The Launch

Today’s blog is written by Bristol Housing Festival Project Director Jez Sweetland as they start their second year of events.

When the Bristol Housing Festival was launched on the 19th October 2018 with an exhibition on Waterfront Square, Councillor Paul Smith said; “We are at the beginning of a revolution in housing design and construction.” That revolution is presented in the context of modern methods of construction (MMC) and modular housing – ways to build using new technology and engaging in our urgent need for quality, affordable and highly sustainable homes. Of course, modern methods of construction are not a panacea to the housing crisis but they have real potential to provide some of the answers and the process of innovation itself gives us an opportunity to review our processes and objectives to ensure we are working together to build the housing that the city actually needs. That’s why we are keen to look at issues such as intergenerational living and co-living – mindful that housing should also focus on the mental, emotional and physical health of the population. As a partner of the One City approach we are committed to the overarching goal that by 2050 ‘everyone in Bristol will live in a home that meets their needs within a thriving and safe community’.

These are high ideals, but to be worked out in a challenging context; the inherent complexity of housing and the urgency of the climate crisis means the need to think differently is even more pressing. Perhaps for too long we have been fed a binary diet of press cuttings suggesting ‘good housing development’, or – in the main – ‘bad housing development’. All too often the story is unhappy, either the developer is to blame for greed, or the council are to blame for incompetence. If only housing was that straightforward. We need a new narrative on housing to work together and build trust around shared objectives whilst acknowledging the realities and limitations. Modern methods of construction give us an opportunity to rethink and create those new collaborations. The Bristol Housing Festival intends to help enable the testing and learning process as that technology is deployed with an ambition of building trust between the wider public, industry and government as we all learn together.

To address the chronic housing shortages (both in social housing and in the private market), perhaps we, as the people who make up this city, also need to think more strategically. For example, should public consultations for new housing aimed at those living in the immediate locality (who will have legitimate concerns and opinions that need to be carefully considered) also be aimed at those in our city who are all too often voiceless; those that are without a home, or desperately trying to secure their first rental or purchase. We need to talk about the outcomes for all those affected, not just the ‘neighbours’, but the whole ‘village’. It’s been interesting to see the ‘YIMBY’ (Yes In My BackYard [for new housing]) campaign becoming increasingly high profile – perhaps an example of compassion and generosity to those that are without from those that have.

The experience of the last year working closely with Bristol City Council has given me great encouragement. It is heartening to see the commitment, vision and passion within the numerous teams, where officers are working hard to ‘unlock’ land for homes and to deliver great social housing, within the realities and limitations of economics and planning frameworks.  Whatever your political colour, housing is and will remain a long-term priority for the city, and those officers will continue to be on the front foot. For that, I think we should all be grateful.

October 2019

For the Bristol Housing Festival showcase this year we are excited to be hosting and promoting a fascinating programme of events. We are looking forward to welcoming a group of fantastic speakers and experts to Bristol alongside a host of local speakers from a variety of organisations – including some of the great stories of community led housing being pioneered in Bristol.

We will also be hosting an exhibition at the Architecture Centre from 21st October – 3rd November which will include details of projects recently approved and those planned for the not-so-distant future. Visitors will be given an insight into some of the work going on behind-the-scenes in the city and how these new housing projects are seeking to improve the lives of the people who live here.

A year on and we have been reflecting on the progress we have seen over the last year. We think it is fair to say that this ‘revolution’ is gathering pace and gaining momentum across the country and we believe that Bristol is set to be help lead on that innovation.  The projects that are moving forward are attributable to the vision, talents, courage, and efforts of countless individuals and partner organisations, we have no qualms in shouting about them. Quite the opposite, we’d love you to join us in celebrating some of the highlights as we offer you an opportunity to share, celebrate and contribute to the progress that is being made by the hard work of so many.

All the details for the showcase and the series of talks are available on our website. Please do come along and celebrate with us and together we can re-imagine the future of housing.

So, a year on, a chance to pause and reflect on the progress made but also to acknowledge that we are still just at the beginning.

https://www.bristolhousingfestival.org.uk

Sons and Daughters Month

Today’s guest blog comes from Cllr Helen Godwin, my Cabinet Lead for Women, Children and Families.

This October, across the country, we celebrate the contribution of the children of foster carers during Sons and Daughters month.

The theme of this year’s Sons and Daughters Month is #FosteringTeachesYou. This event, established by national fostering charity The Fostering Network, aims to celebrate the vital contribution that the children of foster carers make to foster care.

The sons and daughters of foster carers play an essential role in welcoming fostered children into their families and ensuring successful fostering placements. Many of those thinking about fostering express concern about the potential impact on their own children, which can act as a barrier to becoming a foster carer.

In reality, we speak to many young people who enjoy supporting these children and have turned into exceptionally empathetic adults as a result, often going on to foster themselves. In fact, we have four families in Bristol who grew up in a fostering household as children and now foster alongside their parents as adults!

During the month, we are organising fun activities such as pizza making, climbing and trampolining for these remarkable young people. This is just a small way in which we can show our gratitude, while providing the space to meet up with other children and young people in a similar situation.

To those children and young people who share their families and their homes with children coming into care, we thank you. Your kindness and love really does make a huge difference to those in care. We know you recognise that their backgrounds are often different to yours and we know you often do your best to ensure they are able to experience the same stable and loving upbringing you have.

We filmed a group of sons and daughters of foster carers who told us what it is really like being in a fostering family. You can see the film below and you can keep an eye on @bccfostering and @BristolFostering for more stories.

For more information on how you can support Sons and Daughters month visit: https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/get-involved/championing-fostering/sons-and-daughters-month

If you could consider becoming a foster carer visit: https://www.bristol.gov.uk/social-care-health/fostering-and-short-break-care

City Funds

Today’s guest blog comes from Edward Rowberry, Chief Executive of Bristol and Bath Regional Capital (BBRC), following the launch of Bristol’s £10million City Fund in Bristol.

It always amazes me what can be achieved in the City of Bristol. I’ve lived here for ten years now – running BBRC for nearly five – and when it comes to shaping the future of the city, the possibilities for collaboration are strong. Bristol definitely has an ‘all-hands on deck’ approach, and the hard work of many of our Bristol citizens is now beginning to bear fruit via City Funds.

BBRC was built on collaboration, but in terms of new ways of collaborating, I can confidently say that this year has been the busiest yet against the backdrop of the hope-filled vision outlined by the One City Approach.  Alongside Bristol City Council, Big Society Capital, Power to Change and Quartet Community Foundation, BBRC has managed to secure just over £10million in investment for this initiative to get going.

These resources, entitled ‘City Funds’ have been created to fund Bristol-based initiatives that are working to solve some of the biggest social and environmental challenges that the City faces.  City Funds seeks to achieve this by funding organisations with real social purpose that are seeking to make a change in the system.  Part of our approach will be to fund smaller socially and environmentally focussed organisations to access the kind of finance previously not accessible for them.

City Funds has already been recognised nationally as being the ‘first of its kind in the UK’ due to its approach to collaborative place-based funding model – in other words a variety of grants and investment focussed on only one place – Bristol.

But it is more than just money, what makes this fund really work is the wide variety of citizens, drawn from our City, who have volunteered to shape this initiative.  So I am particularly grateful to those citizens who work tirelessly to innovate alongside us.

Regarding investment, both Big Society Capital and Bristol City Council have invested £5 million each into the fund, so that the fund can invest between £50,000 and £1million into social and environmental projects. This first round of funding is now available for organisations to apply for via www.bristolcityfunds.co.uk/apply. Power to Change has also provided £250,000 into the fund, this money is specifically for community businesses to access grant and loans alongside the other available investment.

So, this is a positive start, but we have only reached the starting line.  City Funds will only succeed via the positive impact that it generates once the funds are deployed.

But there is another opportunity for Bristol, not only to create positive impact, but also to create a locally led not-for-profit legacy fund for our city, a revolving fund that outlives us, as well as the economic and political cycles that will inevitably come and go.

So how the money will be deployed?  We anticipate that we will be active across a broad spectrum of sectors, but our focus will be determined by our funding themes. This means that we will be actively seeking opportunities within clean energy, circular economy, food and agriculture, affordable housing and community assets, to name a few.

However, we’re mostly focussed on the outcomes that the project creates: if your local organisation is helping people into employment or providing a needed service to the local economy, we’re interested in talking to you.

Reflections on World Homeless Day

Yesterday was World Homeless Day. Councillor Paul Smith, Cabinet lead for Housing, attended a service of remembrance at Bristol Cathedral to remember members of the community who have died while homeless on the streets of Bristol.

Two people a day are dying on the streets of Britain.

They are not dying of old age – the average age of the people dying is under 50.

They are dying of neglect.

They are dying of disrespect.

They are dying of austerity.

They are dying so the Government can balance its budget.

They are dying in the national interest.

Some of them are dying on the streets of Bristol.

They are the people you try to avoid eye contact with.

The people who you walk around.

Sometimes you might give them money.

Money which may end up in the hands of the drug dealer who is providing them with the source of their final destruction.

We are the fifth largest economy in the world and still people are dying on our streets.

Whatever we are doing as a society it’s not enough.

Not all the homeless are on the streets.

Caring in Bristol says its only 3%.

In Bristol over 1,400 people are living in hostels and supported housing.

In Bristol over 200 people are living in vehicles

In Bristol we have no idea how many people are sofa surfing.

In Bristol 500 families, many with children are living in temporary accommodation.

It may be nowhere near the childrens’ schools.

It may be nowhere near families and friends.

Landlords and families are still evicting families who have nowhere to live.

“The council will have to house you”

Over 20,000 Bristol council homes were sold under the right to buy.

Many are now owned by private landlords, charging private rents.

Homelessness is not a crime.

Homelessness is a disgrace.

Homelessness shames our society.

Homelessness is killing two people per day.

Homelessness is not a crime – but homelessness can be a death sentence.

Hot Coffee, Hot Topic with the Warmer Homes Advice and Money project

Today’s blog comes from Hannah Spungin, Programme Manager for the Operations team in Bristol City Council’s Energy Service.

This morning, we partnered with the Mayor and colleagues in Public Health to put on a Hot Coffee, Hot Topic session. The event promoted the Warmer Homes Advice and Money (WHAM) service and explored how we can support residents on low-incomes living in cold homes.

Working Collaboratively

We know that living in fuel poverty can have an impact on mental health as individuals stress about high fuel bills and the ‘heat or eat’ dilemma. By partnering with Lynn Stanley, Senior Public Health Specialist in Public Health and the Thrive Bristol program, we hope to link fuel poverty initiatives with an opportunity to improve mental and physical health in Bristol.

Since publishing the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) chapter on Fuel Poverty in December 2018, the Energy Service have also been working collaboratively with colleagues across the city to implement the chapter’s recommendations and tackle fuel poverty. The expansion of the Warmer Homes Advice and Money (WHAM) project is an example of a step we have taken to increase collaboration and create a single-point-of-contact service to better support those in fuel poverty.

WHAM is a multi-agency partnership between the Centre for Sustainable Energy, Talking Money, WE Care Home Improvements, Citizens Advice, Bristol Energy Network and North Somerset Council, funded by Bristol City Council. The organisation’s caseworkers provide advice on energy and finance (i.e. income maximisation and budgeting), while arranging for the installation of energy efficiency measures.

Next Steps

Our next steps include developing an action plan for reducing fuel poverty. Alongside a commitment to make Bristol a carbon-neutral city, the One City Plan includes the target that nobody in Bristol suffers from a cold home because of fuel poverty and/or the absence of insulation and heating by 2030.

Utilising the One City approach, the action plan will be governed by the Health and Wellbeing Board, with input from the Homes & Communities and Environment boards. The action plan will be produced by the No Cold Homes steering group, which is a collection of organisations in the city who take an active role in helping to alleviate fuel poverty. We will be hosting an event in early November as an opportunity to bring together agencies from across the city, to determine potential actions to be included in the plan to be published in early 2020.

This morning’s session included heart-warming discussions of clients who benefitted from support through WHAM and conclusions that more joined-up conversations regarding fuel poverty and poverty, in general, need to be had. As we’re steadily approaching the winter season, we are keen to get the conversations started and actions in place. If you are interested in finding out more or being part of the conversation, please contact Hannah Spungin at . hannah.spungin@bristol.gov.ukThis morning’s session included heart-warming discussions of clients who benefitted from support through WHAM and conclusions that more joined-up conversations regarding fuel poverty and poverty, in general, need to be had. As we’re steadily approaching the winter season, we are keen to get the conversations started and actions in place. If you are interested in finding out more or being part of the conversation, please contact Hannah Spungin at Hannah.Spungin@bristol.gov.uk .

Zero Waste Week

Today’s guest blog comes from from Cllr Steve Pearce, Cabinet Member for Waste, Commercialisation and Regulatory Services.

Did you know that this week is Zero Waste Week?

Since 2008 Zero Waste Week has helped individuals, businesses, schools, universities and community groups reduce their landfill waste, save money and preserve resources.

At a time when we are all becoming more aware of waste and our own environmental responsibilities the movement has mushroomed. It began with 100 participants and it has reached over 56 million people just 10 years later. This national award-winning campaign has even been recognized by former Prime Minister Theresa May (who of course was famous for recycling her EU withdrawal bill multiple times). You can join the mailing list to find out more about how it can help us all as individuals, at work or as we engage through schools or community groups.

Bristol has led the way on this issue, with the best recycling rate of any of the English Core Cities. Award winning initiatives such as the ‘Slim my Waste’ campaign have captured the public’s imagination, and led to a direct increase in food waste being recycled.

But we know we can do more, and Zero Waste Week is a great opportunity to highlight our own responsibilities as individuals and as organisations.  It can be a challenge to engage our residents with their recycling and it is sometimes a struggle to create a buzz. So we also need to produce tangible, solid results through education, investment and improved services as we strive to lead the conversation.

This is why we have invested in a new efficient, sustainable, safer and reliable fleet of recycling vehicles for Bristol Waste. They will help drive recycling rates while reducing other environmental impacts.

As we transform the Avonmouth “tip” into a Household Reuse and Recycling Centre it shows how we have to change the mind-set to one of the potential of our ‘waste’ as a ‘resource’. The improved site will include a reuse shop, selling pre-loved items from the waste stream. (Please check the website for the changes in opening hours while the upgrade takes place).

And of course the Hartcliffe Way Household Reuse and Recycling Centre is moving forward. This will deliver our pledge to make it easier for people in the South of the city to dispose and recycle household waste in an easier, more accessible and environmentally sustainable way.

Zero Waste Week’s mission is to empower us all to think again about what we call ‘rubbish’ and think of it instead as the valuable resource it really is. They encourage us all to make those small changes that can lead to more sustainable consumption patterns. They educate so that we can easily and effectively reduce landfill, save money and participate in the circular economy – in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

As individual householders, if there are things in your bin that you don’t know how to eliminate, or if your Zero Waste lifestyle is causing stress, threatens to overwhelm you or causes you to feel guilty, you can join the programme and contact the Zero Waste team for 1-2-1 coaching.

Bristol and Brexit

I am dismayed and angered that Government has moved to shut down Parliament in order to push through its Brexit plans – potentially taking us into a No Deal future. Bristolians are represented in Parliament by four MPs who have now had their voices, and by extension our voices, silenced.

This sits in a wider failure. Over the last three plus years, Governments have failed to engage with political leaders outside of Westminster as to what was needed from any negotiations. People are always shocked when I share that during his two years as Brexit Secretary, David Davis did not once come to discuss Brexit with the Core Cities, which represent some 19 million people in their greater areas and around a quarter of the national economy.

What has fermented is a Brexit crafted in the dark backrooms of Whitehall and corridors of Westminster, with no reference to the rest of the UK – regardless of how places and people voted in 2016. But it is local councils like ours who are putting in place the emergency plans. It will be left to the local authorities to pick up the pieces if the UK leaves the EU with No Deal, as Keir Starmer (Labour’s shadow Brexit Secretary) and I saw first-hand when we visited companies and citizens in Bristol last week and heard their concerns.

It has been frustrating hear of the huge sums of money spent on failed ferry contracts and “tally ho” publicity campaigns  – money that we could have invested in mental health, house building, and low carbon transport solutions. At the same time local government has continued to have austerity imposed upon us, resulting in a the loss of government funding of 60p in every pound since 2010.

The entire bandwidth of Government has been consumed by Brexit, with all that bluster seemingly doing nothing to stop the slide towards No Deal – which Parliament has already ruled out. At the same time the Climate Emergency, housing crisis, and migration crisis have meant  local government has needed an engaged Government that is visionary and leading rather than reactionary and pandering with slogans rather than solutions.

It’s is a false promise that 31 October will draw this to a close. If we leave with a No Deal we will face the costly and all-consuming task of rebuilding an architecture to cover trade, migration, defense and alliances, and, of course, how to protect peace in Northern Ireland.

What we really need is for the Brexit debate to leave Westminster and come to the cities, putting local government at the forefront of planning. In the coming days, I will be further working together with other party leaders from Bristol.

Bristol’s bid to become a Gold Sustainable Food City by 2020

Today’s guest blog is from the Deputy Mayor, Cllr Asher Craig, who is responsible for communities, equalities and public health

As one of only four cities in the UK to achieve a Silver award, Bristol is now making a bold bid for Gold standard, aiming to become a Sustainable Food City (SFC) by the end of 2020. ‘Going for Gold’ involves a city-wide effort to make lasting improvements to the way we grow, buy and eat food in Bristol.

Our Going for Gold (G4G) bid will establish Bristol as both a national and an international leader in sustainable food. We want the whole city to rally together and take action – with citizens, organisations and policy makers all working together to reach Gold.

There is a collective energy calling for food that’s good for people, our planet and our city to be made available to everyone in Bristol, and because it matters to our health, our economy, our resilience, our environment and to our children’s future. In a city where 24% of children are living in income deprived households, we must tackle this challenge.

The food system is responsible for some 30-40% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to eating less meat, reducing food waste is ranked as the third most effective action to address global warming.

We also know that around two billion people across the world lack access to nutritious and healthy food. Food systems all over the world have fostered ultra-processed food (fast food), and people choose these because they are cheap. But they are not nutritious or healthy.

Cities have become an important agent for change, and for the first time 54% of the world’s population lives in cities, with this expected to rise to 70% by 2050.

Concerns over post-Brexit food costs and security of supply suggest that re-localising our system will help us to secure the livelihoods of food producers, as well as increasing the UK’s future resilience. We need to find local solutions to global challenges.

To help us accelerate our G4G ambitions, I will be exploring opportunities to collaborate with the newly opened World Sustainable Urban Food Centre of Valencia (CEMAS), for which I had the honour of representing Bristol, at their opening ceremony held in the Spanish city, last month.

Valencia is the new international hub for best practice in food sustainability systems and is dedicated to managing and sharing the knowledge, to help guide other cities – like Bristol – towards successful, sustainable food systems.

Cities all over the world are now attempting to develop food strategies and take action – Bristol is already recognised for its positive work, and now G4G will help further the city’s reputation, with its citizens reaping the benefits.

To gain Gold SFC status, we need to take collective action in six key food action areas:

  • Buy better;
  • Eat better;
  • Reduce food waste;
  • Grow more nature-friendly food in the city;
  • Support the food community;
  • Promote food equality.

Working together, we can create measurable and sustainable change to the city’s food system by targeting these six key areas.

As part of the bid for Gold, we also need to demonstrate that we are a national exemplar in two food action areas. We have chosen Reducing Food Waste and Catering Procurement (how we source and purchase food and catering contracts).

We are aiming to become a Zero Food Waste City by reducing and recycling our food waste and improving our catering and procurement processes through increased uptake of recognised procurement accreditations, as well as buying more from local food producers.

We want big and lasting changes to our food system in Bristol, ones that will make a positive difference to our communities, our environment and our workplaces. Visit our interactive Going for Gold website https://www.goingforgoldbristol.co.uk/ where you can log your food actions and help Bristol Go for Gold!

Telling the truth on the Hostile Environment

The Government’s ‘Hostile Environment’ policy, designed to co-opt public services and others into immigration enforcement, has been controversial from the moment it was announced in 2012. I have been one of many people to publicly oppose the policy. I have done so on a local, national and international level, pointing out the ways it demonises people without immigration status whilst also punishing those with the right to live in the UK such as the Windrush Generation.

So you can imagine my surprise when I read in the Bristol Cable that Bristol City Council was apparently refusing to join with other Local Authorities in taking a stand against the Hostile Environment as manifested in the Rough Sleeping Support Service. The article claims that unlike 11 other Councils, Bristol is “participating in the programme”, which is “using homelessness charities to pass rough sleepers’ personal information directly to the Home Office without their consent”.

Sadly for the Bristol Cable, but happily for Bristol’s rough sleepers, this claim is wildly, and wilfully, inaccurate. Before publication of the article, Bristol City Council were asked for a statement on their relationship to the programme. That statement, in full, read:

“Bristol City Council has not made referrals to the Rough Sleeping Support Service (RSSS) and would only work with them in order for people to be housed more quickly by reducing delays in obtaining settled status.

“The council’s view is that referrals should only take place after an individual has firstly received legal advice from a registered OISC (Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner) and has given their informed consent.

“Non UK citizens who are sleeping rough can spend months or years waiting to hear back from the Home Office in order to resolve their status and we are continuing to work with a range of local and national partners, including central government and our commissioned partner St Mungo’s, to find ways of supporting people to move off the streets regardless of their migration status.’’

How does this compare to the 11 Councils who are lauded for taking a stand against the scheme? Helpfully the Cable article provides a link to a Guardian story on this, which explains that “It is understood that 11 councils, including Brent, Croydon, Enfield, Islington, Hackney, Haringey, Lambeth, Liverpool, Newham, Oxford and Rugby, will not share the personal data unless explicit consent has been given.”

So the thing that marks out these 11 Councils in their opposition to the programme is a commitment that they will not share any personal data unless explicit consent has been given. As the BCC full statement says, that is exactly the position in Bristol. In fact, BCC’s position is even stronger, with the additional provision that a referral should only happen after an individual has received proper legal advice.

But rather than report the truth, that Bristol City Council are in fact leading the way on opposing the Hostile Environment, the Bristol Cable journalist Adam Cantwell-Corn decided to selectively quote from the Council statement, leaving out the critical sentence about requiring informed consent. He then supplemented this with some hostile quotes from an opposition politician, and ‘hey presto’ – news.

The hostile environment is one of the most damaging public policies of our time. It is therefore critical that people are properly informed about it, and are able to direct their rightful indignation about its impacts on the poorest and most vulnerable at those who are truly responsible. By misquoting the Council in order to falsely damn it, Adam Cantwell-Corn has done everyone a disservice. He has misinformed the people of Bristol about a critical issue in our society. He has eroded trust in the Council and its efforts to support rough sleepers off the streets. And by directing anger away from the Home Office and the Government, he has left those impacted by the Hostile Environment further away from the solution they need and deserve.

p.s At time of writing, Adam Cantwell-Corn is claiming that because the Council statement said that referrals “should only take place” with informed consent, this marks them out against the 11 other Councils. Such pedantry hardly merits a response. He has also criticised the Council for not making a public statement, despite the fact that I have blogged here within the last month about the need for a ‘complete rethinking’ of the Hostile Environment.

One-Year Review of the Children’s Charter

Today’s blog marks the one year anniversary of the Children’s Charter and comes from Tanisha Gupta, an intern at the Mayor’s Office from Yale University, who has been supporting the development of the Charter for the last nine weeks.

Today marks a special anniversary for our city because we are celebrating one year since the launch of the Bristol Children’s Charter. Since that bright, blissful Bristol Playday on College Green last year when the charter was first announced, the city of Bristol has united to prioritise the rights and needs of all of its children and young people.

The Bristol Children’s Charter is an unabashedly aspirational commitment to our city’s future. We want each child to have the resources and opportunities necessary to make a positive impact in this world. That means we need to ensure each child’s basic rights are met. We are committed to ending child poverty and hunger, and are ambitiously working to ensure children live healthy lives with high-quality nutrition, access to wellbeing facilities and services, and safety from all forms of violence and abuse. We aim to provide children with access to clean and safe homes and neighbourhoods in a city with sustainable, affordable and connected infrastructure, that allows them to benefit from Bristol being a leading cultural, social and sporting city. We pledge all children will have access to a quality education that develops their potential so they have skills for life and for decent, productive work.

But we want to do more than just provide children and young people with basic necessities. In fact, we must do more if we truly want to set them up for success. That is why we pledge to guarantee children have the skills to thrive in an ever-changing digital world and have the opportunity to learn about and participate in the global community. It is why we ensure children have the opportunity to influence leaders and contribute to the city they live in, and in return ensure the city supports not only children but parents, carers and families as well. And that is why we make these pledges to all children and young people, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, religion, language, abilities, or any other characteristic, so as to protect and provide for the most vulnerable people to reduce the inequalities that exist.

In the past year, we have made significant progress towards achieving our goals. We have had a five-fold increase in the number of organisations signing on to the Children’s Charter; currently, 100 organisations from education, sport, housing, the voluntary sector, social care, childcare, health, environment, nutrition, public safety, law, and business sectors have committed to the pledges of the charter. More organisations are expected to sign on in the coming months.

We have also passed policies in Bristol City Council relating to children and young people’s education, homelessness, safety, health and wellbeing and special education needs and disability (SEND) provisions to guarantee we are making progress towards delivering our goals. Many other policies relavent to the charter are being considered as I write. 

We have hosted two successful Children’s Charter events, established our presence on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and launched this blog as our main channel for information on the charter and our work. Thanks to all of this work done by the city to prioritise children and young people, the Local Government Association (LGA) Labour Group named the Bristol Children’s Charter as the first innovation in its list of “100 More Innovations by Labour in Power”.

So what’s next? We have just gotten started; while we made respectable progress this past year, there is plenty that we still need to do.

We must continue to strive to make our city’s future better than its present, and to do so we must continue to listen to and provide for our young people. At the heart of this work lies the distinct recognition that local government alone cannot accomplish the hefty feats put forth in the Children’s Charter; the city as a whole must come together to work towards a brighter future.

For this reason, on our one-year anniversary we are launching an “Offers and Asks” section to facilitate communication between signatories and encourage broader cooperation on charter pledges. Each signatory of the Bristol Children’s Charter joins a larger consortium of organisations in the city that are working together to prioritise the rights and best interests of all children and young people. Our new “Offers and Asks” page will enable you all to reach out to each other for advice and help, share best practices, and collaborate on campaigns and events in the future.

On a more personal note, the one-year anniversary of the Children’s Charter brings to close an important chapter in my life, as my internship in the Mayor’s Office is finishing tomorrow. For the past few months, I have lived and breathed the Bristol Children’s Charter, devoting my time to working for children and young people in the city. I am in awe of the palpable passion of the charter’s signatories and salute this city’s ability to unite people together for a greater cause. Though I am not a native Bristolian myself, I at times feel more connected to this magnificent city than I do to my own.

So this one-year anniversary celebration is a collective one; I thank each and every one of you for the role you have played in getting the charter to where it is today, and the role you will play in supporting the charter in the future. This is just the beginning, and I look forward to the development of the Bristol Children’s Charter going forward.