A place to call home – our vision for children’s homes across Bristol

Image of a red heart, with white outlines on a yellow background.

Making Bristol the best place for children to grow up in is something we’re passionate about. This is even more important when it comes to children in care. We want the children in our care to have a place they feel they can call home.

The circumstances in which children come into our care are often varied and complex. It’s vital we ensure no child is disadvantaged no matter their background or situation. Our teams are focused on ensuring the best possible homes are identified for them – this could be with a foster carer or in a children’s home.

In Bristol, we are working hard to increase the number of children’s homes we have locally so that children do not have to move away from the city and can stay close to their families, friends and schools. 

This is why we have set out a vision for our children’s homes across Bristol which involves focussing on opening smaller homes across the city to help children feel at home.

Our vision

We want our children’s homes to be homely and nurturing. We also strive for the children and young people who live in them to be looked after by kind, knowledgeable and experienced teams. The children should have lots of opportunities growing up, making sure they have access to the best education possible and giving give them the same or better opportunities as their peers so they can enjoy new and fun childhood experiences.

We also aim for the teams caring for children to have the supervision, support, training and development so that the care they provide is of the highest quality and they feel valued.

To help support this vision, we are currently re-profiling our existing homes by closing some of our larger homes and opening smaller homes for two to three children. This allows us to provide children with an environment that feels more like a home and gives them a better quality of care with more one on one support from our dedicated team.

Children are already benefitting from this strategy – we have opened three smaller homes across Bristol which currently care for seven children in total, with a fourth smaller home opening in autumn 2022. We also plan to open at least another three smaller homes in the next three years.

A photo of two houses next to each other, with the sky in the shot behind.

Positive feedback from Ofsted during a recent visit

Recently we have had the opportunity to share our plans with Ofsted. Ofsted’s National Director for Social Care Yvette Stanley, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman, and HMI Social Care Inspector Anna Greville visited one of our newer smaller homes and met with the Service Manager Tara Parsons, three of our registered managers and the therapeutic lead for the service. They also met with Mike Jackson, Chief Executive at Bristol City Council, and Gail Rogers, Head of Children’s Commissioning at Bristol City Council. During the visit we received very good feedback. Yvette Stanley said: “It was good to spend time with the residential staff teams who proudly shared their expertise and passion for their work and their children.

“It was also really helpful to meet the Chief Executive and senior managers and to hear about their plans for more therapeutic residential provision so that they can keep more children safely within their communities. Our thanks to all for their warm welcome and best wishes for their future plans.

My recent visit

I too had the pleasure of visiting one of our new children’s homes recently. There were a few things that I took from my visit.

The first is how being a city in which children have a home is a collective responsibility. These children have already been through a lot in their short lives, and they deserve to have somewhere they call home and stay in the city they are from.

The move from large to smaller family homes is welcome. This means more dedicated care and the creation of a more homely environment for the children.

Finally, I need to mention the commitment of the staff at the home I visited. They work tirelessly to make sure the children are well cared for and have access to lots of opportunities. Their situation means they won’t have a childhood like many of their peers, but the staff work to make sure they lead full lives and feel cared for.

Why not join the team?

If you want to be a part of the journey of our children in care, why not join our team during this exciting time?

We currently have vacancies for three Senior Residential Child Care Workers and one Residential Child Care Worker. The vacancies Senior Residential Child Care Workers close on 6 October 2022 and the vacancy for Residential Child Care Worker closes on 4 October 2022.

Welcoming wildlife home: St George Park Lake reopens

Councillor Ellie King, standing on the ramp of Bristol City Hall smiling.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Ellie King, cabinet member for public health and communities.

Making safe spaces for nature, and giving people better opportunities to learn more about our diverse ecosystem is so important for the health and wellbeing of the city.

Since 1970, 60 per cent of wild invertebrate and up to 76 per cent of insects have been lost globally. When we announced our Ecological Emergency in 2020, we committed to doing as much as we could to bring back this lost wildlife to communities in Bristol. Through investment in projects such as St George Park Lake, we hope to provide more habitats for animal and plant life to flourish in our city.

St George Park Lake has reopened to the public after restoration, repair and enhancement works. I am sure people will enjoy strolling around the lake and spotting all the changes and over time looking out for new wildlife who will make this their home.

The lake reopens after a £400,000 investment to restore the facilities for Bristol residents and visitors to enjoy, and to make improvements to benefit the local wildlife. The restoration has made the area more attractive for birds, bats, insects, frogs, and other wildlife as well as improving the ecology on the island in the lake, where the wildfowl nest and rear their young each year. The new boardwalk dipping platform will be a great place for children and school groups to get closer to nature and learn all about Bristol’s beautiful and diverse natural world.

Image of the newly refurbished St George Lake. The new pathway is visible on the right of the image.

Residents and visitors will notice a range of enhancements in and around the lake designed to improve accessibility for everyone and complement the natural environment. These include; completely new and safer pathways, a new amphitheatre area for outdoor performances, and new bird and bat boxes. Information boards about the history, biodiversity and ecology of the lake will also be installed by end of the year.

In the next couple of months planting will take place on the island to improve ground cover and add to the plant diversity for birds and pollinators. Fencing around the amphitheatre area will remain in place until the newly planted grass is fully established. A number of repairs have also been done behind the scenes to make sure this important Victorian lake can be enjoyed by future generations. These include strengthening the lake walls, desilting the lake, improving drainage and putting in new benches.

Newly refurbished St George Lake. In the foreground of the image is the new pathway.

The silt removed from the lake was used to help build the new amphitheatre, but has also been used to create new natural wetland areas full of marginal and aquatic plant species where wildfowl, amphibious creatures and insects can thrive. Birds, bees, frogs, and pond micro-beasts, such as water-boatmen and pond-skaters will likely-benefit in the short-term, but in the future it is hoped, dragonflies, damselflies, newts, and bats too, will come to enjoy the new mini-wetland habitat.

To read more about how the council is managing our green spaces for the benefit of wildlife , visit the council’s website.

New and innovative domestic abuse service for Bristol

Sarah O'Leary, CEO of Next Link Domestic Abuse Services smiling in front of a wall of pictures.
Today’s Guest Blog is from Sarah O’Leary, CEO of Next Link Domestic Abuse Services.

Today marks the launch of Bristol’s new and innovative domestic abuse service, Next Link Plus. 

Next Link has provided safe accommodation and specialist community domestic abuse support in Bristol for over 23 years. We were delighted that Bristol City Council wants to continue working with us to deliver these services for the next five years. As lead provider, Next Link is joined by Nilaari, Off the Record, Bristol Drugs Project, 1625 Independent People, St Mungo’s, Victim Support and the deaf health charity Sign Health to form Next Link Plus, a new partnership that will offer more specialist tailored support to adult and child survivors of domestic abuse in Bristol.

This new trauma-informed service, developed alongside survivors and underpinned by the principles of the Mayoral Commission on Domestic Abuse, will provide even more support to victims of all genders in Bristol. It will also offer a single point of contact for domestic abuse support in Bristol.

The traumatic impacts of domestic abuse are far-reaching, affecting children and adults’ mental and physical health, housing, economic stability, education, future relationships, and networks of support. In 2022, on average two women a week are still killed by domestic abuse, with far more women taking their own lives because of what they have experienced.

The image is from the next link plus launch. There is a crowd in the foreground of the picture, with a screen on the wall. The slide reads: Next Link Plus, Changing the face of domestic abuse support services.
The Next Link Plus Launch

Although we are celebrating the launch of these new services, we are not celebrating the fact that our services need to exist.

Domestic abuse should not exist and is preventable. We need to challenge the societal and cultural norms that underpin this shadow pandemic and continue to shine a light on the profound and often lifelong impact that domestic abuse has on its victims.

The COVID-19 pandemic was especially difficult for victims and survivors and continues to be so. Now survivors are also telling us how the cost-of-living crisis is having a detrimental impact on their lives. We are seeing more women experiencing economic abuse, putting them in increasingly financially dire situations and facing greater barriers when trying to leave their abusive partners.

Despite this, we also witness every day the incredible strength and inspirational resilience of the survivors we support and how flexible, trauma-informed, accessible and quality-assured services are not only lifesaving but provide a springboard beyond safety and recovery. This is helping people to lead fulfilled and happy lives.

Our vision under Next Link Plus is that all child and adult victims and survivors can get the help and support they need when they need it, that services are accessible for everyone, and that domestic abuse is identified and responded to appropriately.

Survivors who are fleeing domestic abuse can access one of our 52 safe house bed spaces and will be homed in the appropriate setting dependent on their background, needs, sexuality and gender. There will also be culturally appropriate counselling available for all adult survivors, and dedicated support for children and young people.

The image is from the Next Link Plus launch. There is a table full of leaflets that offer information and advice. There is also a huge notice board full of information on Domestic Abuse Accommodation Services.

Victims and survivors will also be able to get support from our specialist domestic abuse services in the community. This includes immediate crisis support, a dedicated Honour Based Abuse and Forced Marriage service and floating support for adult and child survivors living in the community. People will also be able to access recovery group work and a range of dedicated services for survivors who are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, LGBTQ+ survivors, older women, survivors with disabilities and those who have substance misuse or mental health needs.

For many victims and survivors, going to their GP practice or another health practitioner may be the only place they can speak to someone alone. For those facing homelessness or other domestic abuse issues, they may seek help and support from another setting in Bristol. Building on the success of our co-located services, we know that the presence of our staff in other settings not only provides direct support to victims, but also improves the confidence, knowledge and skills of other professionals in identifying and responding to domestic abuse, encouraging a more holistic response.

What we can celebrate today is the strength, courage and resilience of the survivors we support. Here is a poem by one such inspirational young person, who after living in a safe house is fulfilling her dream of studying to work in medicine:

‘Security; Created by all, deserved by all, yet saved only for some.

Here, you’ll create your own sense of security. You’ll build your confidence, your trust.

Released from fear and filled with hope, you’ll begin your new life’

If you or someone you know is worried about their safety and experiencing domestic abuse, please call Next Link on 0800 4700 280 or contact us via our website.

The Climate Smart Cities Challenge Winners Announced

Jessie Hayden smiling in front of a brick wall. Jessie is the projects and Policy Lead for Bristol Housing Festival.
Today’s guest blog is from Jessie Hayden, Projects and Policy Lead for Bristol Housing Festival

‘The challenge’ is city-based innovation competition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Organised by UN-Habitat, technologists, businesses, and investors are invited to develop, test and scale cutting-edge solutions.

Bristol has been selected alongside Bogota in Colombia, Curitiba in Brazil, and Makindye Ssabagabo in Uganda. The focus of the Climate Smart Cities Challenge is to design a project at neighbourhood level that will showcase how cities can co-create new ideas together with innovators that make cities more sustainable and climate smart.

Team Thriving Places was announced as Bristol’s winning team for the international Climate Smart Cities Challenge on the 28th September in a celebratory online event. Zoe Metcalfe, director at engineering consultants Atkins, a member of the Thriving Places team, said Bristol was well-placed to benefit from winning the global competition given its proactive approach to achieving net zero targets.

The initiative presented the opportunity to invite global innovators and technologists to work on one of the city’s key challenges: developing an economic model for affordable, energy-efficient homes. This challenge was identified by Bristol City Council, Bristol One City and Bristol Housing Festival as one that if solved, could give significant momentum to the city’s priority to tackle the climate and ecological crises and the housing crisis. It will focus on developing brownfield sites in the city that have been considered unviable, and yet may hold the key to unlocking hundreds of energy-efficient, carbon neutral, affordable homes.

At the heart of the winning team is EDAROTH (Everybody Deserves A Roof Over Their Head), a wholly owned subsidiary of Atkins that provides energy efficient homes using carbon neutral, modern methods of construction. The core team also includes Igloo Regeneration, a leading UK responsible real estate business which funds, delivers and animates great places and the Bristol-based, award winning housing association Brighter Places, which delivers better places and inclusive homes. The team will work with the city, investors, and other partners to demonstrate new pathways and capabilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while also contributing to nature restoration, social justice, health, security, employment, and other societal benefits.

45 finalists were chosen in January 2022, and now the winning teams will share up to 400,000 euro to develop their ideas in a planning phase to build towards demonstrating their solutions in the cities in 2023, with the ultimate aim of creating solutions that will create better futures in cities around the world.

A leaflet announcing the winners of the Climate Smart Cities Challenge. On the right of the image is a circle with an image of a city inside. Orange text reads Bogota - Bristol - Curitiba - Makindye Ssabagabo, Meet the Climate Smart Cities Challenge Winners! September 28 17:00 CET online event register now!

Bristol was the first U.K. authority to declare a climate emergency and have since declared ecological emergency in response to the local decline of wildlife, a sign of Mayor Marvin Rees’s commitment to see Bristol lead the way in this space.

The winner’s announcement comes a few weeks before L&G Modular homes officially launch their Bristol development Bonnington Walk in Lockleaze, which was awarded an Excellent rating under the Building with Nature certifcation, and a few months after the Mayor chose to protect wildlife site Novers Hill from planned development. As the built environment is responsible for 25% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, the Climate Smart Cities Challenge is an important piece of Bristol’s puzzle and one that will continue to create the momentum needed to reach its ambitious goals.

Stay updated on the Climate Smart Cities Challenge here.

Bristol’s Clean Air Zone: two month countdown

There’s only two months to go until Bristol’s Clean Air Zone launches on 28 November.

The image has a blue background, a green van with a question mark sits in the bottom left of the picture. On the right of the image a calendar with text reads November, Monday 28. White text at the top of the image reads Two months to go... Are you ready for Bristol's Clean Air Zone? Bottom right of the image text reads Clean Air for Bristol. With the Bristol City Council logo.

This is an important step on our journey to cleaner air and creating a healthier future for everyone in Bristol. We need to reduce harmful pollution in the city and reach the legal limits set by government in the shortest time possible, but we also want to give those who need it, a bit more time to prepare. That could mean upgrading or changing a vehicle or trying out different and more sustainable ways to travel instead.

That’s why I’m pleased to announce that today the online application portal for temporary exemptions is open.

It’s estimated that over 71% of vehicles on our roads are already compliant, so many of you will NOT need to make an application for a temporary exemption. Anyone who is still unsure if they will be affected should visit the government’s online vehicle checker in the first instance, to check if they will be charged to drive in the zone.

If you find your vehicle doesn’t meet the emissions standards, then you may be able to apply for a temporary exemption if:

  • you live within the Clean Air Zone
  • you work within the Zone and earn less than £26,000 per year
  • you meet one of the exemption criteria
  • and you need some extra time to replace or upgrade your vehicle

All the information, including the full list of exemption criteria, is available on the council’s website. These exemptions are being offered on a temporary basis, to give people a bit more time to prepare for the Clean Air Zone. I urge people to check the individual exemption pages on our website for information on when they end. If you need further support or have questions about your individual circumstance, please email cazsupport@bristol.gov.uk

If you run a business that operates more than one vehicle and are planning ahead to the launch of the Clean Air Zone, you might also want to check out the Business Accounts Feature which is now open. This allows you to set up a Bristol-specific Direct Debit to help you manage payment for vehicles entering and exiting the Zone. For more information, visit the Government website.

The photo shows Bristol's clean air zone signs. The grey sign has a circle emblem at the top, with a half green half white cloud with the letter D. Red text boxes below read Bristol Clean Air Zone, Coming soon, charges will apply. CleanAirForBristol.org, underneath is a white sign showing there are cameras nearby.

As well as offering temporary exemptions to give people more time to transition to cleaner vehicles, we have also secured over £5.9 million to help people to make their journeys more sustainable. Active travel not only helps to keep our air clean, but it can also help us to feel good and improve our mental wellbeing.

Our free active travel offer scheme offers people:

  • bike and e-bike trials for up to one month
  • adult cycle training to help build your confidence 
  • VOI eScooter credit 
  • train vouchers
  • taster bus tickets
  • enterprise car club credit
  • a free travel planning session to help you explore all your options for your regular journeys

We’ve already given out over 2,000 active travel offers to people in Bristol, and you can read about people’s experiences on our Clean Air For Bristol blog. It’s really great to see people already embracing new ways of travelling around our beautiful city and helping us to create a healthier city with cleaner air for all.

I know that the launch date is fast approaching, but I also want everyone to know that there’s still plenty of time to prepare and seek out extra support if you need it.

Food insecurity and the cost of living crisis

Mali Sion Evans smiling standing in a forest with trees surrounding her.
Today’s guest blog is from Mali Sion Evans, Feeding Bristol Community Project Developer

When times are hard, having to choose between paying bills and eating is routine practice for some Bristol residents. Food should be a source of connection, celebration and comfort. But it’s becoming a cause of stress and anxiety for many people during the current cost of living crisis.

1 in 8 households in Bristol’s most deprived areas are experiencing food insecurity and by all predictions this is likely to increase substantially over the coming months.

Vulnerable groups and communities are considerably less protected when it comes to economic shocks, we are witnessing an increasing number of individuals and families being affected.

Bristol, as this map shows, has inequality of access to food. Seeing the numbers of greengrocers and cafes in some areas of the city, you would struggle to believe that food banks were commonplace in adjacent wards. The areas that are most and least effected by the cost-of-living crisis exist side by side, hiding food insecurity in plain sight.

A new and emerging crisis

Public awareness of food poverty has increased significantly in recent years, but so has the use of emergency food aid such as food banks. In the first 11 weeks of lockdown, the number of people receiving emergency food support in Bristol rose by 400%. Free school meal applications increased by 250% in the same period.

This was an unparalleled crisis which initiated an extraordinary response; we saw Bristol’s true spirit. From community centres to cafes, farms to mosques, people all over the city set out to bring food to their neighbours and provide lifelines for those who needed support.

The word ‘unprecedented’ was used repeatedly over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. But here we are again; volunteer shortages, increasing energy costs, rising inflation and supply chain disruptions are creating a perfect storm. This will intensify food insecurity to unprecedented levels across Bristol, yet again.

Feeding Bristol event, volunteers give out food to residents who need support. The table is full of canned food and fruit being handed out to those who need.
Feeding Bristol

Working together is Bristol’s greatest asset

Hundreds of people all over the city are working hard to try and ease the impact of this crisis. Food banks and community food services are already doing their best to prepare for the worst-case scenario. Dozens of organisations are working together to find ways to extend support and encourage social action. And hopefully, we’ll see this city’s caring and generous energy galvanise to support fellow Bristolians, yet again.

Having published the Food Equality Strategy this summer, Feeding Bristol is currently working with Bristol City Council to develop a Food Equality Action Plan. The aim is to co-create a document of workable actions with citizens, organisations and local authority so that food equality can become a reality in Bristol.

Share your ideas and help shape the Food Equality Action Plan by completing this short survey.

Visit Bristol City Council’s cost of living support webpage for more information about food services, plus advice on benefits and financial help, employment and skills and mental health and wellbeing.

How can I access food support?

How can I save money on food?

  • Plan ahead – buying food for the week helps to cut down on impulse buys
  • If you can, buy big bags of rice, pasta etc – they can be cheaper per 100 grams than smaller bags
  • ‘Reduced to clear’ foods can help save money – but think about when/how you’ll eat them before you buy
  • One of the best ways we can save money on food is to reduce food waste. The Love Food Hate Waste website has tips on how to store food and cook with old food
  • Buy what you need – buying loose fruit and vegetables can help you save money by purchasing only what you’re going to eat

What can I do to help in my community?

Update on Twinnell House

The fire at Twinnell House in the early hours of Sunday morning is a tragedy that has shocked and saddened myself and the wider community.

My thoughts are with the friends and family of the man who sadly passed away during the incident. My thoughts too are with other residents, who sustained injuries or had been effected by the evacuation of the building. Housing officers are continuing to support residents to ensure their physical and mental health needs are met.

As full details of the incident continue to emerge, we believe the safety procedures worked effectively, informing emergency services and allowing for an immediate and effective response.

There are stories of compassion, kindness, courage and support from those responders and the community. These stories are a positive aspect of an otherwise upsetting event.

I extend my thanks to everyone who attended to support residents, on behalf of the city. There are some I can thanks specifically .

Personnel from the emergency services including Avon & Somerset Police, Avon Fire & Rescue and South West Ambulance Service responded immediately and helped evacuate residents and ensure the fire was extinguished quickly.

St Nicholas of Tolentino Church and Margaret Ulloa opened up their doors to residents to provide important information and emergency accommodation.

Rachel James, the headteacher of St Nicholas School, opened up their facilities for parking and as a space for residents to eat. Daniel Doyle of Newman Catholic Trust helped take residents to a local hotel, who were extremely welcoming and understanding in light of the issue.

Councillor Yasin Mohammed arrived in the early hours of the morning and provided support to the emergency services and residents in the immediate aftermath.

Also, Bristol City Council staff from a range of teams provided residents with information, collected food for them and set up temporary accommodation. Their actions In the immediate aftermath have helped all residents into their homes or alternative accommodation, and they will continue to work together to make sure all residents can return to safe homes.

I want to express my gratitude to these people and organisations as well as everyone else involved in the effort. The response from the community was remarkable, as we move forward we are continuing to ensure residents feel supported and cared for and provide updates as soon as we are able.

Great Big Green Week – Blaise Plant Nursery

Councillor Ellie King standing on the City hall ramp smiling.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Ellie King,
Cabinet Member for Public Health and Communities and a Labour Councillor for Hillfields ward.

Today is the start of Great Big Green Week (24 September – 2 October) and so I’d like to take the opportunity to celebrate Bristol Council’s Blaise Plant Nursery’s commitment to protect nature, support climate action, and tackle food poverty through its successful Community Plant Donation project. I’m also pleased to share some videos that show how this scheme supports community action tackling food poverty and climate change.

The plant nursery at Blaise Estate has been operating for more than 30 years. The team at the nursery work hard to reduce its impact on the environment and lower its carbon emissions as much as possible. The nursery produces all of its own electricity using solar panels, its staff use zero-emission ex-milk floats to move around the site, and they water young plants by hand from a borehole on the estate to reduce consumption. All the plants are grown in peat-free compost, biodegradable mulch mats are used wherever possible, and the plant pots and trays are recycled. Waste timber is recycled into biomass fuel and the nursery is wildlife friendly with bird feeding tables and bee hives dotted around the site.

Part of the great work the team do is the Community Plant Donation project. This spring, 10,000 vegetable and soft fruit seedlings were delivered to 50 food growing community groups in Bristol so they could help supply food banks, community cafes and schools to support people in need. As well as providing fresh, locally grown, healthy food to families and foodbanks, the plant donation project has also had a wider positive impact on communities. You can find out more about all the good work in the following short videos:

·         A group of young adults with special education needs and disabilities have been learning how to nurture a garden at Victoria Park Veg Patch.

·         People struggling with their mental health have benefited from being surrounded by nature and the feeling of wellbeing it brings through the social prescribing scheme at The Ardagh.

·         Residents in BS13 have been learning how to grow their own food, how to eat more healthily and how this can help the environment at Heart of BS13.

·         At Companion Planting in Speedwell people come together to teach their children about food and sharing food from their culture.

·         The Redcatch community garden in Knowle uses the produce they grow at their café and sell it in their shop to raise money to put back into their neighbourhood.

·         All the plants at the Blaise Plant Nursery are grown in environmentally friendly peat-free compost and are free of pesticides which is important to Edible Bristol.

Image shows a variety of plans in pots, including tomato, squash and pumpkin. A sign at the front of the image reads Friday Hillfields Community Garden.

The Community Plant Donation project started in April 2020 when the council’s plant nursery in Lawrence Weston had to close its shop because of the COVID-19 lockdown. The shop was fully stocked with fruit and vegetable seedlings at the time and so that they wouldn’t go to waste staff from the nursery and parks department delivered the plants to community growing groups who were delivering food to people who were shielding or growing food for food banks. The plant donations project had such a positive impact on communities that it received funding from the council’s Climate and Ecological Emergency Programme in 2021 and this year to continue to scale it up.

We are now facing a different kind of crisis. The rising costs of fuel, food and other essentials means there are households at even greater risk of hardship and wellbeing and so the continued success of the plant donation project is even more important.

Bristol was awarded Gold Sustainable Food City status in May 2021 by the UK’s independent, Sustainable Food Places Board. The plant donation project supports Bristol’s commitment to maintaining this status by increasing the amount of nature friendly, low carbon food growing in the city and supporting food equality by improving access to nutritious, affordable and sustainably sourced food.

Volunteer with Can Do Bristol

Ellie King smiling on the City Hall Ramp
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Ellie King,
Cabinet Member for Public Health and Communities, and a Labour Councillor for Hillfields ward.

We are facing a challenging autumn and winter. The rising cost of living is affecting a huge number of people in our city, as the prices of energy, food and other essentials continue to increase. We are launching this callout to ask for volunteers to come forward to be part of Bristol’s shared response to this crisis. 

Bristol’s volunteer response during the pandemic was inspiring and demonstrated the can-do attitude of our residents. Bristolians came together to help their communities. We learned that volunteering is crucial when it comes to building the strong, community-led support that’s needed at a local and city-wide level. We would love to see the same happen again now as we face a different, but equally important challenge.

The council is taking a One City and community-led approach to the cost of living crisis. The aim is to support residents and community organisations across Bristol to take action in their neighbourhoods to make a difference where it matters most. This will continue to bring our communities together, build relationships and strengthen our neighbourhoods. 

Communities rely on volunteers and the goodwill of people to get us through situations like these. You can get involved by volunteering with a local organisation to help them respond to the needs of the community.

Everyone has something to offer, whether it’s your time, your talents, or your enthusiasm to do something positive. There are a huge range of volunteering opportunities available on the Can Do Bristol website, including providing essential advice to residents, cooking and serving food, general admin support or even helping at one of our welcoming spaces. You can find a full list of opportunities on Can Do Bristol’s website.  

Volunteering is an incredibly rewarding experience and is great for our health and wellbeing. Not only are you meeting new people, learning new skills, and gaining different experiences you are contributing to community life and building a better city for us all to live in.

Remember, you don’t have to be a registered volunteer to help in your community. Small actions like checking on neighbours can make a big difference. Consider offering them a lift to the shop, cooking them a meal, asking them if they need anything from the shop, offering a lift, or seeing if they would like some company. If you can, you could also donate to local charities or a foodbank, who are always looking for kind donations to continue supporting others.

If you are part of a community organisation in the city and need volunteers to help you reach your local residents and neighbourhood, you can post a volunteering opportunity on the Can Do Bristol website for volunteers to sign up to. 

If you need advice or guidance for yourself or someone you support, we have also launched a cost of living support hub online, providing guidance on topics such as housing, bills, benefits, employment and skills and mental health and wellbeing. Please share this webpage with others and encourage anyone who needs support to reach out.  

Together, We Are Bristol.

£4.8m funding allocated for Family Hubs and the Start for Life programme

Councillor Asher Craig
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor for Children’s Services, Education and Equalities and Labour Councillor for St George West

The early years of a child’s life are so important as this is the time when the foundations for their development are set. We also know that it is vital that they have the support they need throughout childhood and onwards through their teenage and transition years into young adulthood.

That’s why I’m thrilled that Bristol is one of 75 local authorities that has been selected by the Government for a portion of over £300 million of funding, to support the Family Hubs and Start for Life programme in the local area. This is on top of a Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) grant of £97,000 over two years, which supports services to help parents develop effective relationships and reduce conflict in the home.

The £4.8 million of funding for our Family Hub Start for Life programme will help to support the vision for children and young people set out in Bristol’s Belonging Strategy. The strategy’s aim is that everyone in Bristol will have the best start in life and to get the support, help and skills they need as they grow up to prosper in adulthood.

The funding for Bristol over the next three years will help to develop Family Hubs to make it easier for families to access information, support, and services when they need it. This is especially important in areas with the highest levels of deprivation and disproportionately poor health and educational outcomes, as we know from our efforts to protect Bristol’s children’s centres and avoid the mass closures seen elsewhere since 2010.

Through the Family Hubs and Start for Life programme, parents and carers will receive more dedicated support to better help them nurture and care for their babies and children, ensuring they have the very best start to life. Family Hubs are a great way to join up the planning and delivery of services in a local community or area and will bring together a range of services to improve the connections between providers, professionals and families. The aim is that they are a front door to universal support and early help.

A child draws inside a carboard box at Bristol City Council's play day event in Eastville park.
Bristol City Council’s play day event in Eastville park

While the Start for Life programme will focus many funded services on babies and young children and help us in furthering our ambitions to be a Child Friendly City, it will link into the wider Family Hubs programme offering services for families with older children and young people up to the age of 25.

The programme is still in the early stages of development but it’s important to know that these Hubs aren’t about creating new buildings; it’s about connecting the dots, so families have a “one-stop shop” to universal and early help ranging from infant feeding support to mental health support, parenting and family support and help in accessing specialist help, at their fingertips.

This could look like a mixture of physical and virtual spaces, as well as outreach where families can easily access professional support for the challenges they’re facing. We will also strive to build on the existing services on offer, such as midwifery, family support workers and voluntary and community sectors. We also wish to build on delivering services from some of our children’s centres with the aim of developing this approach more widely across the city as well as considering how we can develop young people-friendly hubs.

We’re really pleased to be developing the Family Hubs model, working together with a wide network of partners and organisations already doing incredible work for our children, young people and families in the city. Together we are stronger, and we can make sure that people can access the right support whenever they need it.