News and updates from our programmes and services


​A note from our CEO Lynn Gibson

Welcome to our latest e-news bulletin.

I hope you enjoy reading about all the fantastic work that the team have been doing. If you would like to support the work we do please do consider becoming a member. Details can be found at: Community First Membership

Also a big thank you to everyone who attended our very first virtual AGM which was held via Zoom in October. It was great to connect with you all and share some of the fantastic achievements from our programmes and services over the last 12 months. If you have not already done so, please take a moment to view and download our Annual Review & Business Plan (20-23) which highlights our programme achievements and upcoming priorities.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and healthy and happy 2021.


MiDAS Driver Awareness & Assessment Training in 2021

Minibuses provide a vital service for many people and organisations, enabling them to run an impressive range of social and educational activities. Community First offers MiDAS (Minibus Driver Awareness Scheme) training. 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.

Do you or your organisation operate or use minibuses?

Driving a minibus is significantly different from driving a car. A minibus is larger, longer, wider and heavier than a car, and its steering, cornering and braking characteristics are markedly different. Another important difference is the number of passengers being carried, some of whom may have special needs, may be taken ill on the journey, and who may need supervising

What are the benefits of MiDAS training?

  • The Department of Education and Department for Transport highly recommend that all minibus drivers complete this training scheme
  • Some insurance companies offer lower premiums on completion of this training

Drivers gain more valuable experience and feel more confident in driving minibuses and will become more competent

Who will be instructing you?

The training is delivered by Community First 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

If you would like any further information on the next MiDAS training course, please contact Martin Carter via phone or e-mail:

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



Make an Impact in Your Community – Can You Help Make a Difference?

Have you ever considered being a local volunteer driver?


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)

So many people have been affected, we urgently need new volunteers to come forward so we can offer support where needed.

If you enjoy driving and want to find out how you can help your community and support these amazing volunteer-led services get in touch. In a world where you can be anything, be kind, volunteer!

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


Community information champions free training

Free Training & Support for Community Leaders in 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.

Following the launch of the project in November Alex and Katrina, our Community Organisers have trained and reached 66 people already, the feedback has been positive, lots of great tools have been shared for working together, ideas are developing  into plans within Wiltshire’s communities. They have also been looking at different solutions and thoughts on how they can reach out to people through restricted times.

Over 30 people have registered their interest in future training, many participants would like to be trained in person, despite lockdown restrictions the team have continued with zoom sessions. 

Would you like to become a Community Information Champion or like to find out more?

A Community Information Champion could be a member of staff from any organisation in Wiltshire or a local community leader or volunteer who is already in contact with local people through their work or voluntary activities. This could be as part of a formal service e.g. libraries or an information grassroots service such as a community cafe.

The overall aim of the Community Information Champions project is to ensure that all people across Wiltshire have access to good quality information to enable them to make the right choices for themselves, their families, friends and carers to live well and stay well for longer at any point in their lives.

As part of the project, Community First will be offering free Community Organising training and the chance to be part of a network of Community Information Champions across the county.

For more information download our new training leaflet.

FREE Training course February 2021

We are now taking bookings for our upcoming FREE training course starting in February. For more information please get in touch with Alex Neale: aneale@communityfirst.org.uk

Get Out Get Active Codford

Keeping people connected through Covid-19

The GOGA programme is focused on enabling people to get out, get active and connect socially with people in their community. Quite a challenge given the current situation, but the team at Community First like a challenge!

Pre to lockdown 2 Katrina, Helen and Alex met with residents in Codford, door knocking, distributing leaflets and visiting local businesses to make everyone aware of the programme.

It really strengthened community spirit! They carried out 40 listening interviews within the community, people shared their views and opinions about what is currently on offer in Codford and gave the team interesting viewpoints and insight. Invitations have been sent to people who expressed interest in attending future training in community organising as part of the Get out Get Active programme.

Subject to government guidelines on the local covid tiers the team will return on Wednesday 13th January to re-engage with the community and promote the next one-day FREE training course.

The Village Hall has been booked on Monday the 18th January to run a one-day introduction to Community Organising for the GOGA project

Would you like more information about this one-day course?

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


VH safeguarding week cover image

Village Hall Safeguarding and Lockdown Guidance

Last month, between 16th and 22nd November, Community First and Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) promoted safeguarding as part of a national campaign ‘Village Hall Safeguarding Week 2020’

The campaign was designed to help ensure the voluntary management committees that run halls and community buildings have the knowledge and confidence to provide a safe environment for all. Advice and examples of best practice were shared with local halls and buildings throughout the campaign week and Helen Akiyama, Community First’s Village and Community Halls Advisor supported Wiltshire and Swindon’s network of halls and buildings, providing advice when required about the responsibilities and appropriate, robust policies and procedures that need to be in place which reflect good practice. Read more about safeguarding on the WVHA Safeguarding page.

Discussions, requests for information and support are ongoing following lockdown 2.

Halls and buildings looking to re-start community groups and activities safely who are re-opening this month and would like further lockdown guidance can Contact Helen Akiyama 07770 490 907 or email hakiyama@communityfirst.org.uk

ACRE has produced a summary of the government’s new Covid Tiers to help Management Committees understand what can and cannot take place take place in Village and Community Halls. The note should be read alongside government guidance and ACRE’s Information Sheet for reopening Village Halls.


Supporting Community Led Housing in Wiltshire & Swindon

homes of our own logoDuring the Covid-19 pandemic the team at Homes of Our Own have worked from home and have provided ongoing support to community-led housing organisations across the county. We have learnt from the pandemic that homes need to be built to meet the needs of our communities and despite the limitations of the pandemic, community led housing groups across the network continue with their projects, committed, resilient and enthusiastic about what the future could hold.

Groups have and continue to seek alternative ways of engaging with their communities while face to face meetings can’t take place and as a hub, we are working hard to look at ways that we can support new and existing groups.

We’re always looking for new opportunities to deliver much needed homes across Wiltshire and Swindon, so if you’re interested in working with us, please contact us

Over the autumn we saw two major proposals detailing changes to the planning system which could have major impacts on the delivery of Affordable Housing across the Country, in particular in rural areas such as much of Wiltshire. We’re really proud that our partners have worked hard to respond to the consultations to support community-led housing. You can read more about the Planning White Paper here and the changes to the planning system here.

In addition to this, we saw the cancellation of the autumn 2020 budget. The Wiltshire Community Land Trust supported the National Community Land Trust Network’s campaign to include the renewal of the Community Housing Fund in the 2020 Spending Review instead. You can read the WCLT’s support for the campaign here. Although the Community Housing Fund was not mentioned in the 2020 Spending Review, we are hopeful that the recently announced ‘Levelling Up’ fund will involve an allocation for community-led housing.

Exciting NEW event in 2021

The Homes of Our Own partners are working hard to bring you a new and exciting community-led housing event for 2021. The event will bring together professionals from the community-led and Affordable Housing sectors and will be an opportunity for those interested in community-led housing to learn more about the sector and what we at Homes of Our Own do. The event is being planned for the spring, for updates and information about the event, follow us on social media and sign up to our newsletter. Next issue out later this month.


Building Back Better & Stronger: Event Invitation and Voluntary Sector Impact Survey

Wessex Community Action LogoWessex Community Action has extended an invitation to a virtual ‘Voluntary Sector Forum’ event on Tuesday 15th December. This event will bring together VCSE Organisation across Wiltshire to look at challenges facing the sector as a result of Covid-19. Wessex Community Action is also undertaking a Voluntary Sector Impact Survey. The survey aims to discover the impact of Covid-19 on VCSE organisations including their beneficiaries, volunteers, staff and finances. For more information or to register for the virtual event, please visit the Building Back better blog post.

Wiltshire Launches #WiltshireTogether Network

Wiltshire Together LogoWiltshire Council launched the #WiltshireTogether initiative in November to create a network of people who can get the latest COVID-19 information out across Wiltshire. This network will help the council share accurate and factual guidance and advice, which will help counter misleading and inaccurate information being spread through social media and word of mouth.

The #WiltshireTogether network will be able to keep up-to-date with the latest national guidance and receive Wiltshire-specific updates, so that they can keep themselves, their families, friends and communities safe. The messages will be created by the council, ready for champions to simply share in an easy and quick way. Once signed up, you will receive:

  • Regular updates from the council on the latest situation with COVID-19 in Wiltshire
  • Key messages and updates that need to be communicated through Wiltshire’s communities
  • FAQs to help with myth-busting about COVID-19
  • A single point of contact to discuss ideas, offer suggestions and ask questions.

As well as sharing important public health messages and advice, champions can also help by giving feedback and sharing local knowledge, to ensure these communications and messages are effective and reaching as many people as possible.

From this week, and for the next two weeks whilst new national restrictions are in place, the council has also redeployed 36 leisure staff to lead this initiative out and about in towns across Wiltshire. These staff will be working with the council’s Community Engagement Managers to engage with town and parish councils, businesses and residents to remind them of the importance of playing their part to help stop the spread of the virus in Wiltshire.

Anyone that is interested in signing up to become a #WiltshireTogether Champion can email their details to: communitychampions@wiltshire.gov.uk

Wiltshire Communities Prepared & Together – Free Webinar

Wednesday 16 December 2020 (18.00 – 20.00) FREE

Supporting you in your role as a Wiltshire Community Emergency Volunteer responding to Covid-19 and other health emergencies.

This timely webinar from Communities Prepared has been developed in partnership with Marlborough Town Council, Wiltshire Council’s Emergency Planning team and Public Health specialists and Wiltshire Association of Local Councils and has been designed to thank and support Wiltshire’s community volunteers who have been or are currently involved in the Covid-19 response efforts. The session will provide an opportunity to reflect on the past eight months, to come together as volunteers, parish, town and city councillors and local council staff, to share experiences and lessons learned, and to prepare for the current and future challenges of supporting Wiltshire communities through this global pandemic.

Join this free webinar to:

  • Connect with other volunteers and share your experiences of playing a key role in Wiltshire’s COVID-19 response efforts
  • Access up-to-date information and guidance from Wiltshire Council on COVID-19 to support your work in the community
  • Build on your knowledge and experience by learning about your potential roles in managing other health emergencies including:
    • ¾ Temperature extremes
    • ¾ Hazardous chemical or bacteria release
    • ¾ Local communicable disease

Register for FREE on EventBrite


Youth Action Wiltshire Vital Festive Fundraising

All fundraising activities and events in support of Youth Action Wiltshire have sadly had to be cancelled or postponed for 2020

This is not a normal Christmas however we are fortunate to have amazing supporters and with your help we can raise some funds this Christmas for our youth work programmes, Youth Action Wiltshire.

Our fundraising team, despite the restrictions have found creative ways to fundraise this Christmas so we are now reaching out to ask for your support please over the festive period.

Virtual Christmas Raffle

Youth Action Wiltshire Christmas Raffle 2020Fantastic prizes can be won with Youth Action Wiltshire’s virtual Christmas raffle. Tickets are only £5 each and the draw will take place this Friday 11th December.

Fantastic raffle prizes including an iPad Air, perfume, champagne and chocolates and much more. Following the draw, winners will be informed by email and prizes will be delivered the following week.

To order your tickets please download and complete the ticket application form

This raffle is registered under the Gambling Act 2005 with Wiltshire Council, LN Number 000018299. 

The money raised will be used to provide vital services in 2021; outdoor education, wildlife and adventure sports days for Wiltshire’s young carers, and young people who are facing challenges in their lives through our Splash service. Offering them things to look forward to, respite from the challenges of their daily lives, a chance to make new friends, discover hidden talents, have fun, and develop their skills.

YAW Christmas E-Cards

Youth Action Wiltshire Christmas E-cards

This year why not send your friends and family one of our digital Christmas Cards and make a small donation with the money you saved on cards and stamps?

How much you donate is completely up to you. All donations received will go towards the vital services YAW run for young people.

You can choose a design, add your message and then share the goodwill with everyone you know on Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp.

FREE and easy fundraising for Youth Action Wiltshire

Are you are taking advantage of the Black Friday deals this month? Donate to Youth Action Wiltshire FREE when you shop online with over 4300 retailers.

Please consider signing up to Easy Fundraising before you start your shopping! It’s simple, free and only takes 2 minutes to register!

All money raised from our Christmas fundraising activities will be used to provide vital services in 2021; outdoor education, wildlife and adventure sports days for Wiltshire’s young carers, and young people who are facing challenges in their lives through our Splash service. Offering them things to look forward to, respite from the challenges of their daily lives, a chance to make new friends, discover hidden talents, have fun, and develop their skills

‘Growing up as a young carer can be difficult.  I used to get bullied because I was different. Wiltshire Young Carers Service has given me somewhere where I belong. They have helped when I have had problems at school or home. Through respite activities I have found things that I enjoy, and that I am good at, and made friends who understand me. I don’t feel alone anymore.”

One of the Young Carers Supported by YAW


combined BB funder logo 2020

Programme Update

The Building Bridges programme has continued to work successfully, managing the transition to supporting our participants remotely and engaging with participants referred to the programme and matching them to the most appropriate partner organisations during the second lockdown across Swindon & Wiltshire.

The team are currently actively supporting 334 participants, developing the programme and courses to ensure it meets their needs and helping with mental and general wellbeing during these unsettling times. This is a huge part of what our Key Support Workers offer as part of their services.

As a result of this continued strong progress, the partnership has continued to receive feedback from our key stakeholders that the programme is seen as being very successful in supporting our participants and in helping them to achieve outcomes where other approaches have been less successful.

Partner Case Study

“I am a Work Coach at Trowbridge Job Centre and would like to thank Gayle Harper so much for the wonderful work she has done with Job Centre customers and to let yourself, your team, and of course Gayle, know our appreciation.  Gayle’s supportive approach, and her commitment and knowledge in her work, has been life changing for people.

Gayle has been working with PW, a customer from Trowbridge Job Centre. PW is a young person with complex needs, has lived in supported housing for a number of years and needs support in all areas; including housing, employability skills and life skills. He faces many challenges including struggling with communication, taking ownership and being focused. I have seen all these skills grow over the previous months.

PW now has additional qualifications, is due to move into his own accommodation and a move towards work in construction. He is more confident, motivated and focused!

Gayle has gone above and beyond, maintaining contact and committed to his needs and having to be more flexible, (during this strange time) than ever, in approaching this to get things put in place for him to move forward and progress.

Thanks to Gayle.”

Gemma Piggott
Work Coach, Department for Work and Pensions at Trowbridge Job Centre

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. Helping individuals to recognise and understand what we each can and can’t control in our daily lives as well as helping them to start and maintain a good routine all contributes towards each person’s self-awareness and keeping motivation going to achieve both short and longer term goals. It’s always lovely for the team to receive feedback from the Building Bridges participants and their activities, we wanted to share two case studies this month, both of which show positive impact and our commitment to support participants engaged in the programme.

Participant’s Career Success During Lockdown

“I had a great experience working with the Building Bridges programme. I felt supported the whole time, even through the current problems we are having and always felt I had support.

I would recommend anyone who is in need of help or support in finding work or life and gaining knowledge to contact the programme, wholeheartedly.”



avebury sports and social club lcf funding

Avebury Sports & Social club benefit from a £35,000 grant

Community First continue to manage and administrate the Landfill Communities Fund (LCF) in Wiltshire and Swindon, offering capital funding for local community projects in Wiltshire. Covid 19 has not dampened spirits within Wiltshire’s communities, award applications have continued to be administered by the team, community grants have been approved and successful projects have been completed.

Landfill operator Crapper and Sons has awarded £35,000 to help fund an extension to the existing building at Avebury Sports & Social Club, this will offer residents a new disabled WC and a refurbishment to the current WC and kitchen.

Jane Bowden, Director of Crapper and Sons said:

“We would like as many groups as possible to use Community First to access money and spread it as far as we can throughout the funding area.”

avebury sports and social club logoDominic Fry Project Lead, Avebury Sports & Social Club said

“Our whole parish will be hugely enriched by these additions to a critically important community building.  Adding Disabled W.C. facilities and a kitchen will allow us to broaden the range of activities that can take place, in line with our open access, diversity and inclusion objectives.  Thank you so much to Community First and Crapper & Sons for their phenomenal support and commitment to this project!”

YAW Christmas E-Cards

Manton’s Jubilee Field play area now open after long and successful fundraising venture

Manton’s Jubilee Field play area opened in September after a long fundraising venture. Abiding by Covid social distancing restrictions children can now enjoy new play structures.

The overall cost of just under £66,500 were met by grants and contributions from a range of organisations and generous local people. Hills Group contributed £10,000 from the Landfill Communities Fund grant towards the project.

Katie Tilney, of fundraisers Manton Community Outdoors said: “We are so thrilled to have this playground officially open. It is wonderful to see so many people enjoying it already. We are so grateful to all those that have contributed and helped to make this fantastic project a reality”.

For more information about Landfill Communities Fund Grants and to download a LCF Information pack click LCF Information Pack (communityfirst.org.uk) Call Mary Hardwidge on 01380 732802 or email: mhardwidge@communityfirst.org.uk telephone: 01380 732802

In October the Building Bridges Programme team partnered with Create Studios to produce a new video that showcases this unique programme that operates across the county. 

Stay up to date

Stay up to date

I'd like to stay up to date with all of the latest news from Community First including fundraising activities, fundraising events and updates from across the whole organisation.

You have Successfully Subscribed!