Following last year’s success Access All Areas is back for 2019! FREE tickets are still available for the event on 10am-4pm, 22 October Stoke Mandeville Stadium birthplace and home to the Paralympics.

Access All Areas is an all day event for adults and young people aged over 14 years with learning disabilities and autism, as well as their carers, relatives and friends. Visitors, who can come anytime between 10am-4pm, will be able to explore stalls from over 50 organisations who deliver support and services to this specific group of people in Bucks.

From information about health and housing to advice on safer sex and cancer screening - all stalls are interactive and staffed by experts in their field.

They will be joined by accessible sport and activities leaders, who will be running a range of workshops and sessions throughout the day. As well as cookery demonstrations and a few surprises like a virtual reality healthy eating game. So there’s always something new to try!

The event is specially designed to be accessible for those with learning disabilities and autism, and features a “chill out space” [provided by the Buckinghamshire Disability Service] as well as stalls designed to be relevant and easy to understand.

The Access All Areas event is the result of a partnership between Buckinghamshire County Council, health and community services. The overall aim is to narrow the health inequalities gap between those who have learning disabilities and autism and others in Bucks [people with a learning disability live 10-15 years less than the general population]. Access and awareness of what’s on offer is a key way to help address this and encourage everyone to keep well for longer.

Lin Hazell, Cabinet Member for Health & Wellbeing said: “We had a great response last year to the event, and people found it extremely helpful. It really raises awareness for all the amazing support that is available across the county, in areas people might not ever think of.”

Entrance to Access All Areas is free but must be booked advance. Tickets can be booked online through www.buckscc.gov.uk/access-all-areas

The event is supported with funding, vouchers, equipment and food for cookery demonstrations from:

  • Thames Valley Cancer Alliance
  • Possum Ltd
  • Tabbers Green
  • Waitrose
  • Morrisons
  • Aqua Vale
  • Swan Pool
  • Waterside Theatre
14:10, Wednesday by Hannah Holmes

Mayor's, Leaders and Chairman of town and parish councils throughout the UK are to take the lead in local celebrations marking the 75th Anniversary of the end of the war in EUROPE on the 8th May 2020. (VJ Day will be commemorated on the 15th August 2020). After years of fighting, the end of hostilities were officially announced on the 8th May 1945 by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, from the Cabinet Office, 10 Downing Street, London, that date has since become enshrined in history as VE Day.

 

The VE Day 75 weekend of 8th - 10th May 2020, will be an international celebration of peace – a time to remember, reflect and pay tribute to the millions at home and abroad who played such a vital part in achieving it. This includes the Armed Forces personnel from many countries who gave their lives or were physically and mentally injured; the hard-working women and men who kept the factories, mines, shipyards and farms operating throughout the years of turmoil; the ARP wardens, police officers, doctors, nurses, firemen, local defence volunteers and many others safeguarded the home front.

 

SSAFA the Armed Forces Charity - which has been supporting service personnel, veterans and their families since 1885 - is the charity partner for this series of VE Day 75 commemorative events.

 

The planned activities over the weekend are as follows, please go to the VE Day 75 website – www.veday75.org to see the complete overview for this anniversary:

  • The Playing of Battle's O'er & VE 75 Years.
  • The 'Nation's Toast to the Heroes of WW2.'
  • The 'Cry for Peace, around the World.'
  • Churches & Cathedrals 'Ringing out for Peace.'
  • Street parties and parties in pubs, clubs, Hotels, on town and village greens and in halls etc.
  • Services of commemoration and celebration in churches, including the reading of the 'Tribute to the Millions' and the playing of the Last Post

 

From a central location of their choice, Mayors, Leaders and Chairman of town and parish councils are being encouraged to lead them in the 'Nation's Toast to the Heroes of WW2', paying 'tribute' to those from their local communities that gave so much to ensure we all enjoy the freedom we have today by undertaking the following ceremony at 3pm on Friday 8th May next year. (The wording of the 'Toast' can be obtained from the DOWNLOAD page of the VE day 75 website – www.veday75.org).

 

2.55pm: Source and arrange for a local Bugler, Trumpeter or Cornet player to play the Last Post followed by Reveille. (These can be obtained from local cadet forces, school, brass and silver bands and other organisations such as the Salvation Army etc).

3pm: Source and arrange for a local Piper to play Battle's O'er and VE 75 Years, the new tune especially written for this occasion. (This music can be obtained from the DOWNLOAD page of the VE day website – www.veday75.org).

 

3pm: To coincide with the Piper playing Battle's O'er, Mayor's, Leaders and Chairman of council, accompanied by invited guests, along with the members of the general public, raise a glass of refreshment of their choice and undertake the attached 'Nation's Toast to the Heroes of WW2.' (The refreshment does NOT need to be alcoholic as we want the event to be inclusive and not exclusive involving people of all ages, races, creeds, colour and religion in the VE Day 75 celebrations next year).

 

7pm: Encourage your local church to ring their bells as part of the nationwide 'Ringing out for Peace' that evening too.

 

We believe the above will provide every town and parish with a very short, simple, reflective and meaningful VE Day 75 event on the 8th May 2020, that is easy to organise and will be appreciated by all.

 

You will be interested to know that the complete short ceremony above, including all elements and timings, will also be taking place at 3pm on the 8th May next year, on the top of the four highest Peaks throughout the United Kingdom – BEN NEVIS – Scotland, MOUNT SNOWDON – Wales, SLIEVE DONARD – Northern Ireland and SCAFEL PIKE – England.

 

All those taking part are being asked to register their involvement on the VE day 75 website – www.veday75.org to enable us to keep in contact with them, along with informing the media of their involvement nearer the time. 

14:08, Wednesday by Hannah Holmes

Free e-learning module now available.

The number of over-70s holding a driving licence exceeded five million for the first time in 2018, and there are now over 200 centenarians still driving.

Driving is an important part of life for many residents of Buckinghamshire, enabling independence, especially for those living in rural areas - but as we age, driving can become more stressful.

That’s why, throughout October, Transport for Buckinghamshire (TfB) is promoting safety awareness for older drivers.

To support mature drivers and their families, TfB has developed an online e-learning module. The module contains all the information you need to retain independence and continue driving safely for as long as possible and can be accessed via www.buckscc.gov.uk/olderdrivers

The module covers:

  • Fitness to drive – recognising how changes to eyesight and age related conditions may affect your driving
  • Ability - recognise if and how your driving is changing
  • Medication – the law relating to drugs and medication
  • Improving your skills – developing your hazard perception skills
  • Vehicle - choosing a car and knowing what vehicle adaptations are available
  • Licencing - information about licencing and DVLA rules and procedures
  • Driving assessments – which can restore confidence and offer reassurance to families of older drivers

Deputy Leader and Cabinet Transport Member, Mark Shaw, said:

“Experienced drivers are generally safer than those with less experience, but as we age, our health can begin to decline, including our eyesight and reaction times. There’s no need to worry, though - there are a number of ways that drivers can help themselves to continue driving safely. A good place to start is by completing the online e-learning module. The module contains lots of useful information from choosing a car, adaptions to help with mobility through to hazard perception training.”

In addition to the e-module, TfB also offer mature driver assessments, which may also help restore confidence, support drivers or just offer reassurance. For more information on driving assessments, and to access the e-learning module, visit www.buckscc.gov.uk/olderdrivers

 

11:23, 09 Oct 2019 by Hannah Holmes

Buckinghamshire's new ten-year improvement plan for its rights of way network has just been published in draft form, and the County Council is asking people to take a look and provide feedback via an online survey.

The new plan for Buckinghamshire's footpaths, bridleways and byways was put together after an extensive engagement exercise earlier in the year in which a wide range of individuals, groups and organisations gave their views on the strengths and weaknesses of the network and how they felt it should be improved and developed over the next decade.

The information received via the engagement process was added to the detailed knowledge of the County Council's rights of way service to produce a new plan setting out how the rights of way network can provide an amenity over the coming years which best meets the needs of people who live or work in Buckinghamshire, and the many people who visit in order to enjoy the county's outstanding countryside.

Bill Chapple OBE, Buckinghamshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Planning & Environment, said: "Our rights of way network is the means by which local people and visitors alike access the beautiful Bucks countryside, whether that's for relaxation, sport, nature study or getting from A to B. It's therefore a precious asset, and we are committed to making the most of it, ensuring that as many people have access to it as possible for their recreational and travel needs. We also want to ensure that the network is not only properly maintained, but protected and enhanced as new infrastructure and residential development takes place in the county.

"I'd ask anyone interested in the future of our rights of way network to read the draft report, and help us to check whether we have come to the right conclusions and have included the right actions by completing the survey. The responses to this consultation will help us produce the final version of the rights of way improvement plan.  The final draft of the plan will be finished in early 2020 and then adopted by the council."

Read the draft plan and access the survey here: www.buckscc.gov.uk/rowip

14:29, 08 Oct 2019 by Hannah Holmes

Foster carers dedicate so much time, love and effort to caring for young people and the annual Buckinghamshire County Council Fostering Awards are the perfect time to celebrate these unsung heroes’ achievements.

The awards evening event, hosted on Friday 4 October at The Dairy, Waddesdon, recognised the huge commitment from our carers to children in their care. With surprise entertainment, tasty food and an array of well-deserved awards and certificates, the event was a fantastic occasion for carers to take the spotlight.

In addition to certificates awarded to foster carers for long service and training achievements, there were also four awards for special achievements: Best Newcomer, Foster Carer of the Year, Willow Award (celebrating the courage and dedication that foster carers bring to their role each day) and the Emergency Award. Nominations for these awards were submitted and the winners were decided by a panel of judges.

This year’s awards went to:

  • Best Newcomer: Sam Hines and Aidan O’Neil
  • Foster Carer of the Year: Rachel and Barry Porter
  • Willow Award: Denise and Michael Wiles
  • Emergency Award: Rose and Ted Farrar

Warren Whyte, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services said: “Our fostering awards evening is just a small way of showing appreciation for all the fantastic commitment from our carers day in, day out. Without this brilliant group of carers, many children’s lives just wouldn’t be the same.

 “We are extremely proud of everything our carers do to change children’s lives for the better and would like to personally thank each and every one of them.

 “As lucky as we are to have our current group of foster carers, there are still children out there in need of a foster home close to their local community and we need more foster carers to look after them.

If you have ever considered fostering, or know someone who could, please get in touch or join us at one of our information sessions.”

11:55, 08 Oct 2019 by Hannah Holmes

After a year which has seen a number of changes to the service, residents across Bucks are being asked to give their views on the county's household recycling centres in the annual customer satisfaction survey. The survey is run each year in October so that Buckinghamshire County Council has an ongoing picture of what is working well, what could be improved, and how residents are using the household recycling centres in Bucks.

 

Survey staff will be talking to visitors on sites during October. Over 2,500 responses are being sought across the nine sites asking residents questions which include which site they usually use, how often they visit, their familiarity with the permit scheme, and whether they understand the new charging policy for non-household waste.

And for the third year, residents can also complete the survey online. The online survey is open until Thursday 31 October and can be completed by any Buckinghamshire resident.

Once completed, the survey responses will be collated and reviewed to help the Council understand how the recent changes to the service are bedding in, and if there are any ways in which the experience of using the household recycling centres can be improved, whilst keeping the service as cost-effective as possible.

County Council Cabinet Member for Planning & Environment Bill Chapple OBE said "Last April we reluctantly introduced a number of changes to the household recycling centre service, which had to be done in order to make necessary budgetary savings.

"However, we've done everything we can to make sure that these changes don't inconvenience our visitors or affect the high level of customer satisfaction that has been expressed in previous surveys.

"So I'd ask everyone who's used one of our household recycling centres over the past few months to give us their views by completing the survey, either at one of the sites or by going online."

Link to online survey - www.snapsurveys.com/wh/s.asp?k=156958655534.

The closing date is Thursday 31 October.

11:49, 08 Oct 2019 by Hannah Holmes

With World Mental Health Day taking place on 10 October, we are thinking of those who are currently experiencing a mental health problem as well as their families and friends.

These days, talking about mental health is becoming much easier but when you are feeling low and aren’t sure where to turn, talking about it can be the last thing on your mind. Many people can feel like hiding away, pretending it isn’t happening or that they could be treated differently after telling someone they are not coping.

That’s why it’s so important to check in on your relatives and friends, especially if they’ve not been their usual selves recently. Sometimes, all it needs is for someone like you to #asktwice for that person to start talking about how they feel. You don’t have to be an expert to listen to someone, just knowing you care can be enough to encourage them to talk and if you use open questions – the ones that start with who, what, where, how, when or why, you can help them even more.

Gareth Williams, Cabinet Member for Community Engagement and Public Health said: “Just because mental health problems are not visible, doesn’t mean that someone isn’t going through a hard time. People are very good at putting on a brave face when they are really feeling at rock bottom inside.

“Take a look around you, whether you see friends, family, colleagues or even people you don’t know, one in four of them could be experiencing mental health problems right now.

“There is so much support available for anyone facing the challenges mental health problems bring. One way to start recovery is to speak to your GP, however, in Buckinghamshire there are also lots of organisations offering support including Bucks Mind, CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably – support for men) and the Samaritans. Public Health England has today launched ‘Every Mind Matters’, a great new mental health campaign, with lots of tools and support for anyone currently experiencing a mental health problem.

“By looking out for those we care about and talking to them when we first feel something isn’t right, we can help them get the help they need sooner rather than later. Let’s share the message that it’s OK not to be OK.”

Where can I get help?

To talk about your feelings you can also contact a GP or one of the local support organisations including:

NHS One You – Every Mind Matters
https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou then click on ‘Every Mind Matters’

Samaritans – 116 123 (24 hours)
Shout (free 24/7 text service) Text Shout to 85258
www.samaritans.org –

CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) 0800 585858
(7 days a week 5pm-midnight)
www.thecalmzone.net

MIND 0300 123 3393
(Mon-Fri 9am-6pm)
www.mind.org.uk

PAPYRUS (Prevention of Young Suicide) – 08000 684141
(Mon-Fri 10am-5pm + 7pm-10pm, weekends 2pm-5pm)
www.papyrus-uk.org

Youth Concern - 01296 431183
http://www.youthconcern.org.uk

Kooth (online support for young people)
https://www.kooth.com/

Young Minds
https://youngminds.org.uk/

Childline (national agency)
www.childline.org.uk

Time to Change (national agency)
www.timetochange.org.uk

Time to Change Bucks (local agency)
www.timetochangebucks.org.uk

Buckinghamshire Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services
01865 901951

Buckinghamshire Adult Mental Health Services
01865 901600

If you have concerns that you or someone you know is about to act on suicidal thoughts call 111 or 999, or go to the nearest Accident and Emergency Department. In Buckinghamshire this is at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. 

There is further information and advice, including support for people bereaved by suicide, on the Buckinghamshire Mind website at http://www.bucksmind.org.uk/crisis-support/

11:47, 08 Oct 2019 by Hannah Holmes

1st October was National Older Person’s Day, and Travel Safe Bucks marked the occasion by heading down to St Michael’s Church in Amersham to promote their Older Driver Assessments and brand new Older Driver module.

 The number of over 70’s holding a driving licence exceeded five million for the first time in 2018 and there are now over 200 centenarian still driving! Driving is an important part of life for many residents of Buckinghamshire, enabling independence, especially for those living in rural areas. However, as we age, driving can become more stressful. It is for this reason that Travel Safe Bucks is spending the month of October promoting Older Driver awareness month.

 To support mature drivers and their families, we have developed an online e-learning module, similar to our award-winning Winter Driving module. The Older Driver module contains all the information you need to retain independence and drive safely for as long as possible. It covers fitness to drive, ability, medication, improving your skills, vehicle, licencing and driving assessments.

 You can access the module, and book an older driver assessment, here: www.buckscc.gov.uk/olderdrivers

Remember to use the Morning After Calculator!

 

Travel Safe Bucks is advising rugby fans to be mindful of driving the morning after drinking alcohol during the Rugby World Cup tournament, which runs until 2nd November. As with all major sporting events, the tournament will be enjoyed and celebrated by millions, with alcohol potentially playing a part. But people don’t always realise how long it takes for alcohol to pass through the body, and that they might still be over the drink-drive limit the morning after.

 

The penalties for drink driving include a minimum 12-month driving ban, a criminal record, a hefty fine, up to six months in prison and an endorsement on your license for 11 years.

 

To assist fans, Travel Safe Bucks is taking the opportunity to once again promote the fantastic Morning After app. The app has been produced to help people calculate roughly when it will be safe to drive the morning after drinking alcohol. It can also help you calculate when you need to stop drinking alcohol if you need to drive the following morning.

 

The app is available to download free of charge, or can be used online, at http://morning-after.org.uk

 

 

The focus on drink driving won’t end with the Rugby World Cup, though. Through the festive season, covering Christmas and New Year right up until the end of December, Travel Safe Bucks will be promoting the Morning After app and launching a brand new Drink Drive campaign with local businesses across Bucks. We will even be hosting an event at Arla, with the aim of educating people on drink driving and how long alcohol can stay in the system. More info to come on this nearer to the time…

 

Upcoming campaign alert: Speed Awareness campaign #MakeThePledge

January 2020 will see the launch of our brand new Speed Awareness campaign, #MakeThePledge. We will be looking to get local businesses involved in this campaign about making the pledge to stop speeding, as well as launching a new speed e-learning module! More to come on that soon!

 

Interesting Road Safety News…

 

 

If you want to find out more about our Older Driver module or Assessments, why not pop along and visit us at Flowerland Garden Centre, Bourne End, as part of the Older Drivers Forum on the 10th October? For more info, visit www.olderdriversforum.com

11:44, 08 Oct 2019 by Hannah Holmes

As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, Buckinghamshire County Council is urging both individuals and businesses to make sure they are prepared.

For EU, EEA or Swiss citizens and close family members living or working in in the UK, the government has set up the EU Settlement Scheme. A successful application to the scheme will allow individuals and their families to continue living and working in the UK after 30 June 2021, remaining eligible for public services such as the NHS, school education and public funds including pensions.

The EEA includes the EU countries along with Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Residents with Irish citizenship and residents who hold an indefinite leave to remain in the UK do not need to apply to the scheme.

For business, Buckinghamshire Business First offers information and advice on how to prepare to operate under different economic circumstances, and there is also funding available for those businesses that need to prepare for new trading relationships.

Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council Martin Tett said: “EU nationals are highly valued members of our communities in Buckinghamshire, and that will of course continue to be the case after Brexit.

"As preparations for leaving the European Union are stepped up, I would strongly encourage all EU, Swiss or EEA nationals living or working in Bucks to apply for settled status. Settled status gives you the right to work in the UK and to access a wide range of benefits and services. The process of applying is quite straightforward and our libraries and registrars are on hand to provide help and advice if you need it.

"For businesses, I'd urge you to find out exactly what implications leaving the EU has for your day-to-day operations so that you don't encounter any unforeseen problems. Extensive information is available from both the government website and from our own Bucks Business First, who can offer you advice from a local perspective, with possible funding if your business requires specialist advice or critical change."

Details of the support and advice available through libraries and registrars for those applying through the EU Settlement Scheme can be found at: https://www.buckscc.gov.uk/services/libraries/in-the-library/eu-settlement-scheme-how-your-library-can-help/

Information on support, advice and funding available from  Buckinghamshire Business First can be found here: https://bbf.uk.com/brexit

To find out more about the EU Settlement Scheme, go to the government website: https://www.gov.uk/eusettledstatus

Government advice for businesses can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/business-uk-leaving-eu

11:43, 08 Oct 2019 by Hannah Holmes

Joint Statement from Gareth Williams, Cabinet Member for Community Engagement and Public Health and John Chilver, Cabinet Member for Resources.

'Following last week's extraordinary meeting of Winslow Town Council, we have jointly agreed to relook at our initial proposals.

While demolition of all the buildings together and using a high-quality temporary building to house the community library closer to the site entrance was a sensible and workable option, we have taken into account the strong views expressed by the Town Council.

As a result, we will now also be looking at an additional option which could retain the current library building for the time being without the need for its demolition. Subject to costs and other practicalities, this option will form part of the overall Winslow Centre development business case to be considered by Cabinet.

We absolutely recognise the library as an important local asset and the firm proposals for it to be Buckinghamshire Council's new community access point for the Winslow area from April 1st next year confirms that fact.

To further reinforce our commitment, we have exciting plans for the regeneration of the site over the longer term for the benefit of everyone of everyone in the Winslow area. These proposals include new residential and extra care housing, open space provision, community use buildings and of course a brand new state-of-the-art library for everyone to use and enjoy.

Of course in the longer term, if the new development goes ahead, we will need to demolish the library before we construct the new building, so there will always be a time when the library will need to move out of its current location and alternative arrangements provided.'  

17:40, 02 Oct 2019 by Hannah Holmes

Transport for Buckinghamshire (TfB) is advising rugby fans to be mindful of driving the morning after drinking alcohol during the Rugby World Cup 2019 tournament, which runs until 2 November.

 

As with all major sporting events, the tournament will be enjoyed and celebrated by millions, with alcohol potentially playing a part. But people don't always realise how long it takes for alcohol to pass through the body, and that they might still be over the drink-drive limit the morning after.

 

The penalties for drink driving include a minimum 12-month driving ban, a criminal record, a hefty fine, up to six months in prison and an endorsement on your license for 11 years.

 

To assist fans, TfB is taking the opportunity to once again promote the fantastic ‘Morning After Calculator’ app.

 

The app has been produced to help people calculate roughly when it will be safe to drive the morning after drinking alcohol. It can also help you calculate when you need to stop drinking alcohol if you need to drive the following morning.

 

The app is available to download free of charge, or can be used online, at http://morning-after.org.uk 

 

County Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Transport Mark Shaw, said:

 

"It takes a lot longer than almost all of us realise for alcohol to pass through the body. This means that a lot of people often think they’re safe to get behind the wheel, but actually they’re still over the legal limit a good 12 hours or so later. The Morning After app can help you keep track of your alcohol consumption during the World Cup celebrations and I would definitely recommend using it!

 

"In addition to the app, sort out a designated driver or pool together for a taxi and arrange alternative transport the morning after if you’re going to be over the limit. As rugby fans, come together and look out for each other so you all get home safely!"

08:50, 28 Sep 2019 by Hannah Holmes

County Council Chairman Brian Roberts rolled up his sleeves and got stuck in helping to promote the good work carried out by charities Child Bereavement UK and Parkinson's UK at Aylesbury's Waterside Festival last weekend.

Child Bereavement UK and Parkinsons UK were two of a number of charitable organisations at the event, taking the opportunity to spread awareness and gain support for their work. Child Bereavement UK works with children, their families and professionals offering support and training in dealing with bereavement and Parkinson's UK provides support and advice to all those affected by the disease.

The local branches of both charities have been chosen by the County Council Chairman as two of his good causes to support and help raise funds for during his year in office. On Saturday Brian and his wife Margaret, joined staff and volunteers from both organisations, meeting and greeting festival goers, raising awareness and funds for continuing their work.

The Child Bereavement UK team were joined by their new mascot, a giant teddy that Brian personally helped 'rescue' from the back of a charity shop. Brought back to life with a quick wash and spruce, the bear will accompany the team at future events and help to promote the work of the charity. 

Speaking after the event Brian said: "It's been a wonderful day, we've met some lovely people, spread the word about Child Bereavement UK and Parkinson's UK and raised vital funds to help continue their good work.

"I was delighted to offer my support to both teams for a couple of hours today. Child Bereavement UK do an amazing job working with families and children locally and also training professionals to better meet the needs of grieving families and Parkinson's UK offer vital support and assistance to hundreds of families locally.

"Our new furry mascot was also popular with all visitors to the Child Bereavement UK stand and will be making more guest appearances in the future. He doesn't have a name yet and that's something that we might need some help with so watch this space!"

To find out more about the work carried out by Child Bereavement UK visit their website: www.childbereavementuk.org

To find out more about Parkinson's UK visit: www.parkinsons.org.uk

10:01, 19 Sep 2019 by Hannah Holmes

 

Following a full public consultation Buckinghamshire County Council is pleased to name a joint venture between Kids Play and Mead Open Farm as the new provider for services at Thrift Farm.

The new provider was confirmed by the Council's Cabinet last week [9 September]. To comply with legal requirements the company, known as Provider 'A', could not be named until after the 16 September.

The new company formed by Kids Play and Mead Open Farm will use their combined expertise and experience to create a sustainable future for Thrift Farm.

Lin Hazel, Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: "We were determined to explore every possible avenue to keep Thrift Farm open. The consultation, while unsettling for service users and their families, was instrumental in keeping the issue high profile and finding a new provider.

"We would like to pay tribute to all who campaigned to keep the farm open and worked with us to find a new provider. There has been a thorough debate on all the business plans put forward to run the service - and we are confident that Kids Play and Mead Open Farm are the best option to secure a bright future for Thrift Farm".

Kids Play Childcare, based in Milton Keynes, have over 18 years experience providing childcare in OFSTED registered settings throughout the South East. Through their nurseries, pre-schools, after school clubs or activity day camps they provide care for 2,500 children across the Milton Keynes region. 

Family business Mead Open Farm in Leighton Buzzard operate a well established children's farm. Welcoming some 230,000 visitors each year, they are home to over 350 farm animals, run a programme of daily activities and an active year round event schedule.

Paul Sharp, Managing Director of Kids Play, said: "Families have confidence in Kids Play Childcare, often starting with us as babies and continuing with us through to Primary School at our After School Clubs or Activity Day Camps. Taking over Thrift Farm means we can develop and extend our range of services."

This sentiment was mirrored by Matt Heast, owner of Mead Open Farm: “Thrift Farm has its own special charm and it's important the changes we make retain this. We look forward to bringing our animal handling expertise and visitor attraction experience to Thrift for the benefit of everyone".

Their 'winning' business case includes keeping the farm open to the public and providing an adult day service - alongside a café, retail shop and farm family attraction.

Paul Sharp continues: “We are very excited about this opportunity and look forward to using our expertise in education and care, combined with Mead Open Farm's farming, animal activities and attraction knowledge. We want to maintain the uniqueness of the farm and all future developments will be done for the benefit of everyone - including better opportunities for adult clients with learning difficulties." 

The new company and the Council are keen to reassure current service users and their families that there will be no sudden changes to their circumstances, with Lin Hazell saying: "We are keen to work closely with service users, their families and staff to ensure a smooth transition over to Kids Play and Mead Open Farm."

A meeting to discuss next steps with them has been planned for September 2019.

Service users and clients were in a celebratory mood when told that Thrift Farm would continue under the Kids Play Childcare and Mead Open Farm Joint Venture. Most said they felt happy but relieved with the news and were now planning a party to celebrate.

Glen, who works with the farm animals as well as having a paid week-end job at the farm, said: "Thanks to everyone who campaigned. I'm glad the farm is staying open. I get to keep my job!"

Helen, who has been attending the farm for 14 years and works in the cafe, said: "I am happy the Farm won't close. We can stop worrying now. I love my job working in the cafe. I like cooking, making cheese scones and pastry, I have learnt how to use equipment and can use the cash register. The staff help us."

Daniel, has worked as a service user at the Farm for over four years and carries a range of jobs looking after the park and animals, said: "I'm really pleased that the Farm won't close. It's a relief for everyone. I'm looking forward to finding out what the new people will do."

Rachel, a staff member at Thrift Farm who works closely with the adults who have a learning disability, said: "I am utterly thrilled to hear the news that the Farm has been saved. It is a huge relief for both clients and staff who have worked tirelessly to remain positive throughout this process. I am super excited for what the future holds!”

In total the Council received three business plans to run Thrift Farm, each were carefully considered before Kids Play and Mead Open Farm were selected as the preferred provider.

11:13, 18 Sep 2019 by Hannah Holmes

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