Join the summer travel challenge

During the summer period, we can choose more active travel options for our daily commute. Not only is this good for our health but it’s good for a healthier and sustainable city too.

People are increasingly choosing more sustainable ways of travelling around Bristol. Between 2011 and 2018 there was a 64% increase in people cycling to work. We have also seen a rise in car sharing and walk to work initiatives. And the number of bus journeys taken in Bristol, per person, is on the rise – bucking the national trend.

We can all play our own part in meeting the challenge. Here are some ways you can get started this summer:

  • Active travel. This week saw the launch of 2019’s Travel Challenge – Travel West’s invitation to all commuters in the region to leave the car at home, where possible, and choose alternatives for the daily commute, school run or other travel.
  • Walking.  Walkfest – Bristol’s annual walking festival – had its most successful year yet with attendance up 40%. The festival included art, history and nature themed walks, alongside a large choice of walking sports. Additionally, there were walking to school and walking to work events, as well as walks assessing the pedestrian-friendliness of different areas. On the Travelwest website we’ve highlighted some great walking routes, tips and incentives. The #GetOutAndWalk initiative is here to help you mix up your travel choices where you can.

  • Biking. Cyclists of all abilities are invited to attend the HSBC Let’s Ride Bristol 2019 cycling festival this Sunday (16 June). It’s a festival of cycling which marks the second year of our partnership with British Cycling. I’m pleased that more than 1,000 people have already registered to ride traffic-free around the city centre and Millennium Square route. If you have no bike then hire-bikes and the app-based yellow YoBikes will be available to use on the day. If you’re new to YoBike their first ride is free. Please book your place at Let’s Ride, although people can turn up on the day and ride.
  • Car share.  Could someone be going the same way as you? The Travel West website has some great tips for car share and buddy schemes. There are several apps and sites that can help. Sharing is social, saves you money and helps reduce CO2 emissions.

Thursday 20 June is Clean Air Day. Even though increased numbers of people are using public transport, walking and cycling, harmful air pollution levels from vehicles still exceed the UK and EU air quality limits in Bristol.

This week I announced options for how we can help tackle the problem. I want measures that support everyone’s health, help us meet government targets, and are fair to all people in Bristol.

Read about the proposals and look out for the public consultation which opens on Monday 1 July.

All efforts to reduce the congestion on our roads and introduce healthy and active travel will make a positive difference. Make sure you join the travel challenge this summer.

Mental Health: moving the conversation forward

Today’s blog post comes from Cllr Asher Craig Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Communities, Equalities and Public Health.

Social workers play a crucial role in the mental and emotional wellbeing of the vulnerable children and adults they work with. They are often the voice of the voiceless; helping to ensure the people they work with feel empowered in their own lives. We know that in order to empower others, social workers need to feel that their roles are valued.

However, as The British Association of Social Workers recently commented, this isn’t always recognised in legislation. This is why, with the ongoing review of mental health legislation by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Work, there is an opportunity to explain the value of social work.  The aim of the group’s inquiry is to promote the role of the social worker within mental health services and to improve social worker working conditions under a new Mental Health Act.

Mental health and wellbeing is a key priority for us, and we recently launched Thrive Bristol. Thrive is a ten year programme to improve the mental health and wellbeing of everyone in the city, with a focus on those with the greatest needs. It covers all ages and considers mental health in its broadest sense. Mental wellbeing is also a key focus for the One City approach; the overarching goal for wellbeing in the One City Plan is that by 2050 everyone in Bristol will have the opportunity to live a life in which they are mentally and physically healthy. Mental and physical health need to achieve political, social and cultural equality. This is starting to happen, but there is a long way to go and lot of work still to do. Until the conversation about mental wellbeing is treated with equal seriousness as physical wellbeing, health inequalities will not be meaningfully reduced and our children and young people will continue grow up in the wake of adverse childhood experiences.

To be a healthier city, we need to work across all sectors; education, employment and housing all play intersecting roles when it comes to mental and emotional wellbeing. Thrive Bristol has a focus on prevention, early intervention and resilience. Educating our children and young people about how to take care of themselves and each other and how to talk openly about their feelings and struggles is the first step. This ensures stronger resilience and provides individuals with the tools and vocabulary to recognise triggers and communicate meaningfully about mental health issues.

Bristol City Council is also a supporter of the Time to Change initiative, which wants to change the way we all think and act about mental health problems. Time to Change recognises that it can be very difficult to open up about mental health at work, with 95 per cent of people calling in sick with stress giving a different reason. By working together as a city and using the expertise and support offered by the national Time to Change campaign, we can make great progress towards Bristol becoming a city free from stigma and discrimination around mental health.

Information on how to get in touch with mental health services and links to support groups in Bristol is available here.

Children’s Right to Food Charter

Today’s blog comes from Kerry McCarthy, Member of Parliament for Bristol East.

For the past year, I’ve been taking part in the Children’s Future Food Inquiry (CFFI). It’s the first time the views of children and young people living in food poverty have been collated in one study, and we heard some really moving stories from kids about the impact that hunger has on them, including their ability to concentrate in class, as well as the shame and stigma that comes with being on free school meals.

The inquiry has now ended, and I held a parliamentary debate to reveal its findings. I called on Ministers to implement the Children’s Right2Food Charter, which was drawn up in response to the evidence we heard over the course of the year.

The Charter calls for all children to be guaranteed a healthy lunch at school, and for parents and carers to be helped to put healthy food on the table at home. Other measures include reducing the stigma around free school meals and limits on the advertising of junk food.

This Government has done little to address the food poverty crisis facing our society, which the UN Rapporteur called ‘a social calamity and an economic disaster’ in his recent report on the impact of austerity on human rights in the UK.  I am proud that individuals and organisations across Bristol are, however, leading by example.

Food insecurity and hunger are very real problems in Bristol, with 1 in 3 families living in poverty. This already distressing statistic rises to a shocking 50% in more deprived areas like Lawrence Hill.

The school holidays are a particularly difficult time for those families who rely on free school meals during term time; sometimes this could be a child’s only decent meal of the day. Last summer Feeding Bristol – a local charity which the Mayor and I helped set up – ran a holiday hunger scheme across the city, providing around 3,000 meals to children who would otherwise have gone without. We did have some Government funding for a pilot last year but, despite its success, we have not been given any funding for this year. We are therefore appealing to the business community for funding to carry out this crucial work.

For many low-income families the difficulty of putting food on the table is compounded by a lack of access to affordable shops or greengrocers selling fresh produce. Such areas, where it is difficult to access good-quality and affordable food, are known as ‘food deserts.’ A national study last year by Kellogg’s identified three areas in Bristol as food deserts including Hartcliffe and Withywood – which were, shockingly, deemed the second and fifth worst in the whole country.

Poverty is also a factor in childhood obesity, as junk food is often cheaper and more easily accessible than healthier alternatives. There are more takeaways in poorer areas than in the more affluent parts of the city. Two Bristol mums – Suad Yusuf and Sahra Hasan – have done great work to expose the inequalities of takeaway culture in our city, recently featuring in a BBC documentary about the number of fast food restaurants in their home of Easton compared to those in Clifton – a staggering 44 to seven.

While this may all make for rather bleak reading, the positive news is that pioneering work is taking place across the city to promote healthy and sustainable food. Bristol already holds a Silver Sustainable Food Cities Award – just the second city in the UK to do so – which recognises efforts to transform Bristol’s food culture through things like safeguarding the diversity of food retailers, increasing urban food production and supporting community food enterprises. Bristol has now launched its bid to become the first Gold Sustainable Food City in the UK by 2020, and improving food equality will rightly be key to achieving this, along with a focus on procurement and on tackling food waste.

I will have a further opportunity to raise the findings of the CFFI in a parliamentary debate in the coming weeks, at which point I hope to see Ministers taking child hunger seriously by supporting efforts – like those seen in Bristol – to end food insecurity for all.

The Grand Iftar

Today’s blog comes from Easton ward Councillor Afzal Shah.

Ramadan Kareem! The month of Ramadan, for Muslims, is a period of reflection, self-restraint and solidarity, and involves fasting from dawn until dusk. Ramadan is not an individual experience, but about community.

This year, Bristol witnessed its third annual “Grand Iftar”, bringing together thousands of people from diverse backgrounds to collectively break-bread.

There were a number of engaging speakers, including renowned American scholar, Sheikh Afdal Feroze, who spoke about the need to promote greater friendship and understanding, as well as the significance of the holy month of Ramadan. We also had the opportunity to gain a brief insight into the Islamic contribution to Astronomy, in an enlightening speech by Robert Massey (Dep-Director of the Royal Astronomical Society), and were also joined by local leaders including Deputy Mayor Cllr Asher Craig and Kerry McCarthy MP.

The Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, spoke about how Bristol’s Grand Iftar has inspired other cities around the globe to get in touch via the Global Parliament of Mayors. Bristol, indeed Easton, can be immensely proud of what its achieved – this is the best antidote to the politics of division that we are currently witnessing.

There was a heightened atmosphere of excitement and solidarity, buoyed by the beautiful Islamic inspired “nasheed” music gently playing in the background, the evocative call to prayer made by the Imam of St Marks Road Mosque that echoed across St Marks Rd, and the wafting fragrances of the food being prepared. We were also treated to a video, commissioned by myself and Mohammed Elsharif (Grand Iftar co-organisers), detailing the preparation, and how the event has further united the city’s Muslim community. An inspiring performance, too, by former poet-laureate, Miles Chambers, as he read his poem, “Bristol, Bristol”, paying homage to the rich diversity to Bristol.

As we were preparing to collectively break the fast, we were reminded that this event simply wouldn’t be possible without the volunteers, and of course the contributions of local businesses and support of the emergency services. Preparing 6,000 meals is no mean feat! A huge thanks to everyone who attended yesterday evening. Bring on Bristol’s Grand Iftar 2020!

Hidden in plain view

Disability Discrimination in 21st Century Britain

Today’s blog comes from Michael Clinton, Research Director at the Schumacher Institute.

I am a disabled person. Getting around has always been a challenge but the wear and tear of  a few years under my belt means that my mobility is not what it once was.

It has always hurt when I landed on those marble floors beloved by shopping malls, but these falls are more likely these days. So now I have to use my wheelchair every time I go out. The sad truth is that in my lifetime nothing has really changed. A few drop kerbs and badly designed accessible toilets, inclusion do to make.

Quite simply the built environment is – even if new – hostile to disabled people. Only 5% of homes are even minimally accessible. Most new builds have at least one front door step, so getting in and out of your own home can be the first challenge! Then there is public transport. I have used planes, trains and busses in my time and they are all flawed. Tiny inaccessible toilets on aeroplanes, steps and gaps onto trains and busses all pose risks for disabled people. Even going self-propelled in a wheelchair or mobility scooter can be risky if the drop kerbs are blocked or too steep to safely use (more common than you might think). Any of which could prevent or delay you getting to work, the shops or a doctors’ appointment, now imagine if it is the route home that is blocked. You may actually be unable to get home at all!

My local railway station is only part time manned. Normally I would arrange assistance onto and off the train (thanks to the steps), a service that is usually well delivered, but it can and has for some failed totally. The homeward platform at this station is on the opposite side of the track from the station exit. To get to the exit in a wheelchair requires crossing the tracks and avoiding the Intercity 125’s. Would you risk that in a wheelchair without assistance?

If something goes wrong for an able bodied person they can usually walk out of a situation. I can’t. I’m stuck. At any point in the journey if things go wrong I could find myself in a very vulnerable situation very quickly. It is this added risk that makes life so very challenging for many disabled people. So I drive. At least I can shelter in the car and call the AA or on occasions I simply don’t travel.

A few years ago I was made redundant and so needed a job. I wrote out my CV and hunted through the situations vacant. I saw a company that closely matched my own skill set and it was barely a mile away from home. So I brushed up my CV and wrote a covering letter, donned my best suit and went round to deliver my CV. Imagine how I felt when I found that the office was an old house and completely inaccessible. I ended up getting to the front door on all fours!! Why should anyone have to get down on all fours to seek a job in the 21st century? Would you?

The point is that for disabled people to contribute we need to be allowed to participate. That means a built environment that is fit for all. ALL homes built to Lifetime Standards, FULLY accessible transport systems and a realisation that even listed buildings can and should be made accessible. We live in the present not the past!

Why should the built environment be inclusive? Well here is a little thought for you. Nearly half of the population will suffer either a permanent or temporary disability in their lives with about 1 in 5 of those of working age being disabled. This world can be very hostile for disabled people. Doorsteps basically say “no cripples here”! That kind of attitude is illegal when applied to any other identifiable group today and quite rightly so! Next time you walk down the high street look at the buildings around you. If they have steps in front the chances are they are not accessible. Which means disabled people cannot access the offered services, work there, or socialise there. Then think how would you feel if you are one of those people suddenly faced with being disabled, especially if it is your own home or place of work?

May your next journey be safe and informative.

International Workers Memorial Day

28 April marks International Workers Memorial Day. Across the world, workers and their representatives are conducting events, demonstrations, vigils and a whole host of other activities to mark the day. I marked this important occasion by attending The Joint Trade Union’s annual International Workers Memorial Day Event in Bristol.

Every year, more people die at work than in wars. Many of these deaths happen simply because employers failed to prioritise their workers’ safety.

According to the International Labour Organisation across the world every year:

  • One worker dies every 15 seconds worldwide
  • 6,000 workers die every day
  • More than two million men and women die as a result of work-related accidents and diseases
  • Workers suffer approximately 270 million accidents each year, and fall victim to some 160 million incidents of work-related illnesses
  • Hazardous substances kill 440,000 workers annually – asbestos claims 100,000 lives

The day serves as a rallying cry to “remember the dead: fight for the living”. These losses affect not only the people directly affected, but also their families and friends. It’s so important that Workers Memorial Day considers those left behind.

The day also serves as an important reminder to employers of their responsibility to promote the wellbeing of their workforce. Not just as workers, but as human beings who are valued in and of themselves. I will continue to do all I can to promote that message across Bristol, and am working closely with Trade Unions to make Bristol a safe and fair place to work, which supports its workers to thrive.

In January, I signed the TUC’s Dying to Work Charter on behalf of Bristol City Council. This is a national initiative designed to increase awareness of terminal illness in the workplace and encourage employers to provide increased help and support to any employee facing such challenging circumstances. I was pleased to be able to demonstrate our commitment as a caring employer to supporting staff that face this difficult time. I support the campaign to promote awareness of this issue and urge other employers in Bristol to do the same. We have also signed the UNITE Construction Charter, which makes sure construction workers on our sites and our contractors are better protected from injury. As well as the workers themselves, health and safety in our workplaces protects those in the wider community, and the people that use our services.

Quality employment standards go beyond health and safety measures, which is why I have written to employers in Bristol to encourage them to follow our lead and become accredited Living Wage employers. I will continue to pursue my goal of Bristol as a Living Wage City. Being safe and fairly treated at work is a right, not a privilege. As we remember the dead, we will continue to fight for improved working conditions for now and the future. And did you know on average trade union members earn 18% more than non-union workers?  If you haven’t already, join a Union today.

£1m for our Clean Streets campaign

Today we are announcing a spend of £1m on our clean streets campaign. The success of the city’s business sector in 2018/19 meant that greater than forecasted business rates were collected, allowing a portion of that surplus to be invested in the Clean Streets Action Plan in this financial year.

This is great news for the city. We have received great support for the campaign, including the introduction of fines for people who litter our streets.

But our Bristol Clean Streets campaign has always been about much more than litter. It has been about transforming the nature of the relationship between our city and its waste.

The transformation we are pursuing extends from the generation of waste, to the way we dispose of it, to its transportation, reuse, recycling, conversion to energy or other end state.

Waste is one of the foremost challenges – and opportunities – facing cities in a world that is rapidly urbanising. It’s one confronting every city on every continent, those in the global North and South, rich and poor.

If we succeed in meeting the waste challenge, we will improve the quality of life in the city and reduce our impact on the world around us – in particular reducing the plastics to sea, securing access to new sources of energy and saving money.

I recently met with the heads of our own Bristol Waste company. We talked about the importance of this challenge for Bristol and the urgent need to see and evidence we are making progress as a city.

It was clear to me coming out of the meeting that as a city we need to view Bristol Waste and those who work for it not as the people who come behind us dealing with the aspects of life we no longer value. Rather, they are in front of us, using their expertise in waste to lead us. There is something very proverbial in this, that those who have sometimes been undervalued turn out to be those with the solutions to one our most pressing problems and biggest opportunities.

For their part I have asked Bristol Waste to live up to this leadership challenge. Their job is not only to collect our waste. Rather it is to speak into the wider city system. They must also challenge and support business to change practices to reduce the amount of waste generated, drive the practices and partnerships that increase recycling and re-use, while scanning the horizon for the latest technologies and opportunities to give waste a second life as things such as energy.

Bringing Intellectual Fire Power to Bear on our City Challenges

Last Friday (29 March) saw the inaugural Bristol Forum taking place in City Hall. The Forum marks an innovative new collaboration between the Bristol City Office, University of Bristol (UoB) and University of the West of England (UWE), and aims to advance the problem-solving capacity of our city. With cooperation at its heart, the daylong event was co-created by a Collaborative Design Group comprised of organisations including Power to Change, Creative Youth Network, Babbasa, We the Curious, Bristol Health Partners, Bristol Green Capital Partnership, Voscur, Care Forum and Black South West Network, working alongside the City Office, UoB and UWE.

Attended by almost 200 people from across academia, the business, third, and public sectors, the Forum brought together research and creative approaches to address challenges relevant to the city and its communities, set out by the One City Approach. The programme saw sessions taking place across the day, with each session seeing academics collaborating positively with a wide range of city leaders to explore themes that are central to the goals set out in the One City Plan [hyperlink]. Topics tabled for discussion ranged from high level city wide initiatives to more focussed interventions. Discussions included improving the city’s air quality, new approaches to talking violence and abuse, education and social mobility, economic inclusion, and the role of communities and universities in developing solutions, to name just a few. We hope that the Forum will be an annual opportunity to share solutions, ideas and constructive challenge.

It is clear that Bristol City Council acting in isolation is unable to achieve the aims set out in the One City Plan. The Forum marks the perfect example of the One City model of working – coming together to collaboratively explore creative solutions to long term challenges. For me, the Forum is about bringing the intellectual fire power of our City Region’s two world class universities to bear on our city challenges. Most importantly, it is also about ensuring that the policy decisions we make as a city are underpinned by a clear evidence base.

Examples of the civic university are seen in the United States where universities play an important role in tackling problems of the cities in which they are based. The Bristol Forum provides Bristol’s Universities with a platform to engage in the national debate about this topic and demonstrate the role they can play in local policy making and problem solving. Professor Robin Hambleton, a key pioneer of the civic university model and Chair of the Bristol Forum planning group recently wrote an article on this theme, which is available to read here. I look forward to the next Bristol Forum and the positive influence that wide-reaching city collaboration continues to play in building a city of hope and ambition where everyone benefits from Bristol’s success.

Better Lives at Home – how we’re delivering extra care housing

Today’s guest blog is from Cllr Helen Holland, cabinet member for Adult Social Care.

One of the very best parts of my job as Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care is having the chance to visit some of the excellent initiatives we’re delivering to help transform the lives of older residents around the city.

Last week was no exception, when, alongside my colleague Cllr Ben Stokes from South Gloucestershire, I attended the formal opening of the brand new retirement village at Stoke Gifford. Bristol City Council has contributed over £3m to the development and, with South Gloucestershire, we are nominating to 81 of the flats there. This means that there are 81 flats that will be open for older people currently supported by Social Care either from Bristol City Council or South Gloucestershire Council.

The facilities here are exceptional, with spacious flats and a restaurant, games room, craft room, gym, library and more all on site. Meeting and chatting to some of the new residents who are enjoying a new lease of life since moving in, really gave me a picture of just how important it is for us to do more of this. We need to give older people the best possible quality of life in their later years – it makes sense for the individuals and it makes sense for the public purse too, it means there is much less chance older people will need nursing or residential care.

The next extra care scheme like this that will open is Haberfield House in Stockwood, which is being developed for our residents by Bristol Charities.  You can find more information about Haberfield House here:

Back in Stoke Gifford, it was a joy to meet Sheila and Brian – who moved in last November. When they moved in, Sheila was dependent on a wheelchair to get around, but as she told me, “I had never set foot in a gym before I came here, but thought I would give it a go, now after just a few weeks, I can just use my walker.” It is this sort of fantastic story that really motivates me to deliver more extra care housing.

In May I will be bringing a report to Cabinet that will set out our plans for just how we do that.

I will leave the last word to Sheila and Brian, who told me that when their family want to come to visit, they both have to check their diaries as there are so many activities they want to participate in. This is exactly what we want for all our older people – better lives at home.

To find out more information about the Better Lives programme and what it means you can click here:

To find out more about the Extra Care, like the one at Stoke Gifford you can click here:

World Social Work Day 2019

Today is World Social Work Day.  It’s an opportunity to pause, recognise and celebrate the great work of our social work colleagues across the city and around the world. We’re grateful to have so many dedicated and passionate people making lives better for people every single day, often in challenging circumstances.  My guest bloggers are Principal Social Workers Maria and Vanessa, who both work for Bristol City Council.

Here, Maria tells us what it means to be a social worker.

I came into social work to make a positive difference to the lives of others and almost 20 years later I believe that social work is still the best way I can make that difference. We work in the places where people are at their most vulnerable, supporting them to take control of their lives and the way they want to live them.

I was speaking to a social worker last week who had been working with someone with dementia who was extremely reluctant to even open the door to us.  This incredibly skilled social worker was able develop trust, which ultimately meant she was able to offer support to help this person stay safe and well in their own home, despite enormous pressure from others to place them into residential care.

Another colleague stayed out late into the night last week to ensure that a very traumatised young adult in mental health crisis was safe until a hospital bed was available. She stayed with that vulnerable young person, making sure they were safe and supported.

Examples like these show how each day brings with it a fresh scenario you never imagined you might encounter. I don’t think we always realise the amount of creative thinking that is needed to be an effective social worker. Each day social workers explore different ways to support individuals to live the life they want to live in the context of people having access to often very limited personal resources. We work with people and their families to find a way through their difficulties by acknowledging their needs whilst highlighting strengths in complex and often emotionally demanding situations.

So this year’s theme for World Social Work Day is human relationships, which is very poignant for me.  Supporting people to maintain their relationships is essential to delivering good social care.  The importance of human relationships cannot be underestimated in terms of sustaining wellbeing for all of us and when these relationships break down so often does people’s mental health.  Social isolation and loneliness are key factors in predicting poor mental health.

I am observing a real shift in social work practice in Bristol.  Back towards having conversations with people to discover what they want from life and their care and support and moving away from traditional more formal solutions.   This, for me, is returning to social work’s good roots, and this makes me proud to call myself a social worker in Bristol.

Vanessa, who works with children and their families in Bristol, tells us about her chosen career.

Social working with children and families in Bristol is one of the most rewarding jobs that anyone can have. It’s fast paced and demanding but it is also really rewarding.  We work hard to help families stay together safely wherever we can and, where necessary, we take action to protect children from harm.

Our focus is always on building relationships with children and their families so we can understand what life is like for them, and working with them to make the changes needed to keep their children safe. We are also lucky to have such great colleagues in Bristol. We celebrate each other’s successes and help each other through harder times.

Today we are hosting a ‘Wellbeing’ afternoon for practitioners to mark World Social Work Day and to show just how much we value our social workers and what they do for people in our great city.  We are looking forward to welcoming to City Hall our guest speakers Dr Nina Smyth, senior lecturer from the University of Westminster, and Jane Evans, parenting specialist and expert in self-care.