

A cake sale, a sponsored walk, a dress down/fancy dress day maybe? A performance, talent show, bingo night or something completely new?

YAW Fundraising Packs
We’ve created some ready to go fundraising packs to make arranging fundraising events easier for you.

If you would like to host an event and would like a pack please email fundraising@youthactionwiltshire.org

Would you like FREE funding for your organisation?

Community First is now working with easyfundraising to help your organisation with funding. If you register your organisation as a good cause with easyfundraising you can receive free donations when your staff, volunteers & supporters shop online with over 5000 leading retailers including Amazon, eBay, Argos, John Lewis, Just Eat, Booking.com & M&S.

It’s free to register and use and your organisation does not need to be a registered charity. With many more people shopping online now, it’s an easy way for your community to raise money for you safely from home through their normal shopping.

Any causes that sign up through this page will be your referrals so just remember to always include this link when you communicate with your groups.

Register your organisation for free here: https://www.easyfundraising.org.uk/community-first

Oxenwood reopens

Oxenwood Outdoor Education Centre re-opens!

We are delighted that Oxenwood Outdoor education Centre is now open for business. The offer includes Dawn to Dusk activity days, offering the flavour of a much missed residential trips 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, ed@oxenwoodcentre.com


combined BB funder logo 2020

Programme Update

The Building Bridges Programme is proud to have continued supporting participants throughout the pandemic since March 2020. The programme supports people with multiple barriers and challenges to make steps towards employment, and Covid has been an added pressure for many people already experiencing difficulties getting into work.

Despite this, our delivery approach has been continually adapted to meet the evolving needs of pandemic restrictions & lockdown guidelines and we are now looking forward to Covid-safe face to face delivery where possible. As the National restrictions begin to relax each partner organisation is making plans to begin meeting with participants based on their own delivery models and the preferences of the individual key worker and the participant themselves.

A blended mix of remote support and Covid-safe face to face delivery has worked well and feedback from both participants and wider stakeholder groups show that they have strongly valued the support being provided by the programme during the pandemic.

The partnership has implemented many creative ways of helping participants engage and achieve their goals – including video catch ups, newsletters and joint Facebook groups. Since the beginning of the pandemic we have supported over 340 people and continue to have a strong integration with wider Covid response steering groups and activities across both Swindon and Wiltshire, signposting people for support where needed.

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:

As part of their journey:

  • 62.7% have gained new skills awards or qualifications
  • 26.7% have undertaken structured volunteering
  • 20.3% have accessed debt or financial advice support
  • 13.8% have undertaken work experience
  • 11.8% have accessed travel training

The team are currently excited about building a strong social media presence and have recently created a new Instagram page! We have been sharing some great snapshots of participant journeys and programme highlights to recognise the achievements of many participants on programme.

The National Lottery Community Fund England Board are considering a further extension to the Building Better Opportunities Programme. We have been awarded an extension on delivery until November 2021 and we are hoping to be granted a further programme extension which we will know more about very soon.

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.

For more information on the Building Bridges Programme visit our information video on YouTube

Alexandra’s Story

I first heard about Building Bridges through my work coach at the Universal Credit Service.

Whilst I had previous employment history, I had been unemployed for several months and was feeling very down with poor mental health and low confidence, so I joined the programme in August 2020. Before I joined, I felt that I was unemployable and that I was unskilled for the jobs that I had been applying for. I was assigned a key worker, who helped me to recognise my skills and better my CV and covering letter writing abilities. Specifically, the skills that I do have to gain employment. I also received assistance in starting my own business as well as being referred to college courses that would assist me in that process.

I was able to specialise my CV into two separate sectors, I completed ‘Aspects to starting your own Business’ course at Bath College, and I was successful in finding a job. I gained employment in October 2020 working as an Admin Assistant/Educational Support Worker at a school in Westbury. My key worker continued to support me during my first 3 months of employment to ensure I was happy with my contract terms, induction, and training and with reassurance and encouragement until I passed my probationary period.

I have also launched my own small business SewXsan using my high quality and expert sewing and pattern cutting skills.

I now have a presence on Instagram (@SewXSan) and am now able to offer bespoke branded face masks, clothing alterations and Mermaid Cushions and have exciting plans for other products and services in the future.

What Alexandra had to say:

Working with Building Bridges made me feel less alone in my search for a job and my keyworker has been amazing in supporting me with my endeavours.  I gained the confidence to know I am good enough to gain and keep a job and I have new goals for the future to be financially stable enough to have my sewing business as my sole income.


Landfill Grants Funding Update

At the current time there is limited funding available for Landfill Communities Fund grants, however if you would like to send in an expression of interest form to mhardwidge@communityfirst.org.uk which will be kept on file, we will be in contact as soon as possible to discuss your application when the situation changes.

Can we save you money on your Village Hall or Parish Council Insurance?

Please see below for more information about our insurance service:

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