See photographs from the Oxfordshire Voice Forum “The Apprentice Levy: How apprenticeships are working, common issues and pitfalls and ways of making them work, and whether or not there is a county-wide underspend?”. Hosted at Oxford Brookes Business School, on Thursday, 25th April 2019.
Grant Hayward from Collaborent outlines the goals of Oxfordshire Voice and the positive opportunities that we can gain through working together.
Blenheim is working with an Oxfordshire-based farming charity to host working visits for people with learning disabilities and autism.
A team of co-farmers from FarmAbility will be making regular visits to the Blenheim Estate to assist in a variety of hands-on animal and land-based activities.
The initiative is part of a series of community-based charitable programmes supported by Blenheim as part of its goal to double its charitable contributions within a decade.
FarmAbility is a farm-based programme for co-farmers, who are people over the age of 16 with learning disabilities and often also with autistic spectrum disorder.
Recently a group from the charity helped build lambing pens, ahead of the main lambing season, under the close supervision of Head Shepherd Charles Gerring and FarmAbility staff.
“People with learning disabilities and autism face significant barriers to finding meaningful roles in society, although with the right support and an inclusive atmosphere, co-farmers can make a really valuable contribution to their local communities,” said Sarah Giles, Director, FarmAbility.
“We were thrilled when the Blenheim Estate agreed to host visits and the connection we’ve made with Charles and his team has been fantastic in offering co-farmers the chance to develop new skills, both work based, and social.
“Above all, the warm and friendly welcome co-farmers have received from everyone they’ve met at Blenheim has created the sense of community and belonging they deserve.
“We are excited to be planning regular visits to Blenheim and are looking forward to exploring the huge potential for purposeful roles the Estate can offer to people with learning disabilities,” she added.
FarmAbility believes people with disabilities thrive when they have a regular opportunity to take pride in doing real work, to act within in a supportive team, and to feel part of a productive and welcoming community.
This makes farms ideal spaces where people who have struggled in mainstream learning environments can approach new experiences, build and strengthen skills, and gain confidence in themselves and in their abilities.
Blenheim’s Head Shepherd, Charles Gerring, said: “I have three children that have degrees of physical and learning disability so I’m particularly aware of the opportunities that should be given to the co-farmers.
“Everyone should be able to have the opportunity to try things out and, from seeing what the co-farmers can do and the pleasure and enjoyment they get from it, I’m proud we can support them,” he added.
The FarmAbility scheme is part of Blenheim’s continued drive to bring business, charity and social enterprise closer by sharing the World Heritage Site and its Estate with local and regional groups.
In 2017 Blenheim CEO Dominic Hare set out 10 bold goals for the estate which include doubling charitable contribution to the community and tripling the economic impact on the local community.
The Oxford office of top 50 law firm Penningtons Manches has hired two prominent local lawyers to strengthen its real estate practice.
Justin Winterbottom and Charlie Seaward – both previously partners at BrookStreet des Roches – have joined the 23 strong team at Oxford Business Park in Garsington.
Justin has been appointed as a partner. His main focus is on commercial property fund investment work and development projects, and it is anticipated he will play a major role in the future growth and development of the Oxford Real Estate team.
Charlie has joined as a consultant. Very well known in the local business community, he brings with him a loyal client base established over several decades of working on high profile and complex transactions.
Partner Richard Smith, Penningtons Manches’ head of real estate in Oxford, comments: “We’re delighted that two very high calibre lawyers have made the decision to join the team. They will be a great asset as we continue to develop our capacity and capability in the region. I’m very much looking forward to working with them.”
The announcement coincides with the news that Penningtons Manches has also appointed a senior real estate lawyer to develop and lead a new practice in Birmingham.
Penningtons Manches real estate division represents almost a quarter of the firm’s fee income. Its various practice areas, including the real estate investors, commercial property and residential teams, are highly rated by prominent legal directories Chambers UK and The Legal 500. In the last financial year fee income grew by 16 % on the back of a busy and successful 12 months.
On Wednesday 3 April, Blenheim Palace hosted the launch of the new Oxford Pass.
The joint initiative between Blenheim Palace, Experience Oxfordshire and Oxford Bus Company aims to increase tourism to the city and surrounding areas.
Initially available for a 12-month trial period, the Pass offers visitors a quick and convenient ‘one stop shop’ combination ticket to both the best attractions and transport links.
Dominic Hare, Blenheim Palace CEO says: “At an uncertain national moment, we can be sure that our wonderful heritage-led tourist industry will continue to generate economic value and employment for local people in the future as we draw enthralled visitors to the area.”
For more information about the Oxford Pass visit www.oxfordpass.com
Carter Jonas, the national property consultancy, and Farmers Weekly, the market leading media brand for the UK agriculture industry, have unveiled that more than two thirds (68%) of farmers and landowners have diversified to support their incomes. The findings are from a new survey completed by 250 Farmers Weekly readers.
Of those who have diversified 97% consider it a success from a profitability perspective whilst eight in 10 thought that it was also an environmental success. More than half of those currently diversifying plan to do more in the next five years.
Securing planning permission, funding and correctly budgeting for a new enterprise are the areas that farmers found most challenging. Only one in five received grant funding to assist with their new venture.
Among those planning to diversify, it will mostly be into commercial lets such as workshops, offices, and storage, alongside residential developments for tourism and the domestic rental market. However, the survey revealed respondents are running a wide range of alternative enterprises including farm shops, renewable energy, winter gritting services, coffee roasting and dog training.
Fig. 1 Q. In which of the following ways have you diversified your farm or estate? In which of the following ways are you considering diversifying your farm or estate?
Mark Charter, Partner at Carter Jonas Oxford, said: “Whilst agriculture is seen as one of the country’s most historic industries, conversely, it is also at the forefront when it comes to embracing innovation. Across the UK there are excellent examples of progressive farmers who have adopted modern technologies and new business lines to drive efficiency and better utilise land and assets to provide new and improved income streams. Carter Jonas has advised on a very wide range of diversification projects often assisting with initial concepts, progressing planning applications, managing building projects and providing investment and letting advice.
“Some respondents felt forced to go down the alternative enterprise route to simply survive, this feeling is only likely to accelerate as we move into a new regime of farm support. Income from pure farming is likely to decline over the next few years and farmers need to seize what opportunities they have to generate income.”
Suzie Horne, Business Editor, Farmers Weekly added: “Farmers Weekly is delighted with the detailed responses people gave to the survey, taking time to offer their tips and advice about branching out from farming. Of course a new enterprise often brings more risk but it can also help to modify or develop the structure of a family business, enabling it to accommodate a new generation when farming alone may not be able to do so.
“There were practical warnings about the pitfalls too, but overall the result was very positive towards alternative enterprises, with the vast majority making a profit. Many of those who responded had a clear plan and drive to raise the level of engagement with and education of the public about food, farming and the countryside and the survey revealed plenty of examples of an excellent job already being done on this front.”
Take a look at the first Oxfordshire Voice – Blue Paper. In this document we look at responses and outcomes from 3 topic forums:
Forum 1: Connectivity “How can we ensure we get the digital future we need?”
Follow the progress of this topic here
Forum 2: Workforce/Skills “Why is it so difficult for us to recruit the best workforce?”
Follow the progress of this topic here
Forum 3: Housing “How can we solve our complex housing crisis?”
Follow the progress of this topic here
SANE, a mental health charity, will be bringing a four-foot-tall statue of a black dog called Sirius to Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, from Monday, 8th April – Tuesday, 22nd April as part of their Black Dog Campaign.
The campaign aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and encourages people to seek help early, rather than suffering in silence.
Sirius will be on display in the Oxfordshire UNESCO World Heritage Site’s Pleasure Gardens.
The Black Dog has been used from classical mythology through medieval folklore to modern times as a universal metaphor for depression: Sir Winston Churchill is famously reported to have used it to describe his darker moods.
Imposing sculptures of Black Dogs wearing coats designed by artists, celebrities or others and standing on a plinth featuring SANEline and other sources of help have been placed in business foyers, public parks and shopping centres in towns and cities throughout the UK.
The campaign is also touring schools and universities, encouraging people to find a more accessible language in which to express their inner feelings of anxiety, loneliness or despair. The tour of Oxfordshire has been spearheaded by High Sheriff of Oxfordshire 2018/19, Richard Venables who comments ‘In my last week of being the High Sheriff I am delighted to be able to bring Sirius to Blenheim to highlight the issue of mental health which is pervasive throughout society and bring awareness to staff and visitors to Blenheim’.
Megan Carter, HR Manager Blenheim, said: “Staff wellbeing is incredibly important and something we are absolutely committed to here at Blenheim.
“We have set up a number of initiatives aimed at making it far easier for people to discuss any issues or worries they may have with other team members and we’ve introduced a range of activities designed to improve overall wellbeing and also to enable team leaders to identify signs of stress and depression,” she added.
She continues: “We are pleased to welcome SANE who are bringing Sirius the Black Dog to Blenheim highlighting mental health. There is a poignant link between Churchill’s ‘Black Dog’ and Blenheim. I am pleased that we can help raise awareness of depression, anxiety and mental health. The wellbeing of our staff is of the upmost importance to us at Blenheim and we pride ourselves on the initiatives that we provide to everyone, some of which also reach out to the local community. We offer Yoga, health checks and mindfulness courses and a free employee assistance confidential helpline for all staff which is available 24 hours a day.”
For more information on SANE and the Black Dog Campaign visit www.sane.org.uk
Forum date & Venue
Thursday 15th November 2018
Pembroke College, Oxford, St. Aldates, Oxfordshire OX1 1DW
The forum on the future of work in Oxfordshire had a broader cross section of attendees then our first forum. We also decided to run an open debate without a panel and one invigilator. It was encouraging to see members of county and city councils in the audience as well as a range of employers, employees and recruitment agencies.
Agencies came in for some criticism in a number of areas. Some were accused of recruiting new staff for companies and then attempting to lure those same employees to different companies just a year later. This was only based on anecdotal evidence and there was no suggestion that any of the agencies represented at the forum had engaged in this practice.
The forum agreed that although there were many exciting and attractive jobs available in Oxfordshire the county was guilty of not promoting the advantages of living and working here enough.
The forum was also the first one to make the point that the three main goals of OV (housing, employment, transport) are all inextricably linked. Again, there may be great jobs available in Oxfordshire but with an inadequate transport infrastructure and lack of affordable or appropriate housing – you won’t attract the right workforce.
It is worth noting during all the forums and at the launch of OV at the Blavatnik School of Government we recorded and videoed feedback from many partners.
Simon Howson-Green, Oxfordshire Voice
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Forum date & Venue
Thursday 31st January 2019
Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire OX20 1UL
The housing forum at Blenheim was the most vociferous and lively so far, with a vast range of opinions being expressed and a multitude of creative ideas proposed.
Although it is unquestionable that there is a housing crisis in Oxfordshire, particularly in affordable housing, it was also accepted that our region does not do enough to highlight the advantages and combat misconceptions about the depth of the crisis. Several attendees noted that many of their workforce or the people they had tried to recruit assumed accommodation and housing in Oxfordshire is far more expensive than it really is. Again this highlighted a need for better and co-ordinated communication.
Blenheim was the perfect venue for this forum as it has an ambitious and impressive housebuilding strategy already in place.
The forum listened to a very broad range of opinions but there was consensus that housebuilding is not just about putting bricks and mortar on top of each other but building viable and vibrant communities around those buildings. The forum heard from the growth board and it was clear that many of its initiatives are already in place and paving the way. However, there was concern that the long awaited housing policy documents from local government had still not materialised.
The forum watched a shortened version of an OV documentary by Rob Scotcher of B4 on the housing crisis in Oxfordshire. Since the forum and at the time of writing the full documentary has been accessed and watched more than two thousand times. OV will be making a second documentary to update on progress of the projects it has covered. This mixture of forum, documentary, survey and feedback will be a constant theme at Oxfordshire Voice. The proof of the pudding will be in all of the partners, businesses, local authorities, and other organisations all collaborating and getting results.
Simon Howson-Green, Oxfordshire Voice