November Newsletter

An occasional newsletter for Sid Valley Help's volunteers and our Linked Organisations. This edition features Action for Children's Early Help services, Pets As Therapy, WHAT for young peoples mental health services and the Sidmouth Memory Café, plus other news items.

Report on the Sid Valley Help Network event held on 11 September

Children's Centres Richard Holmes and Samantha Brunskill, service leads for Action for Children (AfC), spoke about the support offered for children and families in East Devon. AfC are funded by Devon County Council to manage 43 children's centres across Devon supporting families with children from pre-birth to age 8. The service used to be open access but is now by referral only. AfC supports around 350 families at any one time with a team of 15 workers across East Devon.

They provide a range of targeted Early Help services which involve taking action to support a child, young person or their family as soon as a problem emerges. Action can be required at any stage in a child’s life from pre-birth to adulthood, and applies to any problem or need that a family needs support to resolve. It also applies to all children and young people, with any form of need. In Devon, Early Help is made up of service users, community resources, and a range of service providers who will work together to enable families to manage their own dilemmas and solve their own problems, making changes to secure the well-being of their children.

About two-thirds of referrals are to do with mental health or distress in the household. AfC prefer to work with both parents rather than just one but this is often difficult to achieve. Children over eight are usually referred through school to school partners and DCC has a Family Practice Unit for children 8 to 16 years old.

Richard and Samantha answered questions about how referrals were made and the likely waiting times. They mentioned the DCC Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) who can be contacted if someone is concerned about a child or young person in Devon on 0345 155 1071 or

Pets As Therapy At the Network event we also met Archie, a ‘Pets as Therapy’ dog and Karen McGilchrist who spoke about their use in the area and the benefit of PAT dogs. We were enchanted by Archie who made friends with most of the audience. Karen spoke passionately about the work in hospitals, care homes and schools.

Sid Valley Help AGM The first Annual General Meeting of the Sid Valley Help CIO was held on 11 September. The annual report and accounts for the year to 31 March 2019 were presented and approved and all the current trustees were re-elected. Copies of the annual report and accounts can be downloaded from our website.

Next Sid Valley Help Network event will be held on 21 January 2020 in the afternoon and details will be circulated later.

Booklets Our Telephone Shopping and Home Delivery booklet has been well received and the 600 copies we printed have all been distributed; we are preparing a new edition. We printed 2, 000 Information for Carers booklets with part-funding from the Sid Valley Practice and most have been distributed but we still have a small stock if anyone wants some. Both booklets are available to download as a PDF file from our website.

Sid Valley Help drop in sessions

  • Tea and Chat (Every Thursday afternoon at the Mustard Seed Café on All Saints Road 3 to 4pm) The Sid Valley Help Tea & Chat sessions are continuing to be well attended. Everyone is welcome to drop in for free tea and coffee. The sessions will provide the opportunity for people just to meet and chat. A Sid Valley Help volunteer attends to provide advice if requested.

  • New Mums and Babies We had several new mums and babies (under 12 months) for the first sessions at the Children’s Centre at Stowford in May and June but numbers have dropped off and in the last few weeks no one has attended. As there are several Mums and toddlers group in the Sid Valley we decided to stop this session from the end of October.

  • Young at Heart Ladies Social Group (first Saturday of the month at the Elizabeth Hotel 10:30 to 12:30 pm) In July Celia said, “I've absolutely no doubt that every person that's been to the coffee get-togethers so far have felt a massive benefit from just mixing, chatting and enjoying the company of other women without there being any other reason to be there. It's a real mix of characters, some naturally 'perky' some 'strong' and some initially appearing quite mild, but by the end of the morning connections are made and so far I've most certainly felt they feel an awful lot better for getting themselves there and ignoring their natural reluctance to walk into a group of people they've never met before. It's quite lovely to see how super quickly everyone relaxes."

Training on grant applications We will be running a training session on grant applications for our Linked Organisations in the next couple of months and will send round details later.

Wellbeing and Health Action Team (WHAT) The group has been set up with the mission to improve young people’s mental health through improved local access to early help services. The aim is to work together across organisations in the Sid Valley to increase what provision is on offer to improve young people’s wellbeing and reduce the stigma of mental health issues. There have been several WHAT meetings to identify what needs to be done and what local resources there already are.

This project was launched to the community on 3 October and since then there has been an extended meeting of the team to plan what we can deliver locally. Sub-groups have been set up to address capturing the Young People’s voice, to seek sources of funding and to explore what other community development is required, like support for parents. WHAT is being coordinated through Sid Valley Help and the next meeting is on 28 November. For more information contact Di Fuller.

Other news

Volunteer Fair Age Concern Sidmouth is running a Volunteer Fair on 7 December at the Methodist Hall, Sidmouth from 11 am to 2pm. People can drop-in talk to Sid Valley charities and organisations to explore how you can support them by volunteering. The event is free and there is no need to book or make any commitment. Tea, coffee and cake will be available. Age Concern is inviting local charities and non-profit organisations that work within the Sid Valley to attend- please email Emma (

Sid Valley Memory Café - one of Sid Valley Help's Linked Organisations

The Sid Valley Memory Café is a friendly social meeting place for people with all forms of memory problems and their families and friends. It is run by a team of volunteers many of whom have specific relevant experience of working with family or friends living with dementia.

The dementia journey can be frightening for family and friends of a person with dementia and often dementia leads to social isolation as friends drift away. Some who attend the weekly event are widows or widowers who have felt isolated after their partner died

The Café holds a free session every Wednesday afternoon at Twyford House, Sidmouth from 2 pm to 3:45pm. It runs a varied social programme, including games, quizzes, bingo and musical entertainment, and importantly the opportunity to have tea or coffee whilst chatting with friends who are in a similar situation. It is also a chance to connect with local health care professionals, or from time to time to hear presentations from support associations. The programme includes outings, walks and gardening.

About 40 to 50 people attend the Café sessions each week of whom about half are carers and half are people with memory problems.

The Sidmouth Memory Café is a registered charity with six trustees and around 16 volunteers. In addition to running the weekly sessions, the Café raises funds for an Admiral Nurse for the Sid Valley who works with the families of those living with dementia. The Café has a funding agreement with Dementia UK who train and regulate Admiral Nurses and the Sid Valley nurse is employed by the NHS RD&E Trust. Each year the Café has to raise approximately £50,000 to fund the Admiral Nurse's post.

For more information visit the website or phone Angela Thompson on 01395 577394 or see the website at