Category Archives: Health and Wellbeing

Love Parks Week

Today’s blog comes from Deputy Mayor with responsibility for Communities, Equalities and Public Health, Councillor Asher Craig.

Parks have been more important than ever for many people in the past year.

During the pandemic, parks were some of the only spaces where people were able to socialise safely. Access to parks is also good for our mental and physical health, with Natural England finding that 9 in 10 people agree that visiting natural spaces is good for their wellbeing.

That’s why we were determined to keep parks open during the pandemic and why we’re working on a new strategy to ensure the sustainability of our parks for years to come.

Royal Fort Gardens, Bristol.

We’re fortunate to have access to so many great parks and green spaces in Bristol, with studies finding Bristol has the largest amount of green space of any English city. In addition, we are proud to say that in 2015, Bristol became the UK’s first ever European Green Capital.

We’re committed to protecting these spaces and supporting sustainable environments for both people and wildlife. Bristol’s One City Plan includes an ambitious target of doubling the tree canopy by 2045 and supporting the return of species such as pine marten, red kite, and beavers to our natural environments by 2033.

We recognise the role parks play in responding to the ecological emergency. As a result, the One City Environment Board have developed a working group of over 30 organisations across Bristol, with an aim of taking action to restore the natural systems that we all depend on.

Parks are not only vital for nature; our city’s green spaces are used to support events, food growing and organised sport.

We understand as the weather gets hotter and the summer holidays are fast approaching, many of our parks will see a rise in footfall.

If you’re out using our parks, make sure you’re being respectful of others and tidying up after yourself. This is a simple way of helping our staff, other park users and the environment. Keep Britain Tidy have more great information on how we can all take steps to look after our parks.

There are lots of ways you can get involved with improving our parks and green spaces and we always welcome ideas – you can find out more and have your say here on our website. 

Crucially, as restriction lift, we are asking everyone to continue to follow the hands, face, space, fresh air guidance. Many more people will continue to use our parks to see family and friends, or to exercise. Therefore, it is important to reduce our risk of catching or passing on the virus by using green spaces safely.

Covid rates in Bristol are the highest we’ve seen, so let’s do our bit to keep each other safe.

Bedminster Lantern Parade

Today’s guest blog is from Ade Williams, chair of the Bedminster Winter Lantern Parade and Superintendent Pharmacist at Bedminster Pharmacy.

There is great power in togetherness, celebrating each other’s contribution to a joint endeavour. Yet as a society, we are faced with ever-present reminders that our communities are unfairly divided. Sadly the age at which we first experience this only continues to get younger, shattering something that is forever lost.

Over the last 18 months, many of us have discovered an awakened desire to see positive changes in our society. Sadly life with all its demands will start to rob us of the chance to pursue those changes. Do you remember saying, “When this is over, I will not go back to the old ways?”

Ade Williams, Chair of the Bedminster Winter Lantern Parade

Bedminster Winter Lantern Parade has launched a fundraising appeal to raise the £15,000 needed to deliver the tenth anniversary extravaganza, South Bristol’s biggest Winter event. As Chair of the organising steering group, I know a lot about the dedication and work of delivering this event. All the volunteers, artists, teachers, and sponsors that support children across our community express themselves, showcase, and celebrate their work together.

One of the core values of the Parade is that it is proactively inclusive. Children from the nine schools involved represent the ever-increasing rich diversity of our South Bristol communities. Some even over-representing the racial diversity and socio-economic profiles across our shared City.

One of the event’s ambitions is to tackle why some children create lanterns in school but do not participate in the Parade. We feel this is very important. Working with friends and peers to create something exciting must be matched with the joy and thrill of showcasing it. Suppose many more young people can see how much the community loves and appreciates them; the potential fruits of such life experiences can be transformational.

The Parade’s link to better health and wellbeing is an added bonus. Art and creativity are positive health and wellbeing influencers. Collective effort and volunteering increase self-worth while walking the length of the Parade will reduce your blood pressure, burn calories and increase your heart rate — likewise for dancing. As for dancing to the rhythm of the music, you have an expressive licence.

The Bedminster Lantern Parade is a transformational event. Your much needed financial support and contributions enrich our community, sowing seeds to produce a healthier, inclusive, equitable society. Building that better future is the collective effort linking us all together.

Join us here: https://www.lanternparade.org/

Levelling up

The Prime Minister has today set out his ambitions for ‘levelling up’, with the stated aims of improving services and boosting community pride across the UK, seeking to create a more balanced economy. We agree with the ambition to give everyone the chance of a good job on decent pay, and are determined to make Bristol a true Living Wage City – where poverty pay is a thing of the past. Increasing access to opportunity no matter where you live is at the heart of our approach in Bristol and something we should all be working towards as a country.

Levelling up will only be successful if it targets those living in deprivation –  it is vital that ‘levelling up’ policy impacts the communities and groups that need it most.

We encourage Government to focus on the challenges of poverty, social mobility, inequalities, and on the groups most affected by these challenges, that the pandemic has further entrenched. If Government takes too much of a blunt, North versus South approach, those poorer communities, often hidden and invisible across our country and in our major cities, will continue to miss out and get left even further behind.

Bristol is an example of this complexity. We have a fantastic story to tell – a £15 billion economy with sectors of high growth and opportunity. And yet we are one of the most unequal cities in England with six areas in the top 1% most deprived in the UK and 20% of our children at risk of hunger every day. Writing off deprivation in Bristol just because we live further south than, say, Birmingham, would only see more Bristolians fall further south of the poverty line.

The last thing we need is for regions or areas to be set against each other, dictated by competitive funding pots from Whitehall, which inevitably will result in the very people who stand to benefit the most missing out. In recent years, that Bingo-style approach has set hungry children in Bristol against hungry children in Plymouth, and pitted homeless people in Bristol against homeless people in Manchester: for the Prime Minister’s pledge for ‘levelling up’ to be ‘win-win’, we need fundamental change.

What is required is a national approach that recognises that our focus is addressing the big challenges of the day – including the climate and ecological emergencies – in a way which takes all communities forward and provides ample opportunities for everyone.

The Prime Minister  emphasised the role of local leadership as part of ‘levelling up’ places. What local leaders need the most is predictable funding that best enables ourselves and city partners, like our local NHS, charities, and businesses, to come together around long-term plans. The UK is one of the most heavily centralised countries in Europe – that has been known for far longer than I have been Mayor, and even before Boris Johnson was one. For ‘levelling up’ to be truly effective, I would urge Government to release more funding to local places, then step back and help create the space for us to take the opportunities we know we can deliver.

Jiu Jitsu for everyone!

Today’s guest blog is from Luke Chamberlain, who I met at Gracie Barra Jiu Jitsu during a recent visit to Southmead.

Gracie Barra is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and self defence martial arts club for children and adults in the heart of the community. Gracie Barra Westbury is the embodiment of the “Jiu Jitsu for everyone” motto, with over 200 members ranging from 3 to 60 years old.

Men, women, boys and girls from all walks of life come together to enjoy this incredible martial art, developed to enable the smaller, weaker practitioner to overcome the bigger, stronger individual. Training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the perfect way to empower yourself, gain confidence and get in shape amongst a community of positive and supportive teammates. 

With over 30 classes per week spread across 7 days, including kids, adults, beginners, advanced, competition training and open mat sessions, there is something for everyone regardless of your age or experience.

The club is run by me and my brother, Clayton, both lifelong martial artists and students of world champion and head of the Gracie Barra organisation in Europe, Professor Victor Estima. Training since 2009 and having competed on the international stage, we have developed a strong reputation in the Jiu Jitsu community, which has lead to us receiving the honour of being promoted to their current ranks of black belt (Luke) and brown belt (Clayton) by their renowned Professor. 

After opening in May 2017 starting in David Lloyd Westbury on Trym, the club fast outgrew it’s training space and relocated until finding a home in its current venue, The Youth Centre on Greystoke Avenue, a fully renovated space large enough to sustain the club’s ever expanding member base and timetable. 

Amongst our many successes on the competition scene through the efforts of both kids and adult students: from local level, securing best academy at the Bristol Open to national level, winning gold at the British Championships, and all the way to an array of medals at the European Championships. What the club regards as it’s biggest achievement is its community of members and families that have supported the club during the challenging times of the last year. Without this commitment to each other and the common goal of sharing the benefits of Jiu Jitsu with as many people as possible, Gracie Barra Westbury would not have become such a success. 

One of the club’s main goals has always been to make roots in the local community spreading its message of Jiu Jitsu for everyone. This goal has recently been further realised with coaches taking women’s self defence sessions at both Redmaids’ High school and also girls groups within the youth centre itself, helping to empower young women to navigate the world with confidence. 

Moving forward and working closely with local charity, Southmead Development Trust, plans are in place to take the club into a purpose-built academy. There, we can continue to provide the best possible service for our members and further serve the community by offering sessions to more local groups that could improve their quality of life and enjoy the many benefits of training Jiu Jitsu and learning self defence.

Get in touch now for your own two-week free trial.

#WeAreBristol – we all have a part to play

Bristol’s covid-19 Local Engagement Board includes representatives from the city council, public health, our NHS and social care, local businesses, trade unions, charities, the police, and faith communities. Following yesterday’s announcement by the Prime Minister about changes to national restrictions from next week, together with One City partners, we have issued the following statement.

COVID-19 has affected us all. The shocking arrival of this global pandemic turned our lives upside-down, and its impact on our physical and mental health, our families and friends, our employment, our education, finances and our fun has been so much deeper than we imagined possible at the outset. And it’s not over. Each and every one of us now has to consider how to manage the virus, as we learn to live with it for some time yet.

The lifting of the majority of legal restrictions in England does not mean that the risks the virus presents have gone away. This next step marks a new chapter in the government’s national response to the pandemic, a step in which we are all being asked to weigh up our vulnerabilities, set against the risks we’re prepared to take. And not just our own – we have responsibilities for others, as employers, carers, educators, parents, and citizens who care about one another.

Case numbers in Bristol are currently very high. The situation globally remains precarious. Thanks to the vaccination, fewer people are seriously ill in hospital, but many people are unwell, and many of those people are young. An increasing number of people are reporting the effects of ‘long COVID’. Our frontline NHS and health staff are still under considerable pressure and our businesses and social enterprises, are still at risk of closure. For people who have not been doubly vaccinated, the risk of contracting the virus remains high, and even for those who have been, getting ill with the virus can be a very unpleasant experience. Over the winter, we are likely to find ourselves additionally vulnerable to other illnesses such as flu.

What does this mean for us all, when we’ve had to sacrifice so much already? For some, our losses include our nearest and dearest. We’re tired, frustrated, fed up.
Now, more than ever, we need to do everything we can to look out for one another. To dig deep and find more of the empathy and compassion that so many of us have shown for one another through the last long, hard, eighteen months. We must remember that one person’s freedoms represent another’s risks.

We must, therefore, put empathy, understanding and common sense at the heart of our individual choices and collective decision-making. In the face of changes that will come with the easing of legal restrictions, we must respect one another. The behaviours we’ve adopted over the last eighteen months not only help us to protect ourselves, but also to protect other people.

We recommend wearing a face covering in indoor spaces such as on the bus or in a shop, to show your respect for others, including frontline workers. Please continue to wash your hands, give people space, open windows when you can, and choose to leave crowded places if they feel uncomfortable. Please use regular rapid tests and get your vaccinations. Please continue to isolate if asked. We must all continue to do what we can to limit the spread of the virus and look out for those around us.

Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do to protect our city.

We all have a part to play. We are Bristol. And we are kind.

Support Don’t Deport

Councillor Tom Renhard

Today’s blog is from Councillor Tom Renhard, Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery and Homes and Labour Councillor for Horfield.

This marks my first blog and I am pleased to be able to focus it on such an important issue.

My background is in housing and mental health campaigning, helping to build power for some of the most disenfranchised people in our communities. Ensuring the voices of those with lived experience are enabled, heard and embedded within all that we do is vital. For that to have even a chance of happening, there needs to be trust.

24 July marks the ten-year anniversary of Bristol’s status as a City of Sanctuary, a city that’s committed to being a ‘welcoming place for all’. We’re immensely proud of this, and Bristol’s recognition as an open, inclusive, supportive, city.

It’s a mindset that is often in stark contrast to the current Government’s, which was reiterated on Tuesday. Bristol City Council voted to pass a motion that commits the Council not to follow the Home Office guidance that uses rough sleeping as reason to cancel someone’s leave to remain in the UK.

This guidance requires the Council and its partners to refer rough sleepers to the Home Office and other relevant authorities, which could result in them losing their leave to remain, and consequently being deported from the UK.

It should go without saying that myself, the Mayor, and the rest of the Labour Group found this guidance hard to stomach. Bristol is renowned as being a welcoming, progressive, city and this guidance could not be in starker contrast to that.

As well as being callous, it does nothing to help tackle homelessness in Bristol. We need people at risk of homelessness to have the trust and confidence to approach the Council and its partners for help – why would any of our migrant community do that if it puts them at risk of being deported?

We’re proud to pass this motion in favour of the #SupportDontDeport campaign which has been championed by Homeless Link. If someone calls Bristol their home, they should be able to access the same support mechanisms as UK-born citizens and not face the threat of deportation – I don’t think this should be a controversial point.

Our administration has been working to tackle homelessness by addressing the causes of homeless and we’re succeeding. We’ve overseen an 80% decrease in the level of rough sleeping, and this is no doubt in part due to the fact we’re improving access to support services, building social housing, and supporting people on low incomes.

As well as addressing the causes of homelessness, over the last years we’ve worked to improve conditions for rough sleepers. We’ve worked with Bristol churches through the One City Plan to open Winter Night Shelters, opened St Anne’s Shelter with St Mungo’s and started the Warm Winter Coats initiative.

We appreciate though that there’s always more work to be done. That’s why we’ve recently launched Bristol Street Outreach, a seven-day-a-week rough sleeping service, particularly focused on engaging with people who have been rough sleeping for a long time.

Passing this motion compliments the work we’ve been doing to tackle homelessness in Bristol, so I’m glad it had the support of some other parties.

Going forward, we’ll continue to tackle the causes of homelessness by accelerating our housebuilding programme, improving our homelessness support services, and by continuing to support the worst-off. We will also continue to speak out where we need to. This will give those who rely on us to be, or amplify their voice, the trust and confidence that we are on their side.

Annual Address 2021

This is the transcript for my Annual Address speech I delivered at Full Council on Tuesday 6 July 2021.

As this is my first opportunity since being elected, I will start with some thanks:

  1. to the mayoral and councillor candidates who took on the challenge of running for office.
  2. to those of you who turned out to vote irrespective of who you voted for. Participation is essential to our democracy.
  3. and of course to those who campaigned and voted for me.

While my wife has been on TV admitting that she sometimes wishes I wasn’t the Mayor (a view a number of my Twitter trolls and probably one or two elected members hold all the time), it is nonetheless a profound honour to be re-elected on our record.

We laid out an ambitious agenda to the city in 2016. Bristol didn’t have a reputation for delivery and wanted a leadership that would get things done.

They voted for a bigger picture, for a vision of an inclusive, sustainable and fairer city committed to tackling the poverty and inequalities that undermined us. They voted for affordable homes, for jobs and for hope.

I don’t often quote Cllr Hopkins but he did once share with me – with all of us actually because it was in Full Council – that it’s easy to get elected, but the real test is to be re-elected. Having faced that test, we are confident the city wants us to continue to deliver ambition and compassion.

The election taught us all a lot:

  1. The city is changing – and certain areas are seeing dramatic changes in population and culture.
  2. We face the threat of growing divides – the old ones such as race, class, health, education, earnings. And new ones such as home ownership versus non-ownership, and those who have some trust in public institutions verses those who have none.
  3. We take our planetary responsibilities seriously.

The election also taught us that the conflicts and controversies, the shambles and scandals, worked up in this organisation and the way they are managed and driven through social media are often worlds away from the immediate challenges and complicated problems real people are facing in Bristol.

And we learned the people of Bristol are not interested in the weeds of the council. They want solutions to the problems they face every day, not abstract negativity, opposition for opposition’s sake. They want us to be a source of hope.

The people of Bristol don’t see the world in binary. Talking to so many people during the election:

  1. they appreciated the commitments on housing delivery but also understood the challenges that Brexit and Covid had presented in maintaining the levels of delivery.
  2. they appreciated the need to protect land for nature and tackle climate change but also the need to build homes for people a grow the economy for jobs.
  3. on Colston’s statue, many appreciated the need to tackle racism alongside a sense that the statue was important and symbolic. But they also appreciated the statue itself was not the solution to racism. Some held a fear that they were losing their history and some recognise the danger of ordinary people being manipulated by those who, for lack of any real political vision, revert to manipulating them in the culture wars.

There is are enough challenges and divisions in the world without us conjuring up new ones for whatever motivation.

People want us to be focussed on creating hope and delivery and a better city. They want us to be people who are able to wrestle with the complex challenges and contradictions that cities – in all their diversity – embody.

I will spend the next three years leading in three areas:

  1. Inclusion
  2. Sustainability
  3. Delivery

1. Inclusion means inclusive growth

It means jobs and homes in a diverse economy that offers pathways to employment for people at all skills and education levels.

Our challenge is to share a way of doing economic development that by its very nature redresses the historic and institutional drivers of inequality and social immobility. This rather than growing the economy and then tacking a couple of equalities initiatives on the back end.

2. Sustainability means delivering against the climate action plan and the ecological action plan

It means working as a council. But it also means working as a city doing all we can to decarbonise the energy, transport and food systems on which our cities depends. It means not dealing with any single issue in isolation but recognising the interdependence of poverty, class, racism and climate change.

On that front, I will share the insight of someone who recently gave a speech to a Multi-Faith meeting on the environment that was organised by Afzal Shah. He shared with a gathering of black, white and Asian Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Jews how too often environmentalism had been a voice of divisive and accusational politics when what it should have been a cause for unity in the face of a global challenge.

We need to hear that challenge.

Sustainability means not shying away from the housing crisis and the difficult conversations about density and sustainable city centre locations.

It means bringing investment into green jobs and a transition to a low carbon economy.

3. Delivery means continuing to get stuff done

Delivery means lives change. Homes are built. Children are fed. Women and girls no longer in period poverty. Ground source and water source heat pumps and installed. Schools are built. City areas are pedestrianised. Jobs are generated. Homeless people are housed.

You can measure action by the number of cranes on the horizon. They are a clear example of the modernisation of the city, of continuing growth and opportunity.

Delivery means continuing to work as a city, not just a council. Working with partners and continuing to meet city challenges with all partners, cleaner air, a living wage city, mass transit, a living rent city, a city where diversity of thought leads modern 21st century city and continuing to put cities at the forefront of political, economic and social challenges – putting cities in front of challenges where governments fail.

We have the challenge of leading a city that is growing in size of population, need, diversity and inequality within the same geographical area of land. We do this while facing up to the environmental, economic, political, social and moral need to face up to tackle the climate and ecological crisis. And sometimes the things we must do to meet one area of these challenges can threaten to undermine our efforts to meet another.

Conclusion

So I finish with the same offer I have always made: if you have an genuine offer, a contribution to make to our efforts to meet those challenges, if you want to turn up with solutions, the door is open. Come make that offer, and then tell me what you need from the city to enable you to deliver it.

The time I have as mayor is loaned to me by the city. It’s my job to invest it not in fruitless distractions and false politics, but in the people and initiatives that will make a difference for the city, our country and world.

Happy birthday, NHS!

Today is our NHS’s 73rd birthday. Throughout its history, the service has undergone extensive changes to meet the changing health needs of generations of Bristolians. And few years have seen our health service tested in the way covid-19 has.

This pandemic gives us pause to consider how we can safeguard the NHS for the future, and how we can better recognise the dedication, skill and compassion those working in our health service bring to their work every day. Here’s what we want the government to give the NHS for its birthday to keep our health service fit for Bristol’s future.

Bristol leaders mark NHS, Social Care, and Frontline Workers' Day -- 5 July 2021
Bristol leaders mark NHS, Social Care, and Frontline Workers’ Day — 5 July 2021

Rewarding health and care staff

The scale of the mobilisation that has taken place across Bristol’s health and care service in response to covid-19 has been extraordinary. Hospitals across the country have cared for around 400,000 covid-19 patients, and the NHS has rolled out the biggest vaccination programme in health service history. In Bristol, 68% of the population has received at least one dose of a covid-19 vaccine. Care staff have been particularly vital in this effort – 88% of residents in social care settings across England are now fully vaccinated. This could not have been achieved without the skill and dedication of NHS and social care staff and the support of thousands of volunteers. Their commitment must be remembered and rewarded – and we especially need to offer better support for unpaid carers in the future who do so much to keep friends, family members and loved ones safe and cared for in Bristol.

A sustainable settlement for social care

The pandemic has shown that pressures on the NHS can accelerate and intensify without a sustainable social care system that ensures residents are cared for and healthy before and after they receive hospital care. Yet Bristol, like many other places, faces significant financial pressures in adult social care. We’re doing what we can to help meet the growing demand for social care in Bristol, transforming our systems to that people live healthier and more independent lives in their own homes for longer, while ensuring people can easily get the help they need at the right time. But our reforms will only go so far without a wholescale national reform of how care for residents is delivered and funded.

It is not just Labour politicians like me calling for the government to deliver the plan for social care that the Prime Minister promised on his first day in the job. Nine out of ten councillors from across the political spectrum have called on the government to give greater priority to social care and to give our care systems more resources now. This needs to include more investment in prevention, a strategy for meeting unmet care needs, as well as long-term investment to tackle the scale of costs facing the sector – including preventing people from having to sell their homes to pay for care when they need it.

A Health and Social Care Bill that works for – and with – Bristol

These challenges could be met – in part – by the upcoming Health and Social Care Bill which the government is due to publish this week. We expect that the Bill will more closely integrate health and social care, and do away with the “Lansley” reforms introduced through the Health and Social Care Act in 2012. In theory, this would enable the NHS, local government, and Voluntary and Community Sector to work as equal partners, creating a much more collaborative environment without the competition that the Conservative and Lib Dem coalition government introduced in 2012.

NHS, Social Care, and Frontline Workers' Day flag flying above City Hall
NHS, Social Care, and Frontline Workers’ Day flag flying above City Hall

On this basis, we would support these reforms – though I remain concerned about the impact of such a dramatic reorganisation of the NHS when our health and care services are still dealing with high numbers of cases of covid-19. If they get it right, there is an excellent opportunity to invest in community health and preventative measures to ensure that the NHS and social care have a sustainable foundation for the long term. But that vision won’t be realised if this is a Bill cooked up in Whitehall with no reference to local people, places and contexts. This Bill must ensure that any reforms can be shaped to suit local circumstances, allow for meaningful integration of health and care services, and – above all – empower Bristol residents to drive the health and care services they want in their communities.

If the government delivers on these crucial issues, we’ll be celebrating the birthday of our thriving NHS for many more years to come.

Pause, reflect, renew

Today’s guest blog comes from Professor Jane Powell, Director at the Centre for Public Health and Wellbeing at UWE.

Professor Jane Powell

Since March last year and for at least another four weeks, the world has found itself in the midst of a pandemic that has brought uncertainty and challenges to each and every one of us. The world has reacted yet still we find ourselves working in stressful, unprecedented environments that not only affect the way we work but all aspects of our day to day lives including our mental health and wellbeing.

This has undoubtedly had a huge toll on millions of us in the UK and the hundreds of thousands of us that call Bristol our home.

On Thursday 17 June, the City Office and Centre for Public Health and Wellbeing at UWE held an event as part of Bristol Remembers to offer a space for people to talk about the pressures they have seen on staff from all sectors and all corners of the city. Speakers from St. Peter’s Hospice, UWE Public Health, Bristol City Council, University Hospitals Bristol and Weston (UHBW) and Brunelcare all offered insight into some of the ways we can support our organisations and the teams within them to enable a safe recovery from periods of intense pressure.

Frank Noble is CEO of St. Peter’s Hospice and gave a really inspirational presentation on his experience of military decompression, talking around a framework that he produced to help his staff recharge, restore and recuperate in their own teams to help readjust to elements of normality. This was followed by Dr Liz Frost, a colleague and Associate Professor of Social Care here at UWE, who added her thoughts about the impact the pandemic has had on the workforce and how organisations can help staff by focusing on the things that truly matter to them, which in turn will help both teams and individuals thrive.

Along with input from Christina Gray, Director of Communities and Public Health for Bristol, Samantha Chapman, Head of Organisational Development at UHBW and Oona Goldsworthy, CEO at Brunelcare, delegates were given a thorough insight into what others are currently doing and how they too can share, develop and use these ideas within their own organisations.

The event finished with everyone getting a chance to participate sharing their own thoughts, feedback and experiences that we hope to share even wider as we look to recover together as one city. We want to build on the conversations we have had so far to make sure that as a workforce, we don’t just go back to how things were but improve on them, to make it better for everyone.

For anyone interested in finding out more about the event or using a ‘decompression’ framework within your organisation to help recovery from the pandemic please contact the City Office via city.office@bristol.gov.uk

Loneliness Awareness Week 2021

This week’s blog is written by Amy Perrin, founder of Bristol-based charity Marmalade Trust, which is a national loneliness charity for all ages. This week is Loneliness Awareness Week, which Marmalade Trust launched in 2017.

Amy Perrin, founder and CEO of the Marmalade Trust

One thing that has always struck me about loneliness, is the stigma and shame associated with it.  Although, an unpleasant feeling, loneliness is a natural human emotion, something we are all likely to experience at some point in our lives and yet people feel embarrassed to talk about it. In 2017, we decided to start loneliness awareness week, to raise awareness of loneliness and reduce the shame associated with it.  The interest and engagement in the week has grown enormously over the past 5 years.  In 2019 we supported 800 events across the country, with many amazing individuals, businesses and charities getting involved in Bristol. In 2020 we ran our first digital campaign, due to the pandemic, which saw almost 20,000 organisations, individuals and companies get involved with the campaign. It reached 271.5 million people, with conversations about loneliness taking place every two seconds online on the first day of the campaign.  We are already seeing huge interest in this year’s campaign and it’s great to see so many conversations happening across the UK.

After eighteen months of lockdown, social distancing and other restrictions so many more of us are experiencing loneliness or isolation, perhaps for the first time. We recently completed some research, which showed that 79% of respondents reported the pandemic has increased their understanding of loneliness.  However, it also showed that 40% of people said they would not feel comfortable talking to anyone about it.

Cllr Helen Holland, Cabinet Member for Social Care, (right) at the Marmalade Trust’s Loneliness Awareness Week afternoon tea at Windmill Hill City Farm
The Marmalade Trust’s Loneliness Awareness Week afternoon tea at Windmill Hill City Farm

Loneliness is a natural human emotion, we view it as a warning sign that you need to address your human connections, a bit like thirst is a sign you need to drink.  But of course, when loneliness continues for some time and become chronic, it can have serious implications on your health and wellbeing. Following an incredibly difficult year, we believe it’s now more important than ever to accept loneliness and remove the stigma attached to it.  We are encouraging people to see loneliness as an experience not a condition. It doesn’t define us. By building a greater awareness and acceptance of loneliness, we can help ourselves and others manage the feeling.

Loneliness Awareness Week started in Bristol, which is a place with a strong sense of community, and we’re proud to see how that has now spread out into the rest of the UK.

We get lonely – do you?

To find out more about this year’s LAW and how you can support it visit www.marmaladetrust.org/law

Or follow us on social media:

Instagram: marmalade_trust

Twitter and Facebook: @marmaladetrust