Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Youngsters urged to join the "Big Friendly Read"

Youngsters urged to join the Big Friendly Read

Oxfordshire County Council’s libraries are encouraging thousands of children to read six books this summer as part of a Roald Dahl-inspired challenge.
Youngsters aged between four and 11 are being urged to join The Big Friendly Read: Summer Reading Challenge which is being delivered in partnership with the author’s literary estate and the Reading Agency to mark 100 years since the birth of the world’s favourite storyteller.

Sign up

All children need to do is sign up at their nearest library and receive a collector’s folder. As children progress through the challenge, reading two books at a time and revisiting the library, they can collect special collector cards.
The cards all feature original Quentin Blake illustrations and explore some of most popular themes in Roald Dahl’s books such as invention, mischief and friendship. When children have collected six cards and read at least 6 books they can claim their medal and certificate of achievement.

Great opportunity

The council’s Cabinet Member for Cultural Services Lorraine Lindsay-Gale said: “Last summer’s reading challenge saw more than 8,000 children taking part countywide and we are hoping this year that even more children and families will get involved. The summer break is a great opportunity for children to discover the joy of reading and find out what their local library has to offer."
Last year more than 150 young volunteers aged 13-24 helped to deliver the challenge and many have already signed up to help this year. More information and application forms can be found at

Reading challenge events

A summer programme of events is planned at Oxfordshire libraries including the Science Oxford Big Friendly Library Tour, bringing exciting workshops to sixteen locations. In addition, 10 libraries will be hosting Marvellous Museums events with the Oxford University Museums Service and there will be a range of crafts, author events and more.
Families can also unlock some digital magic on the Big Friendly Read: Summer Reading Challenge website at including the free Summer Reading Challenge App, which this year will include rare recordings of Roald Dahl sharing his writing tips and reading aloud.
Created by Reading Agency sponsor SOLUS, the app will also provide a convenient way to access the Book Sorter, a unique crowd-sourced database of books in user friendly categories that children themselves have rated and added.

Bicester Summer Events 2016

Monday, 25 July 2016

Thames Valley Police -Summer Burglary Crime Prevention Advice

Now that summer is on the way people can become complacent about home security. The most common cases of opportunist summer burglary involve offenders that:

enter an insecure front door while residents are in the back garden
enter doors that are closed but unlocked at night while residents are asleep
reach through windows to take valuable items

Crime reduction advice  
Ensure that windows and doors are closed and locked when you are out. Don’t leave small windows open believing them to be safe.
If you want to leave windows open while you sleep, fit window restrictors so they cannot be fully opened, or make sure they are not large enough to allow access to a burglar.
When out in your garden ensure that windows and doors to the front of the house are secure. It only takes a second for someone to get into your home and take things without you noticing.
Do not leave valuables on display in front of windows or in reach of open windows or doors.
Ensure that all barbecue and garden equipment and tools are securely locked up in a shed and out of sight. Tools can be used by the potential offender to break in to your home.
Consider fitting outside security lighting or a visible alarm to help deter burglars. Even using pea shingle or gravel on a driveway and spiky plants in garden beds can help.
Don’t leave any keys near entry points where they can be ‘fished’ or ‘hooked’ out through the window, letter box or cat flap.
Ensure any internal handle operated locks on UPVC doors are fully secured with a key.

Sheds - Easy pickings?
Offenders see sheds as easy pickings because they are unprotected and lack basic security measures. The buildings often contain property that can be sold on or implements that can be used to force entry into the owner’s home.
Many sheds whilst being of good construction fall short on basic security.
It is easy to unscrew the ironmongery, steal contents and in some cases replace the screws to make it look as if the shed has not been tampered with.
By using tamper proof screws or coach bolts together with a good quality pad bar or hasp and staple and close shackled padlock, the shed owner will make it harder for the would-be thief.
It is also a good idea to bond any window glass in, with mastic to prevent easy removal.
Ensure all tools and equipment are locked away when not in use.
High-quality locks should be used on doors. Windows can be fitted with a grille or, as a cheaper alternative, chicken wire, to slow a thief down.
A shed alarm can also be installed.
Post-coding or indelibly marking all property such as lawnmowers, bikes, and tools using ultra-violet pens, forensic marking such as Selecta DNA or Smartwater or engravers.
Installing security lighting as a deterrent, and plants such as thorny shrubs to act as a barrier at potential access points.
If building a shed, putting it where it is most visible to you and neighbours.

Going on holiday?
 Make your home look occupied.
If you're out or going away, ask a trusted neighbour to open and close your curtains for you.
Ask a neighbour if they don't mind parking their car on your driveway and trimming your garden to make your home look occupied.
Cut the front and back lawns before you go away and trim any plants that burglars could hide behind.
Cancel milk and newspaper deliveries.
Before your holiday, don’t advertise that you are going away on Facebook, Twitter etc.
Register for the Royal Mail 'Keepsafe' service.

AFF - Change to student funding benefits Armed Forces Families

Change to student funding benefits Armed Forces families
The Army Families Federation (AFF) is delighted that, after much campaigning, Service families should now find it much easier to undertake distance learning while posted overseas.
Following an announcement by Universities Minister Jo Johnson, Forces families should no longer be excluded from accessing a student loan if they are not resident in the UK on the first day of their chosen course. The new rule will grant eligibility for student funding for a UK based distance learning course even if families are posted overseas while the course is still ongoing.
Championing spouse training
AFF has worked hard for some time, to improve the employment and training prospects of Army spouses. Given that spouses are unable to work in some overseas locations, they are pleased that improved training opportunities will now be available.
AFF Chief Executive Sara Baade said: “AFF is delighted with the Government’s decision to change student funding rules in order to provide Armed Forces families who are posted abroad with the same opportunities as those living in the UK, when accessing Student Finance England loans.
AFF is committed to ensuring our families are not disadvantaged due to the nature of their Service and this decision is an excellent conclusion to months of joint working with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). These changes open up a raft of opportunities for the families of serving personnel who previously might have had to forgo training whilst posted abroad; we look forward to seeing the benefits over the months and years to come.”  
Find out more
For more information about AFF and their employment and training work, visit and click ‘info’.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Gullivers Fun - Last Chance for 30% off Christmas 2016

RBL Count Them In Campaign

Count Them In
The Royal British Legion and its sister charity, Poppyscotland, have launched a campaign calling for additional questions to be included in the next census in 2021. These questions will seek to capture much needed data on the Armed Forces community - particularly Reservists and veterans, who are otherwise largely hidden from official statistics.
As you will be aware, unlike in the United States, the UK Government only really maintains records on Regulars and injured and pensionable veterans, whilst Reservists, ‘healthy’ working age veterans, and family members are generally missing from existing data collection methods. Sadly, even the data that we do have is rather patchy, providing no real indication as to the wellbeing and needs of this unique community. In contrast, we know a great deal about the UK’s Jedi community, as well as the numbers and location of our sheep and cattle.
In light of the above, the Legion and Poppyscotland have launched a new public-facing campaign. The campaign, which is called Count Them In, essentially seeks to establish a comprehensive snapshot of our Armed Forces community. By including questions about membership of the military community in the next census in 2021, we hope to not only develop a greater understanding of the needs, location and profile of the Armed Forces community, but also directly compare this group to their peers in the general population. This information will help the sector – local authorities, charities, statutory bodies - to more accurately identify areas where Service life presents a disadvantage, which will in turn enable the Government and other statutory providers to better allocate resources and deliver on their Armed Forces Covenant commitments.
How you can support ‘Count them in’:
1.    Follow the link to the RBL website and hit the red Pledge Your Support button. Enter your postcode, which identifies your local MP and send them the support request letter.
2.    Encourage everyone you can to pledge their support individually as well.
The RBL believe that more accurate local data on the size and needs of the Armed Forces community will help ensure the Armed Forces Covenant delivers for our Armed Forces community and for everyone. If you agree, please support this campaign. The Legion would be happy to provide you with additional campaign material.
Thank you for your support.
 For more information and to read the Census Campaign Background paper please follow this link

Changes to Enhanced Learning Credit schemes

Enhanced Learning Credits, Further Education and Higher Education scheme changes
The MOD promotes learning among members of the armed forces and the veterans’ community by providing what are known as Learning Credits, through the Enhanced Learning Credits scheme and Further Education and Higher Educaion scheme.  Both of these entitle Service personnel and Service leavers to receive financial help with the cost of their learning.
From 1 April 2016 there will be some changes to the schemes to make them more accessible and to enable people to use them to gain personal and professional qualifications in a more flexible way, both while serving and after transition to civilian life.
See more at this link

Armed Forces Covenant Website

Armed Forces Covenant Website

In January 2016 the Armed Forces Covenant was re-launched under a new, unified brand.

The new website lays out the support that is available to beneficiaries of the Covenant – current Regular and Reserve Service Personnel, Service families, former Service Personnel – with links to further information on individual Covenant measures on

The new website also contains information for supporters of the Covenant, including businesses, charities, the general public and local authorities, and regular news stories about how the Covenant is helping real people

See the website at this link

Thames Valley Police are looking to recruit Hate Crime Champions (HCC's) in the South & Vale Area

Hate Crime Champions (HCC’s)

Thames Valley Police are working together with the Hate Crime Network (HCN) to recruit Hate Crime Champions (HCC’s) within the South and Vale area.

A hate crime is any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice held by the offender. These prejudices surround an individual’s disability, gender identity, race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.

The HCN, who are funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner, are actively looking for people to volunteer to be a ‘Hate Crime Champion’ in their community, this will help build bridges, encourage people to report crimes and offer support to vulnerable people.

The description of the role is below.

The role of the champions
  • Working to support victims in your area and taking reports of hate crime from people in your community
  • Identifying communities who are at risk of hate crime, discrimination and victimisation
  • Actively engaging with vulnerable communities – developing and maintaining relationships
  • Providing reassurance and promoting community cohesion
  • Acting as a pivotal link between the HCN/police and community.
  • Support speaking at community meetings and religious events
  • Answering the 24hour phone line once a month
  • Feeding information into the HCN/police about possible tensions or concerns in your area.
Lisa Butler, the South and Vale Community Relations Officer is working alongside the HCN to raise awareness of Hate Crime. If you feel you can help us make a difference and would like to apply to become a champion, or require further details please contact Lisa, details below by Wednesday 13 July. 

A training session for the role will be held at South Oxon and Vale District Council offices, Milton Park near Abingdon on Friday 5 August, 11am – 1.30pm. Invites will be sent out to successful applicants prior to training.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Lisa Butler – Thames Valley Police, Community Relations Officer
Tel: 01235 556611 (Monday –Friday between 8.30am and 12.30pm)

Didcot First - Event Listing for July & August 2016

Future 4 Heroes - Residential Courses in Lake District

Paish Matters - Monthly newsletter for Ambrosden, Arncott, Blackthorn, Merton & Piddington - July/August 2016

Follow this link to read the full magazine