Category Archives: Health and Wellbeing

#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

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