Author Archives: marvinjrees

Your Holiday Hub reopens for winter

Young people and parents attend a pond, with an allotment in the background. This is at Your Holiday Hub's activities club.

Lots of children and young people look forward to this time of year, two weeks off school, Christmas decorations, presents and festive food. However, the winter holidays can also be a very challenging time for many families in Bristol. This year is especially difficult due to the added financial pressures that come with the current cost of living crisis. Our children and young people are often the most affected when it comes to crises such as this.

I am invested in supporting and inspiring young people in ways that helps relieve some of these added pressures. Now, well into its second year the Your Holiday Hub programme, funded by the UK Government’s Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme, will be returning to offer eligible children and young people access to free holiday activities and food this winter holiday.

Children and young people aged 4 to 16 years old, who are eligible, and in-receipt of free school meals will be able to access free holiday activities and food during the school holiday (19 December to 30 December). Activities this winter range from festive arts and crafts, cooking workshops and Ninja Warrior. During the sessions, young people are encouraged to learn new skills, forge new friendships and have fun in the meantime.

A young girl, smiling, holding a paint brush. This is at Your Holiday Hub's activities club.

At the heart of the Your Holiday Hub programme is food. Food should be a source of connection, and comfort. However, for many families who are struggling to afford to pay the bills, food can become a source of stress. Bristol has been working towards child equality over the school holidays since 2019 with the Bristol partnership The Healthy Holidays programme, led by Feeding Bristol and FareShare, which sought to create a city where no child goes hungry during the school holidays. As part of the Your Holiday Hub offering, with each four-hour activity, children and young people will receive a hot meal as well as learn about food, nutrition and healthy living through interactive workshops and classes.

Eligible families will also receive free school meal vouchers for the full winter holiday. These vouchers will be distributed through the schools.

Huge thanks go out to all the wonderful organisations across Bristol who organise holiday activities and food delivery for the Your Holiday Hub programme.

A full list of organisations and activities is available on the Your Holiday Hub website.  

World AIDS Day

This World AIDS Day, I will be thinking about what HIV in Bristol could look like in 2030. 

On the 1st of December in eight years’ time, I want us to be able to come together as a city to celebrate a year where that has been no new HIV transmissions here – or anywhere in the country.

This might sound like a pipe dream, but it’s achievable. Medical advances mean that people living with HIV on effective treatment can live long, healthy lives and can’t pass on the virus to others. We also have PrEP, the prevention pill that stops people acquiring HIV. These remarkable advances put ending new HIV transmissions within reach.

The science can only take us so far though. This game-changing treatment and prevention only reaches people who know they are living with HIV or think they could be at risk. The collective memory of the AIDS crisis in 1980s means that many gay and bisexual men are often proactive about getting tested and protected. Even then, with our sexual health services at breaking point from government cuts, many people wait months to get on PrEP and even more don’t know they could benefit from it.

To get to zero, we need to also reach another group – people who don’t know they have HIV. It’s estimated that 4,400 people in England are ‘undiagnosed’, meaning they are living with untreated HIV that is damaging their immune systems and could be unknowingly passing on the virus. We can only find these people through HIV testing all across our healthcare system. Whenever someone in Bristol has blood taken, they should be tested for HIV. It has to become normal. That’s the only way we can break the stigma of HIV and get everyone on treatment.

Routine HIV testing is already happening in hospitals in London, Manchester, Blackpool and Brighton. Government funding for this ‘opt-out’ testing has supported these areas to test everyone who has their blood taken in emergency services in very high prevalence areas. The results have been phenomenal. In just 100 days, 128 people have been newly diagnosed with HIV and a further 63 were found who had been lost to care and could be brought back on to life-saving treatment. Many were already unwell but hadn’t been offered HIV tests elsewhere.

It’s no coincidence that people diagnosed through opt-out testing are disproportionately likely to be Black Africans, women or older people. All are less likely to feel that sexual health clinics are for them or to even be offered a test if they get to one. In the first trials of opt-out testing, 54% diagnosed with HIV were Black African, Black Caribbean or Black ‘other’, more than twice as many as the nationwide average of 22%.

So we know that opt-out testing works. It’s combatting health inequalities. It’s recommended by the experts (NICE, the British Association of HIV and the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV). It’s also saving millions of pounds. In fact, the £2 million spent so far on opt-out has saved the NHS between £6-8 million in costs.

That’s why the Government can’t stop here. Bristol is one of 29 places with a high prevalence of HIV that could benefit from the scheme. In February this year, I wrote to the Health Secretary Sajid Javid to ask for the funds to bring opt-out testing to Bristol. In October, I wrote again to the new Health Secretary Steve Barclay to ask for the money to start the scheme. In Bristol we are ready to get going. The Council and our hospitals have come together to make sure we have laid the groundwork. We have a business case agreed.

So why the delay? I think the four changes of Health Secretary this year might have something to do with it, but we’ll keep making the case for Bristol until we get a response.

It’s not too late – if the new Health Secretary acts now, we could be up and running with opt-out by the spring. Not just in Bristol, but across the country – from Birmingham to Milton Keynes, Liverpool to Southend. Every day that goes by is another wasted opportunity to find people living with HIV in these cities.

On World AIDS Day we stop to remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS-related illness. Many of those people – who died before there was even a test for HIV, let alone treatment – couldn’t have dreamed of ending new transmissions even being a possibility. We owe it to them to seize this opportunity now.

World AIDS Day Activities in Bristol – get involved:

East Trees Health Centre: Thursday 1st December 9.30am – 3.00pm

Join Terrence Higgins Trust Bristol at East Trees Health Centre where they will be handing out ribbons and offering sexual health testing, advice and information.

Sparta: Thursday 1st December, 3.30 – 6.30pm

Terrence Higgins Trust will be offering sexual health testing, advice and information throughout the afternoon at Sparta Sauna.

University of West England, Frenchay Campus

Terrence Higgins Trust Bristol will have a World AIDS Day stand at UWE Bristol Student Union building, to hand out read ribbons and information about UNITY Sexual Health Services. They will also be offering sexual health testing and advice.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert at The Watershed

The Watershed and Terrence Higgins Trust Bristol have partnered for World AIDS Day to present a special screening of The Adventures of Pricilla, Queen of the Desert.

You can follow all these activities on Facebook, Twitter and Instragram @Unitysexhealth

£424m for clean energy in Bristol: 1,000 new jobs

Today’s blog is from Kye Dudd, Cabinet Member for Climate, Ecology, Waste, and Energy and
Labour Councillor for Southmead ward.

Decarbonising Bristol by 2030 is likely to be one of the most challenging infrastructure overhauls in the history of our city.

City Leap will play an essential role in this, it’s an ambitious energy project that will accelerate investment in our city, moving Bristol forward on our journey to net zero.

The scale of investment that is needed to make our city carbon neutral and climate resilience will likely total at least £10 billion.

We need to transform the way we generate, distribute, store and use energy at scale across our whole city. 

£1 billion of international investment to accelerate change

The council has invested nearly £100 million in decarbonisation projects over the last five years, which includes completing the construction of Castle Park Energy Centre that houses England’s largest water source heat pump. However, we need to rapidly increase the scale and pace of low carbon delivery to be able to meet our targets.

Our City Leap Energy Partnership with Ameresco Limited and Vattenfall Heat UK will secure a twenty-year framework to enable over £1 billion of international investment into low carbon energy infrastructure such as solar PV, wind generation, zero carbon heat networks, smart energy systems, and other energy efficiency measures.  

How will City Leap keep us on track for carbon neutrality?

In the first five years, the City Leap Energy Partnership’s contribution to carbon neutrality will include: 

  • Installing over 182MW of zero carbon energy generation and delivering over 140,000 tonnes of carbon savings for Bristol;
  • Expanding Bristol’s Heat Network – a network of underground pipes that will provide local businesses and residents with reliable, affordable low-carbon heat from sustainable sources, such as taking heat from water, ground or air, reducing Bristol’s reliance on fossil fuels;
  • Installing solar panels and low carbon heating systems such as air source heat pumps at local schools;
  • Supporting the decarbonisation of the council’s social housing by introducing measures such as better insulation, solar panels and heat pumps to achieve an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of ‘C’ or better;
  • Boosting council and community-owned renewable energy projects across the city such as wind turbines and solar farms;
  • Offering decarbonisation support to public sector properties such as hospitals and schools to support Bristol’s wider efforts to be carbon neutral by 2030.

The partnership will also bring £61.5 million of social value to our city over the first five years, after we secured an initial £424 million of investment, with the creation of more than 1,000 new jobs, apprenticeships, and work placements.

Is this future possible to achieve?

Reducing carbon emissions and tackling the climate emergency is a huge challenge for everybody, but through our City Leap Energy Partnership, we’ve secured the funding, knowledge, and resources to accelerate our progress.

Collaborative action will usher a period of extraordinary innovation, investment, and growth – helping to make the just transition to net zero and securing Bristol’s reputation as a leading clean energy city for many years to come.

City Leap is a big deal for Bristol – it’s the most ambitious and exciting energy project that we have embarked on to accelerate clean energy investment and is a big step towards decarbonising our whole city and on our journey to net zero. 

Marvin and a small group of people wearing high visibility vests, stand on scaffolding in a construction site. The Bristol City leap logo is in the top right of the image, the Mayor of Bristol logo is in the bottom left.

Delivering progress on our new Local Plan

Today’s blog is by Councillor Nicola Beech, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning, Resilience and Floods and Labour Councillor for St George Central ward.

The overarching planning document that maps out how and where Bristol will develop over the next 20 years is now out for consultation. The Bristol Local Plan is being reviewed and we want people in the city to give us their views.

The Bristol Local Plan is important because it will:

• guide development across the city over the next twenty years
• update all existing policies for deciding planning applications
• deliver new development that supports net zero and helps nature to recover

Reviewing an entire city’s Local Plan is a long, detailed process. We have been working on the new plan for nearly five years, its progress held back by the challenges of planning across the whole region. Now we are ready to share our plan, working with our neighbouring councils where we need to, with the aim to get a new Local Plan in place before the end of 2024.

The new Local Plan will deliver the inclusive, sustainable growth we need by enabling new homes and new workplaces to be built. The document takes on the complex challenge of doing this in the face of the climate and ecological emergencies.

The need for affordable homes and delivering them in sustainable ways in the right places is a core priority for the next 20 years. We need to deliver more homes and regenerate our neighbourhoods to tackle Bristol’s housing crisis and make homes more affordable.

The types of homes we build, and where we build them, will be the biggest determinants of the carbon price the planet pays for our population growth – so it is essential we prioritise brownfield sites and build densely wherever appropriate to reduce pressure on greenbelt sites.

The consultation takes the local plan’s commitments to our environment a step further. It contains ideas that will result in a plan with a stronger focus on net zero and ecology than ever before. Since the current Local Plan was agreed in 2014, we now include new policies on biodiversity and proposes changes of approach at sites such as the Western Slopes, Brislington Meadows, and Yew Tree Farm that aim to give priority to nature conservation and food growing.

This latest consultation sets out drafts of additional policies that are proposed to be included in the new Local Plan. The results of the last consultation, held in 2019, have also been used to inform this next stage.

So, what’s new?


• an ambitious housing target is proposed for Bristol based on the city’s capacity to deliver new homes in a sustainable way

• a draft policy on affordable housing to set out the ideas for how new affordable homes will be delivered as part of housing developments


• new draft policies are included on biodiversity and nature recovery to encourage biodiversity gain within developments

Strong local centres and a thriving economy

• a revised network of local centres across the city

• draft policies to support the vitality and diversification of centres and promote a thriving hospitality economy which supports shopping, city and local centres, and the night time economy


• new draft policies to promote food sustainability and support food growing provision

• a new suite of draft policies to address how buildings use energy and can help to deliver a net zero future and tackle the climate crisis

Other updates

• a vision and aims were included in the 2019 consultation for the first-time and these have been updated to reflect latest thinking

• a new framework for design policy is set out that details how design guides and codes will be used

• a new draft policy for advertisement consent applications

This is an important stage in making a new Local Plan for our city, so it is the ideal time to check and comment on the document: to make sure this iteration reflects our shared priorities for the city. Your input and priorities will then influence the main document that guides our partners and developers to deliver the type of development Bristol needs most.

So please do take part, think about what development means to you, and have your say while the consultation is live.

The timescale to get to our new complete local plan is as follows:

• 28 November 2022 to 20 January 2023 – further consultation on the plan’s latest policies and proposals
• Summer 2023 – plan published for representations
• Early 2024 – examination by planning inspector
• Autumn 2024 – new Local Plan adopted

A milestone for clean air in Bristol

Today we have reached an important milestone. Bristol’s Clean Air Zone has officially launched.

We have always sought to reduce air pollution in Bristol to improve our city’s health but we’re also mindful of the financial strain people are under at the moment. We have worked to find a way to clean up our air, while also providing support to those who need it most.

Back in 2021, we secured a package of £42 million funding to help people to find ways to make their journeys in and around our city more sustainable. To date, the council has had over 6,000 applications for financial support such as grants and loans to change or upgrade their vehicles. Over 1,500 applications for temporary exemptions have been approved, mostly to our Blue Badge holders, and over 8,000 active travel offers such as bus tickets and Voi scooter credit have been given out.

I would encourage everyone to try out our bus, train, and park and ride services as an alternative way to travel around Bristol, and we still have free vouchers available to help you give these options a go. We can’t take on the task of delivering clean air alone. We need everyone in Bristol to play their part.

You can visit the council website for more information on how to register your interest, as well as more information about the zone boundary map to help you best plan your journeys.

No vehicles are banned from entering the central zone, but drivers of older and more polluting vehicles will incur a charge. You can check if your vehicle will be charged via Bristol remains very much open to all residents, visitors and businesses. We’re particularly excited to welcome visitors and tourists into the city during the busy Christmas period. If you have any concerns about which routes to take or need some advice, remember you can email our Travel Advisers on

Daily charges apply 24 hours a day (midnight to midnight), seven days a week, all year round. It’s really important that people remember they will not receive written notification or any kind of alert that they have entered Bristol Clean Air Zone or that a payment is due – this is down to individuals and businesses to manage.

Charges must be paid within six days of the journey via or by calling the Clean Air Zone support line on 0300 029 8888 (Monday to Friday: 8am to 7pm, Saturday: 8am to 2pm). Smartphone users can also pay using free-to-use apps like Caura.

Business owners can sign up to the Business Accounts Feature via, to set up a Bristol-specific account to help manage payment for multiple vehicles entering and exiting the Zone.

Roadside signage will show when you’re entering or approaching the zone. Some signs count down how many miles to go until the zone starts to give you plenty of time to consider your route, and others have a green cloud symbol on, with the letter ‘D’ inside.

Go to the Clean Air for Bristol website to find out more about Bristol’s Clean Air Zone and the small actions you can take to help too.

Bristol at the COP27 climate summit

The momentum for the role of cities in tackling climate change is growing. The UN COP27 climate summit outcome recognises the role of multi-level stakeholders including cities and local government in taking climate action and the need for increased collaboration. There was the first ever COP Ministerial meeting on Urbanization and Climate Change where city voices were represented. We also saw the launch of the Sustainable Urban Resilience for the Next Generation (SURGe), the first Presidency-led cities’ initiative in the COP process, which aims to accelerate local climate action. The role of young people in climate action and as part of national and COP formal processes was also encouraged.  

However, there is still a missed opportunity for having representation of the voices of cities and local government formally at the table with national leaders as part of the COP process. It is essential that mayors and city leaders continue to collaborate and raise cities’ voices internationally (through networks such as ICLEI and C40) to help shape the global context that impacts our cities.

I attended the COP27, focused around Finance Day, representing Bristol and other UK cities as part of the Cities Climate Investment Commission (3Ci), in partnership with C40 and as a member of the Local Governments and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) delegation coordinated by ICLEI. 70% of global emissions come from cities but we are also the places most able to deliver the transformation needed. So, my decision to go to COP was simple. Cities are where the battle against climate change will be won or lost.

Climate finance was a key focus for this COP, including the role of private finance. The implementation plan highlights that a global transformation to a low-carbon economy is expected to require investments of at least $4-6 trillion a year, with a comprehensive transformation of the international finance system. There was a ground-breaking announcement for a Loss and Damage Fund to assist developing countries in responding to loss and damages they have incurred through climate change; and there was a call to finance institutions to raise ambition, change models and instruments to increase access to finance.

Bristol and all cities need to secure private sector funding to deliver a just transition to net zero, as the scale and speed needed means going beyond the public purse.  

At COP, with 3Ci and with other influential partners including C40 and the UN High Level Champion, we ran a series of events convening cities, investors, and government on what is needed to ensure successful public-private collaboration and unlock the private finance needed for a just transition of cities to net zero. The Government missed the chance to get us, and other key players, together before COP27 – though we were able to connect at His Majesty The King’s reception at Buckingham Palace. Now, national leaders should join local and industry leaders to continue dialogue and collaboration post COP.

  And we will continue this dialogue and collaboration post COP.

Our messages are clear:  

  • There’s no time to lose: cities are on the front line of the climate crisis and the infrastructure development needed is significant. Innovative approaches to public / private collaboration therefore need speed and scale.
  • The earlier the better: we want to work with investors early on to develop projects together than can be taken to the market.
  • National governments need to invest now: to support city / investor engagement, the bottlenecks of risk and capacity that will unlock private finance, saving public resources in the long term and unlocking the net zero potential of cities.
  • Cities are an opportunity for place-based investment: private investors are increasingly looking to deliver social and environmental outcomes.
  • Scale is needed: if urban net zero projects are to attract private and institutional capital, building aggregated project pipelines is essential like we are doing in Bristol through City Leap and as part of 3Ci.

We’re leading

Bristol is a leading voice on addressing the climate crisis. We were the first city in the UK to declare a climate emergency and I moved the LGA declaration for over 400 other councils. We declared an ecological emergency and have been recognised by the UK Climate Change Committee for our approach.

Bristol is tackling the climate crisis in a variety of different ways. We’re taking time to engage with all communities and businesses in our city to identify barriers and solutions to meet our carbon neutral ambitions. We have opened a new £7 million reuse and recycling centre on Hartcliffe Way.

We’re working with Business West and business leaders in our city to develop and promote our Climate Ask. Alongside this, we have a working relationship with six community partners from every corner of the city to ensure our transition to net zero is just and inclusive, and are supporting one of them to build the country’s largest on-shore wind turbine.

We’re investing

Our One City Climate Strategy sets out our plans to become climate resilient by 2030. Our £4 million climate and ecological emergency programme is underway, through which we have produced our Climate and Ecological Emergency Action Plans; developed our new Healthy and Sustainable Procurement policy; started leading a programme of public engagement, including 18 Climate Action Story videos and Climate Action Hub website. We have also launched the new Bristol Good Food 2030 website, provided support to businesses in partnership with Bristol Green Capital Partnership through the Climate Leaders and Climate Action programmes. We have launched the innovative Keep Bristol Cool mapping tool and City Pack which describes how our city’s climate is likely to change. We’ve taken responsibility to coordinate and support the whole city to plan to become net zero.

As a council, we’ve halved our direct emissions since 2015 and aim to reduce our own emissions to zero by 2025. We are pursuing this target through increased use of renewable energy such as replacing all our streetlighting with over 27,000 low energy LED bulbs, powering our buildings with renewable energy, and introducing sustainable procurement.

We’re enabling large-scale changes to the city’s infrastructure and transport networks, and have pedestrianised parts of the Old City, introduced bus priority and made walking and cycling improvements. Alongside this we have piloted School Streets, offered active travel packages for residents, and introduced over 100 biog-as buses.

As well as our own investment, we’ve secured an initial £424 million of investment in clean energy through City Leap. This will create 1,000 new jobs and cut around 140,000 tonnes of carbon emissions across our city over the first five years of the twenty-year partnership. We’ve committed to making our homes more efficient, spending £97 million to improve the energy efficiency of council-owned homes.

We’re innovating

As well as tried and tested means of reducing the emissions of the city and the council, we’re at the forefront of UK innovation with some of our projects.  As part of our heat decarbonisation promise, we’ve built the largest ground source heat-pump in the UK, which has won national awards. We’ve developed a unique mapping tool to identify areas of the city most vulnerable to heatwaves, to guide our planning in the present into the future.

We’re asking

The reality is, Bristol requires around £10 billion to decarbonise the city. The council is only responsible for around 0.5% of the city’s total (scope 1 and 2) emission, so the only way to achieve this necessary transition is to secure the investment we desperately need

Bristol is involved in the Cities Commission for Climate Investment (3Ci) (an initiative hosted in the UK’s innovation accelerator, Connected Places Catapult) which is enabling us to scale up our approach to cover the at least £10 billion needed to decarbonise the energy and transport in our city, that goes beyond Council owned assets. It aims to address the issue of scale through the development of a national project pipeline that will include our projects, a technical capacity building programme to support cities, a blended funding model and engagement with government and investors.

I want to thank 3Ci, as without their funding this important trip wouldn’t have been possible. UK Core Cities, including Bristol, are one of the founding partners, and we hosted an investment conference in Bristol in September.

Climate Ask

Businesses all over Bristol are already stepping up and doing their bit to help get our city to next zero.

But we really need more businesses and organisations to join the Bristol Climate Ask.

Sign up today and we can support you with finding the help and funding you need to create your plan to become net zero.

We are also asking you, as an individual, member of a community, employee, trader, or member of the media, to play your part. You might believe that your actions don’t make a difference, but they do. Changing one thing makes a difference, they only way we can create systemic change is together.

UK Cities Climate Investment Commission (3Ci) kindly covered the costs of my return travel, visa, and accommodation for attendance at COP27, as an Advisory Board Member and recognising Bristol’s national and global leadership role in tackling climate change.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2022

Major sporting events are often occasions when we see a mix of joy and disappointment spread across the country depending on how well your team does. But these events are sadly often associated with a surge in domestic violence. As the world’s attention turns to the latest Men’s FIFA World Cup, we are also thinking of those will experience violence and abuse during this time, especially today, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls, which marks the beginning of the annual campaign of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.

Violence against women and girls can mean different things: including domestic abuse; sexual violence and rape; coercive control; stalking and harassment; trafficking of women; Female Genital Mutilation; intimidation and harassment at work, in education, or in public; forced prostitution; forced marriage; and ‘honour’ crimes. Whatever shape it takes, it is unacceptable.

Here in Bristol, we have made a commitment, through the work of the Mayoral Commission on Domestic Abuse, to make our city a zero-tolerance city, where domestic abuse and sexual violence is not tolerated, and where survivors are supported.

It is estimated that around 67,150 individuals aged 16 or over will have experienced domestic abuse over their lifetime in Bristol. We want to end violence against women, this year we have put in place more services and initiatives where survivors can speak up and disclose their experience whilst also making sure we call out perpetrators for their harmful behaviour.

Next Link relaunching as Next Link Plus

Mayor Marvin Rees, Councillor Ellie King and Councillor Helen Holland stand alongside members of next link and others. They are standing in front of Bristol city hall with signs, marking International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

We have been working with Next Link for over 23 years and recently they have been recommissioned to continue to provide domestic abuse services in Bristol for the next four and a half years.

As lead provider, Next Link have joined with 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 support to all adults and child survivors of domestic abuse in Bristol.

This broader support for domestic abuse victims is needed now more than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic was especially difficult for victims and survivors for many reasons, victims were being trapped in their homes with their abusers and not being able to easily access the services where they can get help. Now it’s the cost-of-living crisis that is having a major impact on many people’s lives. Next Link Plus is seeing an increasing number of people experiencing economic abuse, which makes it harder for them to leave their abusive partners.

IRISi new intervention ADVISE

When domestic violence and abuse is disclosed, the information is often shared with a health professional, but many do not feel confident providing support. To make sure more professionals are comfortable doing so, together with South Gloucestershire Council, we have launched a new service in local sexual health clinics.

IRISi Assessing for Domestic Violence and Abuse in Sexual Health Environment (ADViSE) programme is delivered at Unity Sexual Health clinics. Women affected by domestic abuse and sexual violence are three times more likely to have gynaecological and sexual health problems. Therefore, they present at a sexual health clinic more often. In response, staff have been trained to identify and respond to the signs of both domestic and sexual violence and abuse and directly refer patients to a specialist service for support available on site.

Respite Rooms

Working with St Mungo’s and Next Link, we opened Respite Rooms back in October 2021. The Respite Rooms offer immediate safe spaces for women who have experienced domestic abuse, violence, rape or sexual assault, sex work or exploitation and who are sleeping rough or at risk of doing so. This service offers short term intensive support and emergency accommodation for women who other refuge provision may not be appropriate for and who need more specialised, trauma and gender informed support. Women are then supported to move on to what best suits their needs and to access appropriate services moving forward.

The opening of the Respite Rooms has been heralded as an exemplar, and we recently had the pleasure of showing the Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales, Nicole Jacobs, the great work the rooms are doing for survivors.

A lit candle in the dark, at Next Links vigil for International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Survivors Forum

The Keeping Bristol Safe Partnership’s Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Survivor Forum has been set up to hear and respond to the experiences and needs of women who have lived through domestic abuse and sexual violence.

The DASV Forum meets fortnightly with leading professionals from Avon and Somerset Police, our Public Health team, and other statutory services to explain to professionals the real impact of domestic abuse on individuals and families. The Forum is made up of a diverse group of incredibly courageous women, and works hard to educate, improve and challenge systems, services and responses to domestic abuse and sexual violence in Bristol.

Bristol Nights Women’s Safety Charter and It’s Not OK campaign

Back in March, Bristol Nights launched a Women’s Safety Charter, working alongside the council, Bristol’s Violence Against Women and Girls specialists, night-time venues and Avon and Somerset Police. Most women surveyed by Bristol Nights said they have experienced some level of harassment on a night out. The Women’s Safety Charter calls on all organisations to join in tackling gender inequality and make Bristol a fair and inclusive city. By coming together, we can make a joint effort in improving the safety of women, and everyone, at night.

Bristol Nights also launched their It’s Not OK campaign at the beginning of the year – a campaign designed to call out bad behaviours and communicate Bristol’s zero-tolerance policy to harassment of women.

Remembering the lives that have been lost

As we work towards making Bristol a zero-tolerance city, it is important that we remember and honour those who have sadly suffered gender-based violence. Yesterday, Next Link Plus and I, held a candle lit vigil which started at Queen Square before making their way to College Green.

City Hall was also lit up yesterday, alongside the vigil, ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and to remember the women and girls who have lost their lives.

We are proud of all the work that we have supported and achieved this year. We can only hope that by encouraging more people to speak out when they face abuse and providing services where they can reach safety and support, that it will bring us a step closer to becoming a city that is safe for all.

Getting help

If you or someone you know is or has been affected by domestic abuse, you can access support via:

  • Next Link Plus service 0800 4700 280
  • National Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 2000 247
  • Always call 999 in an emergency

Making Bristol’s transport network safer for all

Transport in Bristol is a challenge regardless of your mode of travel. Bristol is a historic city with many protected buildings with old, constrained roads, covering a small area for our rapidly growing population. Shorter-term issues, like the shortage of bus drivers at First Bus, are causing huge frustration for us now, but our transport network has even deeper flaws.

Bristol has had no mass transit system for decades and underinvestment in infrastructure for even longer. Compounding those problems was a post-war rebuilding of our city imagined at a time when the motorcar was king.

We continue to face these challenges while modernising our infrastructure, pedestrianising swathes of our city, and growing our economy inclusively and sustainably.

When dealing with transport planning, the single biggest flaw is to approach the challenge through a single prism and a single focus. Our challenge is to enable people’s movement while bringing people with us on a journey to sustainable, efficient, low carbon travel.

Many campaigns struggle: alienating and isolating people, building barriers to growing support for change.

More immediately, our cycling plans are published in our Local Cycling Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP). Our driver for the LCWIP proposals have been the clear disparity of cycling journeys to work between wealthier and more deprived areas of the city. This plan contains routes to enable the growth of cycling amongst more disadvantaged communities.

In addition to the above all developments and infrastructure plans, we want to maximise the inclusion of safe cycling with segregation where possible. We’re also investing in a new £14 million Family Cycling Centre in Lawrence Weston, where cycle training will take place as part of a wider family cycling offer.

Active Travel England have set out standards that we aspire to where they are deliverable. We want to deliver infrastructure which enables growth of cycling amongst more disadvantaged communities.

As part of our work with the West of England Combined Authority we’ve been able to begin the project for a programme of cycle hangars in the city. We will use the funding which will be made available at the January committee to prioritise cycle hangars for council blocks. The project scored blocks against strategic criteria such as their links to strategic cycling network, levels of deprivation, and car ownership. This identified 168 cycle hangar spaces for sixteen sites, and we’ll begin installation next year.

Bristol has a clear transport hierarchy which prioritises pedestrians and then cyclists. Our work to bring e-scooters to Bristol and the huge take up they have seen has also driven alternative travel to cars, taking around 3 million car journeys off our roads and saving hundreds of thousands of kilos of CO2 emissions.

It is important to address issues with Bristol’s transport infrastructure in a way that benefits all residents and the different methods of travel.

Moving traffic offences make our roads unsafe for all road users and pedestrians. People with limited mobility and additional access requirements are especially vulnerable to people who ignore the rules of the road. These offences include driving through a ‘No Entry’ sign, going the wrong way in a one-way street, turning left or right where this is not permitted, and driving where and when motor vehicles are not allowed. In December’s Cabinet meeting we will consider a report that applies to the Secretary of State for Transport for new powers over moving traffic violations to Bristol. More details on the six enforcement sites are available here.

This is an example of a multi-issue, focused approach to improving Bristol’s transport network, that makes travel safer for cyclists, pedestrians, and all road users.

We are introducing a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) to Bristol. While three-quarters of cars won’t be affected, high polluting cars will be charged for driving through a city centre zone. The CAZ will clean up the air that we all breathe, and our £42 million support fund is helping people and businesses to upgrade their vehicles. This is a holistic approach to improving how we can travel across our city. At the same time as reducing congestion and making travel easier, it will improve the health of cyclists, walkers, and residents traveling through Bristol.

Read my article with Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, in the New Statesman, highlighting the importance of cleaning up the air we breathe.  

Our mass transit plans have progressed and are ready to be completed by the next administration and the combined authority. This is the single most transformation approach to transport in our city for a century and will remove more car journeys than any other initiative, paving the way for far greater implementation of segregated cycling and active travel like other modern cities. 

Carers Rights Day support for unpaid carers on the cost-of-living crisis

Today’s guest blog is from Tim Poole, CEO of Carers Support Centre

We are celebrating Carers Rights Day today and here at Carers Support Centre we are holding a free support event to discuss the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and its effects on carers in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. We are also providing practical support and information at the event to help carers access support.

The current cost-of-living crisis is affecting everyone in the UK. With inflation having topped 10% for the first time since 1982 many people are finding it more difficult to make ends meets. 

It is the case that while all are being affected to some degree, some are affected more than others and often carers are amongst the hardest hit. 

The result of the crisis for carers is that it has created unprecedented pressure, not only affecting their finances but their health and wellbeing, adding to an already poor outlook for carers.

In trying to tackle the crisis, carers can be doubly constrained. Because of their caring responsibilities many are limited in the amount of income they can bring into the household. Additionally, carers have areas of expenditure that they just can’t afford to cut back on. 

An image from Carers Support Centre's Carer's Right's Day event, the crowd are watching a presentation.
Carers Support Centre’s Carer’s Rights Day Event

Recent research by Carers Trust shows that 48% of all unpaid family carers have had to give up work because of their caring role. The research also showed that 62% of unpaid family carers were spending 50 hours or more per week caring for a family member.  More time spent on caring responsibilities is less time to go out and earn an income.

So, less earned income which places an increased reliance on benefits. In itself the eligibility rules for claiming the main benefit for carers, Carers Allowance, severely restricts a carer’s earning ability. And if you are eligible, at just £69.70 per week Carers Allowance is lower than other comparable benefits like Job Seeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit and far less than in other European countries. It is woefully inadequate to meet the carer’s needs and the needs of those they care for.

Against that background of reduced income what money is coming into a carer’s household is buying less as inflation takes hold. Energy bills are the most obvious example of rising prices, but most people are noticing the effects on other everyday costs like the price of food.  

While many examine their household budget to see where cutbacks can be made, for many carers this just can’t be done without endangering the health and welfare of the person, or people, they care for. There are items that carers can’t cut back on, like special food items, laundry bills and the cost of equipment to help the person they care for.

With reduced income and increased expenditure, the cost-of-living crisis has added to an already gloomy picture for unpaid carers.

Carers have been under enormous pressure over the last two years due to the pandemic. Many were only just beginning to feel there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Unfortunately, for many of them that light is the oncoming pressures of the cost-of-living crisis. An increasing number of carers are contacting us, worried about the future for both the person they care for and themselves.

Carers Rights Day logo, with a red megaphone and white text on red background.

On Carers Rights Day, Carers Support Centre is once again calling on the Government to stop ignoring unpaid carers. Instead, they should be made a priority group for the extra financial support they so desperately need and deserve.  

At Carers Support Centre we are a charity which provides support, information and advice to unpaid carers living in the Bristol and South Gloucestershire areas – people of any age supporting family or friends who could not manage without their help.

You can find out more about our services for carers at

Bristol’s progress on SEND

Today’s blog is by Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor of Bristol with responsibilities including Education and Children’s Services.

Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) returned to Bristol last month to assess whether special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services have improved since their last visit in 2019. We are pleased that their report recognises that our Local Area has made sufficient progress in addressing four of the five key areas of weakness highlighted in the initial Ofsted/CQC inspection in 2019, improving outcomes for children and young people (CYP) with SEND.

This reflects the dedication of staff to implement service improvements at pace over the last three years, despite the additional challenges of the pandemic. The full report has been published on Bristol’s Local Offer website, before Ofsted and the CQC publish it themselves on Friday.

While inspectors found that we had not made sufficient progress in addressing the difficult relationships with parents and carers identified in 2019, it is welcome that they found that “the majority of parents and carers accessing services and support more recently, are positive about their experience”. We will continue to work hard to deliver further progress, as we build on ongoing work to improve relationships through a community of groups approach.

The report also notes that inclusion is central to Bristol’s Belonging Strategy, which was co-produced with children and young people from across our city: putting their voices, needs and ambitions for the future at the heart of Bristol’s recovery from the pandemic. Launched in October last year, the strategy supports the One City aim that everyone in Bristol will have the best start in life, gaining the support and skills they need as they grow up to thrive and prosper in adulthood.

Ofsted/CQC’s observations and comments on our progress

  • Improvements in accountability are leading to better support for children and young people (CYP) with SEND and school leaders value the transformation of systems and processes that has taken place since the previous inspection.
  • The identification and assessment of CYP with SEND in Bristol is improving, with the Ordinarily Available Provision document detailing interventions to meet needs, within typical school assessment and support processes. There has been a cultural shift in the way that professionals and schools, work together which is improving the way that they work together to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND.
  • Effective joint working between professionals has resulted in real improvements to the timeliness and quality of education, health and care (EHC) plans. There is a stronger focus on improving outcomes and ensuring the child or young person and their family’s voice has been captured. This work is resulting in children and young people being placed at the centre of the EHC assessment process.
  • The support in Bristol for children and young people with SEND is getting better. Even so, leaders know there is more to do to ensure that all children and young people attend school regularly. The proportion of children and young people with an EHC plan who have been excluded from school has fallen. A range of strategies have been introduced to ensure that pupils who are at risk of exclusion get the help they need from schools and professionals.
  • Parents and carers have a more mixed view of the quality of support available to children and young people with SEND than at the time of the last inspection. Some parents and carers continue to lack trust in the system and feel that leaders are not acting in the best interests of their children. However, the majority of parents and carers accessing services and support more recently, are positive about their experience. Plans are progressing to re-establish a formal body to represent parents and carers.

Improving SEND services remains a priority for Bristol City Council, with dedicated council staff and SEND leaders working alongside our partners in health, education, parents/carers and CYP with a deeply held, shared commitment to improving outcomes for CYP and their families. Our work is underpinned by our strategic approach outlined in the Bristol Children’s Charter and the Bristol Equality Charter, as well as the Mayor’s pledge to provide 450 new specialist school places, which is on track to be delivered in 2023.

The Council and local area partners including health will now work with the Department for Education (DfE) and NHS England to determine next steps and look to build on this progress. Our focus will be on how we can better communicate and work with all our parents and carers, ensuring that the parent, carer and young person’s voice – in all its diversity – is at the heart of our co-production work in SEND.

Please follow the Bristol Local Offer Facebook page for more updates on our Ofsted/CQC progress.