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UN International Day of Disabled People

Today’s guest blog is from Alun Davies, Chair of the new Bristol Disability Equality Commission

I am Alun Davies. I became chair of Bristol’s new Disability Equality Commission in September. This is my second contribution to the Mayor’s blog.

Before I give you an update on what I have been doing since September, I would like to talk about the United Nations International Day of Disabled People which takes place on 3rd  December. For me, this day is a timely reminder of the millions of Disabled people through-out the world who are denied really basic civil and human rights, choice equality and services. There are still many countries in the world where basic needs are not met, and services taken for granted elsewhere in the world do not exist for everyone. In many of these places Disabled people are often at the bottom of the pile if they are even considered at all.

It is of course understandable that we focus on making things better in Bristol and this country as that is where we live. Personally though, I think we must never miss the opportunity to remember we are part of a much bigger global community. I will be asking the Commission when we are working to mark each December 3rd with a call on every country that has not yet ratified the International Convention on the Rights of Disabled people to do so, and for all countries including this one to fully implement all aspects of the convention.

My focus since my last blog has been recruiting Disabled people to be commissioners. After an extensive publicity campaign, we have received over 20 applications. We will be interviewing over the next few weeks. I hope to announce the names of the commissioners by the end of January, and for the commission to meet for the first time in mid-February.

I have also chaired the first meeting of a task and finish group the Mayor asked me to set up. This group will be developing an action plan to implement the recommendations from the Building Rights report. The report, written by Sir Stephen Bubb, investigated the experiences of several people with autism and people with learning difficulties in the city. It revealed many challenges and concerns that the Mayor and all people engaged in working with and supporting people with Autism and people with learning difficulties in the city are determined to tackle. The group will report by March next year.

If anyone would like to contact me directly, please email the Commission’s general inbox: general.bdec@gmail.com

Tackling modern slavery

Today’s blog, to mark the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, is by Jaya Chakrabarti MBE, CEO of TISC Report and President of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce & Initiative. (Copyright: PA Photos)

Seven years ago I met an inspirational chap, Andrew Wallis (now with a well earned OBE). Andrew was (and still is) the CEO of the award winning anti-slavery charity Unseen, and he explained to me what human trafficking and modern slavery were. I was horrified, having led an incredibly sheltered life, as middle class Indian girls tend to lead. But I was finally able to understand where the street kids I played with in my childhood in my grandmother’s village had gone. They didn’t move. They were most likely trafficked across the border of Bangladesh and India.

I committed my geeky data skills that day to playing my part in putting an end to the systems that facilitated such terrible exploitation and misery for countless human beings. It was when, in my head, TISCreport.org (our Transparency in Supply Chains reporting platform) was born. 

We began, as data scientists, by monitoring compliance with the newly enacted Section 54 of the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015. Data flooded in from Companies House, Open Corporates, and a number of ethical companies willing to share their statements and their supplier lists. Nearly 18,000 large corporations in the UK were in scope, and through them, their supply chains. We had a huge task ahead. 

Six years later, we now know so much more about both the world of compliance and its connection with what happens to workers at the end of those supply chains. Exploitation happens not just out there in faraway lands but also much closer to home. TISCreport.org became a place where we were able to start to see patterns in corporate behaviour, and how they affected workers rights. Our systems were able to see things coming, from the collapse of Carillion to the reports of modern slavery in Boohoo’s supply chains in Leicester. 

It fills me with pride to say that my city, Bristol, was the first to commit to supply chain transparency in the UK, and in fact the world. Many have followed the lead we have set. The Welsh Government, with whom we work closely, has built upon Section 54 with its own ethical employment code of practice for all 22 Welsh local authorities. The Coop Party’s Modern Slavery Charter also encouraged many of its councils to sign up, with Bristol among the first to sign. 

Now, as 2021 comes to a close, we understand that we can use the same supply chains to amplify and accelerate our environmental actions. As it turns out, if we need to rewire the planet, supply chains are a good place to start! 

We may not have ended exploitation yet, but our data and the work of countless others has proven the interconnectedness between social and environmental justice. We’ve never been in a better position to take action on both. We just need to make what we do in 2022 count.

If your organisation wants to join the corporate transparency movement, you can join tiscreport.org for free. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

World AIDS Day 2021

Today’s blog is by Aled Osborne, Community Engagement Manager at Brigstowe.

World AIDS Day is an annual event held on 1 December. It is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness.

End inequalities. End AIDS. End pandemics.

This World AIDS Day, UNAIDS is highlighting the urgent need to end the inequalities that drive AIDS and other pandemics around the world. Without bold action against inequalities, the world risks missing the target to end HIV transmission by 2030, as well as a prolonged COVID-19 pandemic and a spiralling social and economic crisis. Economic, social, cultural, and legal inequalities must be ended as a matter of urgency if we are to end HIV transmissions and HIV stigma by 2030.

Although there is a perception that a time of crisis is not the right time to prioritise tackling underlying social injustices, it is clear that without doing so the crisis cannot be overcome.

AIDS- “Don’t die of ignorance”, Tombstones, “Gay Virus”, “AIDS is the wrath of God”, for many, are the first things that still come to mind when we talk about HIV. These campaigns, adverts and rhetoric were all too common in the 80’s and 90’s and have probably been the most effective marketing campaigns this country has seen.

Tackling stigma

It’s 40 years since the first diagnosed case of HIV and although we have seen incredible medical advancements, social attitudes still very much remain in the past. We live in Space Age times with some Stone Age minds. Stigma and discrimination are the biggest challenges people living with HIV still face. One in three people living with HIV have faced discrimination. Stigma can have a huge impact on people’s lives. It can prevent people from getting tested and for people living with HIV it can prevent them from taking their life-saving medication, lose family and relationships, lose jobs, be put last on surgery and other medical appointment lists, and prevent them from feeling connected in their local community. These are among the many reasons people living with HIV in the UK are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression.

It is a very exciting time for work ending HIV in Bristol. As well as being a part of the Fast Track Cities Initiative, a global movement bringing city partners and the public together to accelerate our work towards ending HIV, we also have two ground breaking projects happening. Common Ambition Bristol is a major three-year community empowered project led by Brigstowe and African Voices Forum working with African and Caribbean heritage communities in Bristol to reduce HIV diagnosis, stigma and generally improve sexual health. We also have Hearts and Minds, a collaborative community project finding new ways to reduce HIV related stigma in healthcare. This is being facilitated by Catherine Dodds, a long standing HIV researcher from University of Bristol and Rising Arts Agency.

Did you know?

  • U=U. Undetectable=Untransmittable. This means people living with HIV on effective treatment cannot pass the virus onto their sexual partners.
  • Babies without HIV can be born to parents with HIV.
  • One third of people living with HIV in the UK are women.
  • The numbers of people being diagnosed with HIV through heterosexual sex is the same as the number being diagnosed through men having sex with men.
  • You cannot acquire HIV through saliva or sharing cutlery, toothbrushes and towels.

In 2021, these messages and information is what needs to be shared.

Show your support

There are many things you can do this World AIDS Day to show your support.

  1. Attend Bristol’s World Aids Day vigil on Wednesday 1 December at 6.30pm.
  2. Wear a Red Ribbon and wear it with pride!
  3. Donate £10 to Brigstowe so they can continue their vital work – text HIV to 70085
  4. If you are passing Bristol Temple Meads, Ashton Gate Stadium, or City Hall on 1 December then take a picture of the buildings illuminated red and share on social media tagging Brigstowe

For more information on the work Brigstowe do and the support they provide, please visit www.brigstowe.org

Omicron

I want to start today’s blog with a thank you, to all of our Bristol residents for your continued efforts to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and protect our communities in Bristol. Many of you have continued to wear your face covering on public transport and when shopping; kept washing your hands frequently; and balanced your own risks to protect yourself, our frontline workers, and your friends and family.

The virus is still circulating as we head into another tough winter for our NHS and social care keyworkers, and infection rates in Bristol remain high. With the new COVID-19 Omicron variant, first identified by scientists in South Africa, we are now fighting on another front.

In October, we took a united, joined up Bristol position, encouraging and expecting Bristolians to continue with the public health behaviours we have become so accustomed to over the last two years. And with national rules back in force today to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant and save lives, I want to emphasise the importance of these behaviours in keeping our lives open and full of activity and opportunity.

Remember:

  • If you are unwell, recover at home, and do not go into work or visit vulnerable friends and family members. Even if you have mild cold-like symptoms, this could be very serious for someone else, and you don’t know if you might also be carrying COVID-19.
  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19, or test positive after taking a lateral flow (rapid) test, self-isolate at home and book a PCR test to confirm the result. Lateral flow tests should be taken before you undertake any potentially risky activity, such as attending a sports match at a stadium or visiting a vulnerable family member.
  • Ventilation and fresh air are still as important as ever, and while I recognise it is more challenging in the colder weather, even opening your windows for 10-15 minutes at a time can have a real impact.
  • Other countries of course have their own COVID-19 rules, including proof of a negative test and proof of vaccination. If you are planning to travel in the next few weeks and months, I urge to you plan ahead for all possibilities, including if you or someone in your party becomes unwell and you need to find somewhere to self-isolate, and further changes to national travel guidance.
  • Vaccination is the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves and our children against ill health, and against new variants of the virus. So, if you’re already eligible for your COVID-19 booster or flu jab, do not delay in booking your appointment. The more people who have their vaccinations, the better our protection against ill health.

These precautionary measures will help us to keep life moving, to support our businesses to stay open and to keep life moving for everyone.

We are kind. We are safe. We are Bristol.

Eliminating Violence against Women

Today’s guest blog is from Claire Bloor, CEO of Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support (SARSAS)

Today is the first day of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, kicking off on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. 

In the wake of the shocking murders of Sarah Everard, Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, and Sabina Nessa this year’s 16 Days of Activism feels more poignant than ever. Coupled with the coverage of the low rates of conviction for gender-based violence, a painful light has been shone on how, in 2021, women are still not safe.  

This year more than ever we welcome a chance to come together and call for change.  We must stand together to end violence against women and girls.

16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that starts every year on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December, Human Rights Day.  Individuals and organisations around the world use the 16 days to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. 

Alongside the work we do, at SARSAS, supporting victim-survivors to rebuild their lives after sexual violence, we’re proud of our campaigning work. We not only want all people affected by sexual violence to have support, but we also work towards ending sexual violence happening in the future. That’s why the “16 Days” is such an important campaign. A global campaign with global significance, it allows all those determined to put an end to gender-based violence to work together. 

This year, at SARSAS, our theme for the 16 days will be ‘Reclaim’. 

  • In a world that objectifies women and girls, it’s time to reclaim our bodies. 
  • In a world that’s designed around the needs of men, it’s time to reclaim our right to public spaces. 
  • In a world where the voices of women from marginalised communities often go unheard, it’s time to reclaim our right to protest and raise those voices up. 

We are calling on all people to join us in reclaiming the right of women and girls, from all walks of life, to live free from sexual violence, on our streets and in our homes! There are lots of ways to get involved:

This evening at 5:30pm, I will be in conversation with our patron, Laura Bates live on Instagram talking about how far we have come in regard to addressing violence against women and girls and how far we still have to go. You can take part by heading to our Instagram page then for the first of our SARSAS Sessions. 

Tonight at 7pm there will be a Reclaim the Night March through Bristol. To find out more head to the event page.  

We’ll also be hosting a Facebook Live on Tuesday 7 December at 6pm with CEOs from the Bristol Sexual Violence Alliance chatting about how we are marking the 16 days with our #CallingForChange campaign. Head to our Facebook page to watch live. 

Up until 10th December, we’ll be posting and sharing different ways that you can take action against gender-based violence. You can follow us on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter to get involved in the 16 Days campaign.  

About SARSAS

SARSAS is a specialist support service for people affected by sexual violence. A passionate team of specialists who stand alongside those impacted by rape and sexual abuse; listening, believing, and supporting them to reclaim their lives. We campaign and raise awareness to stop it happening to others. 

SARSAS offer a helpline and live chat service, e-support, counselling, 1:1 support and group work. All our services are free and confidential.  

For more information on SARSAS go to our website.

Freedom of the City: Daryn Carter

On 9 November, Freedom of the City was awarded to Daryn Carter MBE, the director of Bristol Pride since co-founding the organisation in 2009.

I am proud to have proposed that Daryn be conferred with Freedom of the City, which recognises exceptional contributions to life in Bristol and beyond.

Freedom of the City is a rare honour, with Paul Stephenson and David Attenborough alongside former Prime Ministers and Nobel Laureates on the civic roll. In early December, Val Jeal, founder of local charity One 25, will become the first woman conferred with our highest civic honour.

Under Daryn’s leadership, Bristol Pride has grown its annual event to one of the largest in the country, with an audience of 40,000 in 2019. Daryn’s contribution to building a better, more equal Bristol, and Britain, is truly inspiring: from working with local schools and prisons, to inputting the LGBT+ manifesto into our One City Plan, to campaigning for the legalisation of same sex marriage. He won the Lord Mayor’s Medal in 2014 and, in 2020, was awarded an MBE in Her Majesty the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to the LGBT+ community.

Daryn’s Freedom of the City speech can be watched from 19:30 or read in full below.

I am incredibly humbled and honoured to be awarded freedom of the city.

I have now been working in equalities and diversity for nearly 20 years. From helping to improve engagement and diversity in my roles in recruitment with the BBC and others, to 13 years building Bristol Pride up from scratch to be one of the largest Pride events in the UK, and named in the Top50 Global Pride events and as many opportunities to step up and stand up for equality and injustice as I can in-between.

It is a labour of love and I am sure some of you have heard me say before that I feel that Pride saved my life, attending Brighton Pride showed me that I was not alone and not a freak at one of my darkest times it was hope. I hold that closely to my heart every year planning the festival, I remember what it means to so many and the power that it has to touch hearts and change minds. But it’s not been without challenge and personal sacrifice not just for myself but for those close to me too.

There are things to celebrate and progress made but it can for the most part be a thankless task. As well as the immense pressure of delivering events that champion and also support the community it’s done in the face of increasing tensions in society and it’s hard to be on the front line of this. Being exposed to the prejudice and hatred levelled at people for being who they are, loving who they love or simply existing is one of the biggest challenges of working to creating a better society for all. You have to take the rough with the smooth but it can take its toll. Sadly this tension is only gotten worse, Hate Crime levelled at the LGBT+ community trebled in the last few years with increasing physical violence and if you look at the stats for our Trans community it’s even worse, a rise of over 332%.

It is a stark reminder that there is still a lot more to do and that we all play a part in tackling social injustice, in all forms, to and ensure we stand up to protect and be a voice for all those that we represent regardless.

I said it’s a thankless task and we don’t do it for thanks. We do it because of passion and because it is much needed, but when the thank you’s do come they are truly welcome. This means so much to me.

Thank you.

The promise of a Bristol Local Food Fund

The Bristol Local Food Fund is a bold new idea to tackle food insecurity in our city.

Today’s blog is by Michael Lloyd-Jones, the Founder and Project Coordinator for the Bristol Local Food Fund

In Bristol, around 1 in 20 households in our city experience “moderate to severe” food insecurity, unable to access enough good quality, nutritious food to maintain health and development.

We know that food is fundamental to our lives, intertwined with key aspects of our society, economy, environment, culture, and community. Many of us are fortunate enough to enjoy Bristol’s wonderful food and drink sector, filled with talented local independents, but for tens of thousands of people in our city, it is a world away.

On top of existing structural inequalities, we’re seeing rocketing energy bills, rising food prices, supply chain failures, and recent cuts to Universal Credit conspiring to wreak a very harsh winter on already vulnerable households.

How can we respond to this urgent crisis as well as tackling the recurrent structural issues that cause food insecurity in our communities?

Community food projects across our city are working to reduce food insecurity, delivering solutions that go beyond the emergency provision of food banks and towards more sustainable solutions. These include growing food locally, community cooking classes, distributing nutritious food boxes – including culturally appropriate food for our diverse population – and running affordable social eating spaces.

Projects such as Heart of BS13, Lawrence Weston City Farm, National Food Service Bristol, BS5 Super Supper Club, the MAZI project, Redcatch Community Garden, and countless others are all offering responses to the specific needs of the communities they serve.

But these projects need funding and support to sustain and scale up their work. Not just emergency funding to see communities through this winter, but help to build a fairer food system that ensures everyone in Bristol can access good quality, affordable food.

That’s why we have launched the Bristol Local Food Fund.

We want to bring all the resources of our city together to create a new, accessible source of funding for community food projects. One that prioritises equitable outcomes for communities that experience the greatest disadvantages around food.

To start the fund off, we launched a crowdfunder campaign in October with a target raise of £100,000.

To ensure the fund is accessible, equitable and serves people in the city who are most in need, we will recruit a Citizen’s Panel – a group of people with lived experience of food insecurity – to help design the grant awards process.

The BLFF team is 100% voluntary, and has developed the project in partnership with Bristol City Council, Feeding Bristol, Quartet Community Foundation (on behalf of Bristol City Funds), Bristol Food Network, and Burges Salmon. Quartet will also act as the grant-holding organisation on behalf of the fund.

The crowdfunder campaign launched on October 26th, and we’ve had a fantastic response so far. Over 40 independent food businesses offered thousands of pounds worth of rewards as an incentive for people to donate to the crowdfunder. We’ve connected with business networks such as Bristol Law Society and Business West to explore ways of supporting the fund. Even major ethical brands like Lush and Patagonia are actively promoting the campaign in their Bristol stores.

We know that Bristol has both the will and the wealth to create this fund – so let’s make it a reality.

To donate to the Bristol Local Food Fund, go to www.crowdfunder.co.uk/BLFF

South Bristol Youth Zone consultation

We’re delivering on our manifesto commitment with proposals to build a world-class Youth Zone in South Bristol.

Citizens are now being asked for their views on plans for the £8.4m Youth Zone, as well as the chance to shape how such a project would look.

Delivered by the national charity OnSide, Youth Zones are a network of affordable, high quality spaces with world class facilities, specially designed for children and young people (CYP) aged 8-19, or up to 25 for those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Below is a letter which we are sending to local residents who live near the proposed site, to encourage them to take part in the consultation before it closes on 2 January 2022.

Living Wage Week

It seems that having a job is no longer enough to guarantee security, and it’s a source of national shame that we have so many workers in our country unable to afford the basics and unable to save for the things that matter to them.

Cutting £20-a-week from Universal Credit is the single biggest overnight cut to the basic rate of social security since the Second World War, and working families make up the majority of those who will be affected.

The Real Living Wage is the only wage rate independently calculated based on rising living costs – including fuel, energy, rent and food. A full-time worker earning the new Real Living Wage would earn £1,930 a year more than a worker earning the current government minimum. That’s the equivalent of seven months of food bills or more than five months’ rent based on average household spending in the UK, having a huge impact on households being let down by current government policy.

This morning we hosted our annual Living Wage Week event, bringing together employers across the region to celebrate progress but also recognise the work that still needs to be done when it comes to fair pay. This year marks 20 years of the Living Wage movement, and as we see living costs rise across the board, it seems there has never been a more important time to focus on fair pay.

We were joined by fantastic speakers from Babbasa, Hargreaves Lansdown, Trinity Community Arts, Quirky Campers, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and the Living Wage Foundation. They shared their reasons for becoming accredited Living Wage employers and the current context when it comes to low pay in the UK.

We were also able to share a new video we’ve produced about our city’s commitment to making Bristol a Living Wage City, which you can watch below.

In January of last year, we announced that Bristol had been recognised by the Living Wage Foundation for the efforts of our Action Group in creating a Living Wage City. We are among the first few places to be recognised as part of the Living Wage Places scheme, and the largest city so far.

Since this programme of work started, 65 employers have become Living Wage accredited in the city, which translates to almost 2,500 workers seeing their wages rise in Bristol alone.

Despite progress, almost 12% of jobs in Bristol are paid below the Living Wage. Although I’m pleased to see that this is significantly below the national average, this means there are still 33,000 people in Bristol earning a wage that isn’t linked to the true cost of living.

Fair pay is a cornerstone of a healthy society, impacting on everything from housing to physical and mental wellbeing. Notably, low pay is not evenly distributed across our communities. Women, young people, disabled people and racialised communities are all more likely to experience low pay, and the pandemic has only entrenched these inequalities.

That’s why our ambition is for Bristol to be a city that provides secure, rewarding work and a fair wage for all ages and abilities. This goal is part of our One City Plan – a shared vision of where we want to be by 2050, not written by us, but alongside our city partners.

But paying a Real Living Wage isn’t just a good thing to do for workers, it’s good for business too. 93% of businesses report benefits from accrediting, whether that be improved reputation, better retention of staff or better motivation amongst the workforce.

I’d ask all employers to look at where you can make changes within your own organisations, but also at where you can help us in influencing others in your networks to get involved and consider becoming accredited.

Thank you to our Action Group for their efforts in supporting this work. You can find out more about the journey we’re on and how you can get involved by contacting the team at livingwage@bristol.gov.uk.

Giving thanks to Bristol’s covid marshals

Today’s blog is by Councillor Ellie King, Cabinet Member for Public Health, Communities, and One City, and Labour Councillor for Hillfields

Today, we are celebrating the outstanding community work carried out by Bristol’s COVID marshals, with a new video marking the first anniversary of their introduction to the city.

The team of 16 were initially brought on board on 11 November 2020, as part of Bristol’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the last twelve months, the marshals have achieved so much. They have built trusted relationships with our communities and businesses in Bristol: speaking to people about their concerns, clarifying government guidance, and distributing thousands of documents like safety posters, workplace guides and letters.

They have walked up to 17 miles per day carrying out their important community work, treading Bristol’s streets even when they were completely empty. They have handed out over 86,000 face coverings and thousands of lateral flow tests to the public, equipping people with the tools they need to keep themselves and the people around them safe.

Working closely with the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucester Clinical Commissioning Group (BNSSG CCG), the marshals have also been involved in helping over 100 vaccination clinics run smoothly across different areas of the city. Their involvement has meant that more and more of us have had the opportunity to receive life-saving vaccinations safely.

Two years into this pandemic, it is more important than ever for us to look after and protect each other. That community spirit, duty of care, and generous attitude is what has brought Bristol together during challenging times, and the marshals have truly embodied that. During lockdowns, the ‘Tier’ system and since COVID measures have become de-regulated, the team have checked in on people who are self-isolating or shielding, and helped to deliver that crucial on the ground support to vulnerable areas.

To pay tribute to the tremendous efforts of the marshals, we are sharing a video with contributions from both within the council and partners, including Avon and Somerset Police, and the Bristol, North Somerset, and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) Vaccination Programme.

Please join me in watching and sharing this video, to thank our marshals:

We are so incredibly proud of the work that has been done, and continues to be done to keep us all safe. It is important that we continue to play our part by following the precautionary measures to protect ourselves and others around us.

We are kind. We are safe. We are Bristol.