As part of Deaf Awareness Week (6-12 May), The Open University Students Association has created a series of tutorials to introduce British Sign Language.

British Sign Language introduction


There are around 125,000 deaf adults in the UK who use British Sign Language (BSL), along with an estimated 20,000 children. Reports of sign language in the UK go as far back as 1570 when it was used in secular communities. Its popularity has grown exponentially over the years and now there are thousands of non-deaf people in the UK who can use BSL. Until the 1940’s sign language would be passed on from person to person through families and deaf communities, but it was not recognised as an official language until 2003.  

The Open University Students Association teamed up with one such student, Joshua Page, and his friend Joshua Sprules to put together some basic BSL tuition to introduce you to BSL.  

BSL uses a mixture of hand signals, body language and lip patterns to communicate. If you’re practicing any of the videos with a BSL user, try to imagine you’re communicating through a window and keep your movements within the frame.   

We hope you enjoy working through these videos and that it gives you some confidence to communicate with a deaf person. 

View the videos on the OU website.

Take part to help make the case for more support for the VCS

"Help VONNE, VCSE Local Infrastructure Organisations (LIOs) and members of the NE Funders Network to understand the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on you and your beneficiaries.   "Giving us this information helps us understand the impact of COVID-19 so we can effectively represent the sector and influence how funders focus their support now and in the future recovery period. The findings will also be shared with stakeholders including local authorities, LEPs, private sector organisations and the health system, to make the case for additional support and resources for the sector, and with national infrastructure partners including NCVO, ACEVO, NAVCA and the Charity Finance Group, to help us influence Government decisions affecting the sector."   The survey will be open until 9am on Monday 4th May.
"We realise how busy you are but your input is vital to enable us to work more effectively on your behalf and that of the sector in the North East region. The survey will only take 10-15 minutes of your time, so go and make a brew, then click on the link and help us to help you.  Complete the North East VCSE Sector COVID-19 impact survey"



Over the weekend, like many other friends and families during these unprecedented circumstances, we held our weekend get-together using Zoom.  Four weeks into lockdown and unsurprisingly, enthusiasm and optimism amongst friends was beginning to ebb, so someone suggested we should each say one word that would describe how we were feeling.  When it came to my turn, the word I chose was “Amazed”, and this is how I explained my glass half full theory in these trying times:

Working in the voluntary and community sector one can become used to the empathy and commitment shown on a daily basis by volunteers, staff, and all the people who use our services, but what I have been amazed about is how individuals, volunteers and countless voluntary and community sector organisations have rallied to provide support to communities across the huge, almost 2,000 square miles of Northumberland.  From the amazing number of new neighbourhood groups that have sprung up to support our shielded, elderly and isolated people, to all of the previously existing organisations across the county that have redeployed their volunteers, staff, and in some cases even their own family to support people through these difficult times.

Northumberland CVA is no exception to this.  Although working from home, our staff have continued to provide the same level, if not a greater level of service than ever before.  We have continued to support all our volunteers who, like our staff, have needed to re-adjust to working differently.  Instead of supporting our regular digital inclusion sessions and our assisted shopping trips to local amenities, our volunteers are now regularly ringing our elderly service users to ensure they are safe and well, helping them do their shopping online, giving instructions over the phone on how to use tablets and laptops safely and securely, reminding them not to let people into their homes and warning them of the risks of scams and the need to stay safe.

In week 1 of the lockdown, we contacted businesses, existing voluntary organisations and new community groups across the county, gathering information, guidance and links to resources into a newly created central point of contact on our website for individuals and groups to access. 

We created a new COVID-19 Facebook page and linked it to all the new small mutual aid-type groups we could find.  Local County Councillors and voluntary sector organisations are now posting regularly to the page, letting people know about new and continuing services, and we're linking it all up with Northumberland Communities Together.  We have used our new Facebook page to direct people to financial help and support, and to government support for businesses. We have signposted volunteers through the page to opportunities outside the NHS volunteer recruitment.

At a very early stage in the crisis, Northumberland CVA identified the necessity to keep the multitude of new groups informed of good practice, particularly around safeguarding. We have written new, easy to understand factsheets and resources aimed specifically towards new groups and individuals who had never volunteered before.  We have advised groups by email and telephone and made everything readily available on our website to download.

By week 2 of the lockdown we had written and distributed a survey to voluntary and community sector organisations in Northumberland, asking them to report on the effects of the coronavirus on their service and the potential impact post COVID-19.  We are now collating the responses and they will be available for the sector in Northumberland and shared with Voluntary Organisations' Network North East (VONNE), as part of their regional survey.

As lead partner in the delivery of the Northumberland Bridge Project, which helps move individuals who are furthest from the labour market closer to employment, we have worked together swiftly with our partners and in record time developed a whole new process for referrals onto the project in order to ensure that none of our vulnerable beneficiaries are affected. All the Bridge partners have either continued to deliver their usual services or have adjusted them to ensure that absolutely no-one registered on the Bridge Project will be unable to access their Bridge Worker or intervention. 

We are also continuing to support groups with governance and funding requests and to provide our regular fortnightly e-bulletin, which provides so much information to the voluntary and community sector, to individuals, trustees and to the public sector in Northumberland.

In addition to all of this, I am amazed at how many of our staff, outside their normal working hours, are volunteering to help in their own communities. 

And right across the UK, and in every country affected by COVID-19 there are so many people doing similar things to support their own communities. So, although we are all going through such unprecedented times, I am truly AMAZED at such a wonderful response from everyone in such sad and difficult circumstances. 

I have to say, once I’d finished explaining my amazement, that the words chosen by friends and family who followed me during our weekend get-together, were a lot more positive than they might previously have been!

Keep Safe, Stay Home, Protect our NHS.


Anne Lyall 2

Anne Lyall

CEO, Northumberland CVA



As you are aware Northumberland CVA is already closed to the public.  However, following the government’s latest guidance and the announcement by Boris Johnson last night, Monday 23rd March, Northumberland CVA staff will be working from home from 25th March 2020.

We shall continue to provide as close to normal a level of service as is practically possible, and we will be publishing staff telephone numbers and email addresses in due course. 

Please visit our website for regular updates:





Northumberland CVA is a community based organisation providing a number of services to the voluntary and community sector throughout Northumberland.  Much of our work requires us to work with and for the community.  However we are mindful of our responsibilities to our staff and our volunteers in working to limit the spread of the Covid-19 Coronavirus.

As a first step, we will be closing the office to the general public from Wednesday 18th March 2020, until the end of April, when we will review the current situation.

All external bookings for the conference room will be cancelled.  

As much of the work Northumberland CVA undertakes is public facing and involves working with individuals and communities, we will be stopping all face to face support and meetings.

However, we will endeavour to continue to provide both telephone and email communication with groups and individuals.

We recognise that as an infrastructure organisation we may be called upon to co-ordinate responses to the current crisis and we are currently contacting all VCSE organisations to see if we can co-ordinate a central point for people to be able to access information and advice.

Northumberland CVA will monitor the situation for office cover and it is likely in the coming days we may have to have more staff working from home. If this changes because people are ill, self-isolating or having to care for children if schools close we will let you know.

In the meantime, please continue to contact us on 01670 858688 or use your usual email address

CRT Flyer March 2020 1 2



Northumberland CVA will be running a new series of six, 6-week courses to support individuals to develop important skills to help them find work.

Northumberland CVA has received funding from the Coalfields Generation Trust to deliver the new SkillsUNeed training that will help participants write the perfect CV, carry out effective job searches, complete engaging application forms and learn how to be successful at interview. The training will also help participants prepare for work and manage on a budget.

Find out more.

Alnwick Castle


Alnwick Castle is playing host to fifteen different funders at a countywide funding fair organised by Northumberland Community Voluntary Action.

On Thursday 5th March 2020; against the backdrop of the historic castle; local, regional and national funders will be attending to provide advice and support to community groups and charities in order to help them secure funding for projects, services and core costs.

Marc Johnson, Funding Officer at Northumberland CVA said, “This is a fantastic opportunity to speak directly to the funders about your project and the difference your organisation makes in your community. The funders are always interested in speaking to representatives from a range of different projects – from very small local activities to large countywide or regional projects.”

Find out more.

We are excited to be part of a new partnership between local infrastructure organisations that has been formed to help charities across the region to protect vulnerable people and will allow us to offer greater support around safeguarding to groups across Northumberland.

Safer Culture North East, a partnership between Voluntary Organisations’ Network North East (VONNE), Connected VoiceNorthumberland CVACatalyst Stockton on Tees and ourselves will champion safeguarding and help charities across the region to embed best practice.

The group has been awarded £115K in funding by the National Lottery Community Fund (The Fund) and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), to deliver regular training sessions to voluntary organisations and work with local safeguarding networks. The project will also raise awareness of a new online safeguarding tool, launched last week, which offers charities a helpful step by step decision-making tool for those with concerns about someone’s conduct within their organisation.

Find out more.


DCMS TNLCF RGB logo for use with Safer Culture North East comms



Face to face networking takes time.  Opportunities are not always available at a time and place that suits everyone and besides, it's often just too difficult to justify the time out of the office.

Northumberland VINe could be the solution you're looking for.

Volunteer, trustee, CEO, team leader, manager, or officer; Whatever your role in Northumberland's voluntary and community sector, you can be part of the conversation on the VINe.
Through the Northumberland VINe (Voluntary (Sector) Information Network) you can raise issues, promote activities & events, offer support and develop greater partnership working, or simply discuss the weather.Once you become a member you'll be able to send emails to a dedicated email address, which will then automatically send them to every other member. You can choose to receive emails immediately or as a daily digest.
To join the conversation, simply send us your name and email address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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