Council secures funding to assist families who experience violence from younger family members


Targeted work to help families who experience violence committed by younger members of their own families will begin over the summer, thanks to a successful Swindon Borough Council funding bid.

The £129,400 secured from the Community Foundation for Swindon and Wiltshire will be used over two years to work with adolescents who are physically and emotional violent, and with the parents, carers and siblings who are involved.

The council has recently identified that there are examples of violence being committed by children on family members locally and if left unaddressed, such behaviour could continue into adulthood.
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One-to-one sessions conducted by specially-trained staff aimed at increasing safety within families and heightening responsibility on the part of the child perpetrator will be given to those identified as requiring support.

Professionals working with children and young people, including those engaged with the central Government’s Troubled Families Programme, often cite adolescent on parent violence as a common reason for the breakdown of families which can lead to problems associated with:

Non-attendance at school
Young people committing crime
Families involved in anti-social behaviour
Adults being out of work
Money will also be used to help bridge the gap in local research around child on family member violence, specifically looking at assessments, intervention planning, delivery and joint approaches using the views of the victim and the perpetrator.

Councillor Fionuala Foley, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “Unfortunately child on family member violence is something that occurs in homes up and down the country. Recently it is something that has been identified in Swindon as an issue that requires some work by our Children’s Services team.

“It is excellent that we have secured funding to address the problem head-on with those involved and I am sure the work that will be carried out will be of great benefit.

“The funding will allow staff to gather robust data and other information about children being violent towards family members to help inform and shape future work in this area.”

Swindon celebrates national Safer Sleep Week


Mums and mums-to-be in Swindon are being encouraged to be sleep-savvy with their babies as part of a national campaign called Safer Sleep Week, which runs from 14th-20th March.

Nationally five babies die every week without a known cause and evidence shows that following safer sleep advice can help reduce the chances of this happening.

Bed sharing or sofa sharing, smoking, adopting unsafe sleeping positions, alcohol and substance misuse and babies born prematurely or of a low birth weight to young mothers are all factors associated with increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). In Swindon and Wiltshire there have been 11 deaths associated with SIDS in the last three years. Although this is a small number compared to over 8,000 births each year, the effects are devastating.
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Health Visitors in Swindon are helping raise awareness of the issue to parents and also supporting those directly affected by a sudden unexpected death with a dedicated Care of the Next Infant (CONI) programme. The service supports bereaved parents before and after the birth of their new baby, providing a range of practical help and advice.

This includes regular home visits, monitoring the baby’s growth with a weight chart and scales to detect any changes quickly, training on resuscitation and guidance about suitable bedding and clothing.

Sleeping on back and creating a firm, flat, separate sleeping place as well as a smoke-free environment, room sharing, breastfeeding and dummy use all help to prevent SIDS.

Health Visitor Kate Farnsworth is part of a team of four Health Visitors offering the CONI scheme to families in the Borough.

She said: “We are passionate about implementing the CONI programme in Swindon in order to provide this vital service to families who have suffered the trauma of the sudden and unexpected death of a baby. These parents are often understandably anxious during subsequent pregnancies and after the birth of their new baby- the CONI programme can help to support them through this period.

“There is evidence that informed professional support in the first few months of a baby’s life can help alleviate anxiety and be of value in ensuring appropriate and safe care of the new baby. Families will be offered a structured system of care involving parents, midwife, health visitor, general practitioner and paediatrician. A variety of support measures are available and these are selected by the parents with the advice of their paediatrician and CONI local co-ordinator.”

Cllr Fionuala Foley, Swindon Borough Council Cabinet Member for Children Services, said: “Safer Sleep Week is an important opportunity to raise awareness of the issue and offer advice about how to minimise the risks. The sudden loss of a baby is unimaginable for any parent. Introducing this type of support locally is really positive and we hope that the CONI programme will enhance the health visiting service within Swindon, providing holistic care to some of our most vulnerable families.”

Safer Sleep Week is run by The Lullaby Trust which provides specialist support for bereaved families and anyone affected by a sudden infant death.

Open day on Saturday April 23 to mark crematorium’s 50th anniversary


An open day at Swindon’s Kingsdown Crematorium and Cemetery is to be held on Saturday April 23 to mark its 50th anniversary.
A variety of interactive events are planned for visitors, including a service at 1.50pm featuring the Great Western Harmony Choir in the chapel to remember those who have been cremated at the facility.
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A memorial bench and timeline will be unveiled by Swindon Mayor Councillor Andrew Bennett and visitors can also take part in behind-the-scenes tours.

Staff will be available to help people look up old cremation and burial records and help with their genealogy enquiries.

Local historian Graham Carter will give a talk about the site’s history and people will have the opportunity to leave remembrance notes in the chapel.

Stone masons, funeral directors and other businesses will man stands at the open day, which will conclude with a balloon launch to commemorate those cremated and buried there.

People do not have to book to attend the open day, which begins at 11am. Tours will be at 11.15am, 12.15pm & 1.15pm.

More than 82,000 cremations have taken place at the Kingsdown Road facility since it opened on 21 April 1966, with 2,000 happening in its first three years. In 2015 a total of 2,028 cremations were held there.

Mamie Beasant, Swindon Borough Council’s Head of Registration and Bereavement Services, said: “Kingsdown Crematorium plays a big part in the local community as it is a place where people gather to remember loved ones.

“What many people may not know is its history and how it is run. An open day to mark the crematorium’s 50th anniversary is the perfect opportunity to find out more and I am sure staff there are looking forward to showing people around.

Residents encouraged to sign up to green waste service now spring has sprung


With the growing season well underway, people in Swindon are being encouraged to join the thousands of households who have signed up to the Council’s green waste service.
Last year, more than 13,000 people took advantage of the Council’s green waste service which – for an annual cost of £40, or £1.60 per collection – sees residents receive a fortnightly collection via a green wheelie bin.

The service saves people from having to take trips to the Household Waste Recycling Centre in Cheney Manor industrial estate to dispose of their grass cuttings and hedge clippings.

Reminder letters and emails have already been sent out to existing customers inviting them to renew their subscriptions, while tags will also be attached to general household waste wheelie bins to encourage those who do not have a green wheelie bin, to sign up to the service.

In common with many councils, Swindon Borough Council introduced the paid-for service to save money on its budget, estimated to be £700,000.

People with smaller gardens are being reminded that they can pay less each year by sharing a bin with a neighbour and sharing the cost. The subscription-only service also gives the collection crews an accurate picture of exactly where the waste needs to be collected from and the likely amounts, which provides a more reliable and timely service.

Leon Barrett, Swindon Borough Council’s Head of StreetSmart, said: “The number of households who have signed up to the green waste service has been steadily growing over the past couple of years but we want even more people to sign up.

“It is an excellent service and good value for money as it saves people from having to take their green waste to the Household Waste Recycling Centre and the inevitable queueing that goes with it. Our collection service is also more efficient as our crews know exactly where to pick up the green waste and are not forced to drive down every street looking for green bags.”

Council launches spring appeal for budding foster carers in Swindon


Being a school dinner lady opened Julie Lowe’s eyes to less fortunate children and inspired her to take on a new vocation as a foster carer.

The 53-year-old, from Wanborough, is backing Swindon Borough Council’s call to recruit more foster carers because she knows what a vital difference they can make to children’s lives and how much it has helped her blossom too.
Julie said: “Foster carers fill such an important role, but not everyone recognises or knows much about it. It was only by chance that I found out about this opportunity and I’m so glad I did because it’s so rewarding. That’s why I’m sharing my experience, in the hope of encouraging others to find out more and see if it also could be something for them.

Julie has been fostering for the past 12 years and is currently looking after two young boys, aged three and four.

She said: “Fostering is all about nurturing and that’s such a satisfying thing to do. Every time you make a step forward, for example developments with speech so you can understand them better or sleeping through the night, there’s a wonderful sense of achievement and you remember why you’re doing it.

Julie was a single mum with two girls of her own to look after when she first took on the role.

She said: “I wanted to do something different to working in an office or shop – something which would help me put my caring nature to good use, she said.

“I first learned about it from a little boy who had caught my attention when I was a dinner lady. I got talking to his foster carer, who told me all about it. There were no set qualification requirements and all the training was provided, so it sounded ideal and I’ve been doing it ever since.

Now her daughters are grown-up and have left home Julie thinks fostering is a great way to tackle empty-nest syndrome.

She said: “I’m never bored or lonely and can imagine life would be terribly quiet without anyone in the house or someone to look out for. My daughters have always been very supportive and I think it has also helped them to be more compassionate, understanding people. There are so many knock-on benefits.

Julie also really enjoys being part of a network of foster carers in the borough, who can turn to each other for support and advice.

She said: “The professional help and guidance is great but the peer support is equally powerful. I’ve made lots of friends through fostering and we meet regularly for lunch, coffee or social trips to share experience and generally help each other out. It’s like having an extended family and is a great source of reassurance and support – you’re never on your own.

The council is looking for foster carers for children of all ages, with placements lasting anything from a few days to many years. It needs foster carers from a range of ethnic backgrounds to reflect Swindon’s diverse population and the needs of children coming into care. Marital status, sexuality, age and whether you have children or not are no barrier to fostering. Carers receive payment and allowances to help cover their time and expenses, as well as free ongoing training to develop new skills.

Julie said: “I honestly can’t imagine doing anything more fulfilling than this. If you’re a caring person and enjoy spending time with children and young people, then it’s definitely worth considering. The best thing about it is that every day you really can tell you’re making a difference.

Cyclists of all ages and abilities set for treat in Swindon starting next month


Swindon is gearing up for a season of cycling – and little Finley Stanley is raring to join in the free festivities.

There are 26 guided bike rides, starting in May, as part of the Sky Ride Local initiative which aims to help people of all ages and abilities discover the joy of cycling.

Four-year-old cycling fan Finley, from West Swindon, is already looking forward to joining in the action with his two-year-old sister Tia and parents Lindsay and Phil, an engineer at Network Rail.

Lindsay, aged 34, is equally keen to get back on the saddle this spring having only recently returned to cycling – thanks to her son’s enthusiasm.

She said: “I had got out of the habit since becoming a mum, which was a shame because I used to cycle to work and really enjoyed it. We got a balance bike for Finley when he was two and a half and he took to it straight away. That inspired me to get pedalling too – Finley absolutely loves it and takes any opportunity to get out on his bike. His dad is a great example because he still cycles to work and goes on long rides at the weekend.”

Organised by Swindon Borough Council, in partnership with British Cycling and Sky, the guided Sky Ride Local rides are back for the third year and set off from venues across the Borough, ranging in distance from 3 to 30 miles.

The first Sky Ride is a three-mile �?easy going’ opportunity, kicking off at Coate Water Country Park on Sunday 15th May at 10am.

Lindsay said: “We can’t wait because it will be our first opportunity to go on a guided ride as a whole family. Tia will go on the back and Finley will be able to ride some of the way and use his ‘follow me’ tow bar if he gets a bit tired. We’re all looking forward to it – especially Finley, who is just brilliant on his bike.”

Even more cycling opportunities are available in Swindon this year thanks to Breeze and Ride Social. Breeze is the biggest national programme designed to inspire and support more women to ride their bikes. Swindon Breeze Champion Jennifer Purcell, mum-of-two from Wroughton, will be leading a host of local weekly guided rides to get more women into cycling. Ride Social aims to bring out the more social side of cycling and help cyclists to meet up, form groups and start riding together.

Lindsay said: “I met Jennifer at a cycling event my husband was taking part in. She is really inspirational and has helped me realise how it is not only possible, but also great fun to go out riding with two small children in tow. I enjoy cycling these days more than ever – it’s a great way to make friends and stay fit. We’re also going camping with our bikes this spring, so it really has opened up a world of adventure for us all.”

David Bourque, British Cycling Director of Recreation and Partnerships, said: “There’s no better way to get outdoors, get some exercise and explore the Borough with friends than on a bike ride. Whether you’re building your confidence or looking to challenge yourself, there’s a Sky Ride Local for you in Swindon.”

Cycling is a good form of cardiovascular exercise and counts towards the recommended two and a half hours of weekly physical activity recommended for adults.

Rodbourne Road re-opens on Monday 9 May, bus gates to be reinstated


Rodbourne Road will be re-opened to through traffic in time for the morning rush hour on Monday (9 May) after Network Rail completed essential work on two railway bridges earlier than expected.

Work to reconstruct one of the railway bridges and remove another that was redundant started on 18 April and was expected to last until 15 May. However, Network Rail have finished the vast majority of the work with the remaining stage being a final overnight closure from 11pm on Saturday, 14 May until 5am on Sunday, 15 May.

During the Rodbourne Road closure, diversions were put in place for motorists and in an effort to create an additional route, Swindon Borough Council opened the Penzance Drive and Wootton Bassett Road bus gates to all traffic.

Following the early completion of the railway bridge work, the Council will be removing the Rodbourne Road closure and reinstating the bus gates from Monday morning.

Councillor Dale Heenan, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport and Sustainability said: “It is great Rodbourne Road will be back to normal following more than £12 million in road and rail improvements.

“I would like to thank Network Rail for completing the work ahead of schedule and also thank motorists, local businesses and local residents for their patience while this essential work was carried out.

“With the roads in and around Rodbourne now free of works, I would encourage people to visit the many businesses in the area from Swindon Mobility Ltd to Sinbad Tandoori and West Tailoring Alterations. Rodbourne is open for business.”

Jennifer Pearson, Network Rail’s scheme project manager, said: “I’d like to thank residents for their patience and understanding while we completed this essential upgrade.

“We were fully aware of the inconvenience caused by this temporary closure which is why we worked hard to complete the majority of the work and re-open the road as soon as possible.

“This improvement work forms a key part of our Railway Upgrade Plan to provide a bigger, better, more reliable railway for passengers. In addition to this reconstruction, we’ll be continuing with our electrification work to bring the benefits of the longer, faster, quieter and greener electric trains to the residents of Swindon.”

Big Swindon Knit helps the town’s homeless


Volunteers got their knitting needles out to help Swindon’s homeless during a wellbeing event this afternoon (19 April).

The Big Swindon Knit was organised by Swindon Borough Council’s Community Navigators and Swindon Circles of Support, and saw around 20 people meet at Eastcott Community Centre to knit and sew together knitted squares to make blankets for Swindon-based homeless charity Threshold.

Swindon Circles sets out to match local volunteers to isolated older people for companionship and the Big Knit was an opportunity for those involved to meet new people in a friendly environment.

Swindon Mayor Cllr Andrew Bennett (pictured above) took part in the Big Swindon Knit and was shown how to use knitting needles himself.

Community Researcher Paula Nunnery, who organised the event, said she was pleased with the turnout. She said: “We’ve already given Threshold 136 hats, blankets and scarves and the homeless people were thrilled, especially with the hats.

“This is the first time we have organised an event like this and it has been a great success. People have been busy knitting their own squares and we thought it would be great to bring everyone together to meet each other and to crochet the squares into blankets for Threshold.”

Marlene Matthews, 80, was delighted to give up her time to help with the project. “I’m very pleased to be able to help,” Marlene said. “I know the homeless people appreciate what we are doing and it is great to be able to meet new people and to do something nice for charity.”

Seventy-two-year-old Win Henry, was also only too pleased to take part in the Big Swindon Knit. She said: “We heard about the project through Paula and I started knitting in February. We have knitted lots of hats and the squares for the blankets. It is nice we can help the homeless charity doing something we enjoy.”

The Big Swindon Knit was also an opportunity for people involved in Circles of Support to enjoy music and light refreshments throughout the afternoon.