Category Archives: Health and Wellbeing

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.

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

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.

Meals on electric wheels

Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Helen Holland, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Integrated Care System and Labour Councillor for Hartcliffe and Withywood

One of the Council’s services that I have been most proud of during the pandemic is our Community Meals Service, sometimes called “meals on wheels”.

The service delivers hundreds of hot meals, 364 days a year, to isolated and vulnerable residents, and is a vital part of our agenda to support people to live longer in their own homes, and stay independent. 

The great thing about this service is the wellbeing check that our staff undertake when they deliver the meal. Stories from our drivers just underline for me how passionate they all are about what they do, and how they have, in some cases, saved lives by their visit. 

So, what has this got to do with COP26 and our carbon commitments?

For several years I have been asking about electric vans to replace our current fleet but, until relatively recently, the technology had not been available to be confident in what was out there. We know that battery life is a key fact in switching to electric vehicles, but in the case of these vans, the battery also needs to power ovens to keep meals warm and a refrigeration unit to keep cold and frozen foods fresh.

I am delighted to share with you that these issues have been overcome by the next generation of vehicles, and we are going to have the first four electric vans delivered to our base in Barton Hill in the next few weeks.

On a recent visit to the service, I asked James Dagnall, our Manager, how the drivers viewed this development, and it was so heartening to hear how they have embraced this initiative, and all want to trial the new vans when they arrive.

So, everyone wants to play their part in meeting the climate challenge, whilst continuing to deliver a service in ways that will fit us better for the future. 

If you are interested in finding out more about Community Meals, please go to https://www.bristol.gov.uk/social-care-health/bristol-community-meals

Stop Spiking

Today’s blog comes from Carly Heath, Bristol’s Night Time Economy Advisor.

My job at Bristol City Council is to champion our wonderfully rich night time economy and the exciting and diverse after dark culture our city is famous for.

Our night time economy prides itself on curating magical experiences for audiences. Staff are well trained in safety and audience safeguarding, and as a Purple Flag city, we pride ourselves on creating safe and inclusive night time environments.

I find it heart-breaking to read recent stories about people falling victim to those who harm audiences through drink spiking. This is a national problem, but we something we know is happening in Bristol too.

Drink spiking is an abhorrent crime, carrying a maximum of ten years in prison. It can cause lasting physical and psychological harm to victims, and in some cases even death.

However, it is sadly not a new phenomenon, and we know it is significantly underreported by victims, with depressingly few prosecutions brought to trial.

The recent news stories highlighting young people’s experiences of being spiked serve to demonstrate the widespread frustration at our collective inability to get a handle on this issue.

But change is happening. I’ve been working on tackling drink spiking in our venues since being appointed earlier this year. It was clear to me that what we needed was a city-wide, coordinated approach bringing together the Police, NHS, Bristol City Centre BID, the universities, and night time venues, alongside educating night time audiences on what to do if they experience a drink spiking incident.

Working off the back of the successful Bristol Rules campaign (which was recently nominated for a best night time economy initiative award), that’s exactly what we are doing.

Together, we’ve developed a guide for venues setting out how to respond to a suspected drink spiking, so staff feel confident and take appropriate steps to support their customers. The guide also outlines how venues can support the police in their investigations, and to go alongside the campaign, hundreds of testing kits are being rolled out to bars, pubs and clubs to use when a potential spiking has been reported to them.

Additionally, police will be equipped with urine testing kits to test the person, as well as the drink. This is especially important as the window for gathering evidence is short, with some drugs leaving the person’s system in as little as 12 hours, making early testing critical.

To make sure those enjoying a night out are aware that Bristol is taking drink spiking seriously and will support them if they need it, there are posters going up in venues. This is crucial, as we need to encourage people to report these crimes if we are to stop the people committing them.

Launching ahead of one of the busiest weekends for pubs and clubs, more than 100 venues have already joined the campaign across the city. Posters will be shared inside late night venues and a social media campaign has been designed to raise awareness and direct people to the campaign website for resources and support.

Everyone deserves to have a safe and fun night out. This is just the start of our journey towards effectively tackling drink spiking in our venues. It has gone on too long and Bristol’s night time community are taking action to eradicate this heinous crime. But I feel lucky to live in a city like Bristol where so many people care so deeply about the community. Together we can put an end to spiking in Bristol.

World Suicide Prevention Day

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

Friday 10 September marks World Suicide Prevention Day. It is a day close to my heart and dedicated to raising awareness of suicide and getting us all to think about what we can do to prevent it.

The latest statistics showed that in 2018, more than 6,800 people died by suicide in the UK and Republic of Ireland. Approximately three quarters of these were men.

This year’s theme is all about ‘creating hope through action’. So, what does hope mean? It will be unique to each individual. To me, it’s about:

  • The stability of a home you know is secure and of good quality.
  • Being able to have security of your finances and employment.
  • Just knowing there are good people you can call upon in times of need for a coffee or a walk in the park.
  • Knowing there are others who will fight your corner and support you to be the best version of yourself.

My own journey has been complicated. During my formative years at university, three of my friends took their own lives, including my best friend at the time. All very different sets of circumstances, all causing similar devastation for family, friends and wider networks who knew them. For the parents, dealing with the grief that comes with something you never expect to happen – losing your child. For friends and wider networks – losing someone who was cherished and loved, even if they didn’t see that themselves and felt better off not in this world.

Whilst I have been able to move forwards, in some ways what happens never leaves you. It filled me with a fire to not just accept the situation as it is. We can and need to do better. I firmly believe every suicide is preventable, and our aspiration must be to achieve the goal of zero suicide. I am so proud to know that many organisations across the country and the West of England have signed up to the work of the Zero Suicide Alliance (ZSA). This includes Bristol City Council, and we are calling for 10,000 people to sign up to the zero-suicide training across the area as part of this.

What else are we doing?

Through my own organisation, the Independent Mental Health Network, we launched the Shine On campaign in late 2019. This has focused on bringing more organisations together, to work in partnership to end suicide. We know that by working as a collective we can achieve more together than we can as individuals. This has seen us hold two highly successful regional summits on suicide prevention, both supported by leaders in the health sector and beyond, including Bristol’s Deputy Mayor, Asher Craig.

We work with organisations such as Changes Bristol, who are leading the charge locally on building peer support networks that are genuinely peer-led. We have collaborated with Second Step to support the Hope Project, which supports middle-aged men, the highest risk group when it comes to suicide. We have also funded Suicide Prevention Bristol, who are doing phenomenal work to support people thinking of taking their own life. Their latest campaign, “Not The Last Stop”, will be working with taxi companies to help them better recognise the signs of someone who may be struggling.

There are a range of resources to access if you need support or know someone who does. Here is one starting point: Guide – IMHN – Independent Mental Health Network.

Reach out, be that hope for someone who may be counting on it more than you realise.

Bristol Disability Equality Commission – new chair

Alun Davies, the new chair of the new Bristol Disability Equality Commission, sits, smiling, with a background of grass and daisies.
Today’s guest blog is from Alun Davies, the new chair of the new Bristol Disability Equality Commission

My name is Alun Davies, and I’m the newly appointed first Chair of the new Bristol Disability Equality Commission. The commission is being established in recognition of the inequalities faced by Disabled people in the city, and the negative impact the Covid-19 pandemic is having on Disabled people. The Disability Equality Commission will join the Commission on Race Equality and Women’s Commission as Mayoral commissions taking forward equality in the city.

I am just about an adopted Bristolian having moved here in 1991. I’ve lived all over the city, worked for the public and community/voluntary sector, and served on a number of voluntary sector management bodies. I was a city councillor, a non-executive on a health board and chaired the Disability Committee of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. On a personal level I was the parent of a Disabled child who sadly passed away at 11. I love music both listening and playing, and I have a probably slightly unhealthy interest in 1970’s rock music, tv and cricket!

I became totally blind in 1978 and have been active in the Disabled people’s movement since 1986. I understand disability entirely as a political issue. I am an adherent of and firm believer in the social model of disability.

The social model is clear and simple. People with any kind of impairment – learning difficulty, neuro diversity, mental health issue physical or sensory -are disabled not by their impairments but by cultural, economic, political, and social barriers which cause inherent and institutionalised discrimination.

That is why the commission is a Disability Equality Commission. Its role is to work to remove these barriers. My vision for the commission is that it brings together Disabled people from all backgrounds and impairments to work together in collaboration and partnership to make Bristol a city where Disabled people have choice, control, and equality.

I am under no illusions that it won’t be an easy task. Many Disabled people are unemployed, experience disability hate crime and do not have full choice and control over their own live. Housing choices are very limited, much of the pavements and physical environment is still inaccessible and Disabled people are significantly under-represented in decision-making groups and structures. Disabled children and young people often do not get either the support they need in education or the choice of the best education to meet their needs.

However, I would not have applied for the role if I wasn’t also hopeful and optimistic. The introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act in 1995 followed by the Equalities Act in 2010, despite neither going as far as I and many other Disabled people would like, have at least given us some legal recourse. This has meant businesses and service providers have had to make adjustments to their services. Public attitudes and awareness is better than it was 40 years ago and Disabled people are more evident and accepted around the city.

Most of all I am positive because of what I believe the Commission will bring to the city. We will be recruiting commissioners during the next three months, and I believe we will put together a team of enthusiastic, experienced, and skilled Disabled people who will bring a vast amount of passion and wisdom to the task.

I also believe there is a genuine commitment amongst everyone involved in the city to use the opportunity coming out of the pandemic to build back better. We must use the situation we have to make equity and social justice the heart of our response, and disability equality must be fully part of this. It is a privilege and honour for me to chair the Disability Equality Commission and I look forward to playing my part with the Mayor and everyone else to make Bristol a city I and other Disabled people are even more proud to live in.

Dementia-friendly allotments in Bristol

To mark the start of National Allotment Week, today’s guest blog is from Isobel Jones, CEO of Alive, a charity working to enrich the lives of older people in Bristol and around the country. I recently visited their dementia-friendly allotment in Brentry with Councillor Helen Holland, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care.

Isobel Jones, CEO of Alive, pictured at Brentry's dementia friendly allotment

We all know how being outside can lift our spirits. Working outdoors surrounded by nature, nurturing fruit and vegetables or just sitting in the garden can bring a smile to our faces and help us relax after a difficult day. Allotments are incredible spaces for escaping from the normality and stress of our busy lives. They provide us with a real sense of achievement when we harvest crops we’ve tended from day one (and at times a sense of frustration when the cabbages get eaten again!)   

For those who live with dementia, gardening can be a source of joy and achievement. Maintaining physical activity, cognitive function and social interaction all help someone living with dementia to remain stimulated and to feel valued and helpful.

However, accessing gardens and allotments can become more challenging as dementia progresses. 

So, when the idea of developing and running an allotment for people living with dementia was suggested to us, we jumped at it.  We were already facilitating regular gardening sessions for groups in care settings across the city and through them witnessing the joy and satisfaction they brought to many older people. But we also wanted to provide a space for people living in the community to experience the benefits of horticultural therapy. 

Mayor Marvin Rees visiting Brentry's dementia-friendly allotment, pictured with a volunteer from BRACE Dementia Research

We were handed the keys to plot 18A at Charlton Road allotments in Brentry in March 2019. The  ground hadn’t been cultivated for about four years and was overgrown, unloved and close to being unworkable. However, my incredible team of volunteers and staff have put hours of love and hard work into the plot and have transformed it into the most magical, peaceful and calming space.

We’ve also put in a compost loo, a large social shed, accessible beds and lots of seating so we can meet all needs and garden in all weathers. It has been a real community effort, with support from local funders, businesses, fellow allotment plot holders and a sizeable team of volunteers, who have all supported us in our vision to enable those affected by dementia to have access to the outdoors and feel the sense of achievement and purpose that comes from “growing their own”.  

We are proud to say the Alive allotment is now fully open and is running regular supported sessions for people living with dementia and their carers. Participants can choose what they do there; they can come and potter about on personal projects, work with a volunteer, or just sit and have a cup of tea and chat. We are already seeing the positive outcomes on people’s wellbeing and are looking forward to seeing the groups grow.

We need to ensure there are more opportunities like this for those affected by dementia. In the words of one of our service users,  “Gardening, it’s almost medical. They need things like this to keep people going.” We couldn’t agree more. 

Bristol’s award-winning young carer

Today’s guest blog is from Hanna Sampson, recipient of the Diana Award, who has done some fantastic work raising awareness for young carers.

I’m Hanna Sampson and I am a young carer for my autistic sister. I can’t actually remember when I first started caring for her, but I was first labelled as a young carer back in 2017 after an assessment from Bristol and South Gloucestershire young carers. Since then, I have been an advocate for young carers’ needs.

I attended Young Carers Voice, a monthly group where we would discuss issues that young carers face and tackle them. Through this, I was given amazing opportunities to raise awareness. Together we have created two films: ‘Who cares in school?’ Which focuses on young carers in school and ‘My mental health project’ which focuses on our own mental health needs as young carers.

The ‘Who cares in schools’ film led to a 130% increase in school registering to young carers programmes. I also gave a teacher training assembly and two whole school assemblies about young carers with the hope of setting up a young carers group at my own school but unfortunately received little to no support. Again, this was also a common experience.

I have also had the pleasure of going to Parliament with other young carers across the country to talk to MPs about the needs of young carers. I have given numerous seminars and workshops to health professionals, worked on the 15-step programme at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston, and helped develop the Bristol City Council Young Carers Strategy.

This year was my last year at the young carers service and I was honoured with the Diana Award for all my work with them. It feels so amazing to be recognised in such a prestigious way, especially as this year would have marked her 60th Birthday.

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the ceremony was online but it was still fantastic and had special guests celebrating the recipients, including the Duke of Sussex! Princess Diana is a true inspiration to us all, a reminder that anyone has the power to change the world and it is a true honour to be recognised in her legacy.