Category Archives: Health and Wellbeing

Director of Public Health’s report for 2023

Councillor Ellie King, smiling, on the ramp in front of Bristol City Hall.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor
Ellie King, Cabinet Member for
Public Health and Communities

The New Year often goes hand in hand with new beginnings, new goals, and new resolutions. For many people, being more physically active comes top of their New Year’s Resolution list. Although most resolutions fall by the wayside by February, being more physically active doesn’t have to be about hitting the gym every week. Simply put, being more active is about getting your body moving more. Taking the stairs instead of the lift, or walking or cycling short trips rather than taking the car, contributes to a more active lifestyle.

This year’s Director of Public Health report focuses on physical activity and how leading a more active lifestyle not only benefits our physical and mental health, but also helps with disease prevention and recovery. As Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England said, ‘If physical activity were a drug, we’d talk about it as a miracle cure’.

It is estimated that the current UK population is 20 per cent less active than in the 1960s. There are many reasons why this is the case. Technology has changed the way we work and the way we spend our leisure time. Fewer of us have manual jobs than in the past whilst many more of us now rely on cars as our means of transport.

Games being played at an accessible Multi Sports Festival.

The 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games, aimed to inspire a generation to take up sport and regular physical activity. The UK government’s pledge to encourage more people to take up physical activity off the back of the Games was a means to forge a healthier and more active future. Ten years on and after a global pandemic, the number of people in Bristol who do the recommended amount of regular exercise each week dropped from 73 per cent between 2015 and 2019 to 67.1 per cent in 2021 according to the Quality of Life survey.

Needless to say, the pandemic years were challenging for many people, but they also taught us about the importance of physical activity. Going out for that daily walk or doing home workouts became highly valued during a time when our movement was restricted.

The report showcases ten inspiring real-life stories where people in Bristol have managed to build physical activity into their daily lives. In some cases, physical activity has helped people overcome the physical and emotional effects of COVID-19. It has also helped to tackle lifestyle-related illnesses such as type 2 diabetes as well as facilitated stronger community ties through inclusive activities and programmes.

Maroua Nouri, smiling, on the top of some stairs with her children.

Swimming pools and leisure centres provide opportunities and environments where people can be physically active. The council’s commitment to invest £8 million across its leisure facilities will ensure these sites continue to cater to a wide range of physical activities, interests, and abilities, whilst providing people the opportunity to find activities that they enjoy.

Please join the movement to be more active in 2023 by taking your own small steps. Programmes such as Bristol Girls Can, FIT Robins and accessible multi-sport events can help you get started. Whatever you’re doing, you will be making a difference. #ActiveBristol

Cervical Cancer Prevention Week – How we can end cervical cancer 

On a pink background, white text sits in the middle of the image reading: Jo's cervical cancer trust. Jo's cervical cancer trust's logo is to the right.
Today’s guest blog is from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.

This week is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (23rd – 29th January) and it’s amazing to see Bristol City Hall turning pink to mark the occasion. The week is always a great chance to talk about how we can help prevent more cases of cervical cancer. This year is a bit different as we’ve launched our biggest ever campaign, a campaign to end cervical cancer. 

The exciting thing is that it’s in our reach. HPV vaccination and cervical screening can both stop cervical cancer from ever developing. The vaccination is offered in school to girls and boys to help prevent HPV-related cancers, cervical cancer being one of them, and evidence shows it has prevented almost 90% of cervical cancers in those who have been vaccinated! Cervical screening is offered to women and people with a cervix from 25 up to 65, and it also offers a really high level of protection by helping identify anyone at an increased risk.

HPV vaccination and cervical screening can help prevent and, one day, end cervical cancer. However, uptake has been falling in many parts of the country. 

In Bristol, just 68.7% are up to date with their cervical screening. That means a third are not attending. Cervical screening can be difficult for lots of reasons, it can be embarrassing, scary, hard to find a convenient appointment or you may have a health condition or experience of trauma. However you feel about the test, you aren’t alone. There are lots of tips and support out there for you, however you feel. 

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women globally and every day in the UK there are 9 new diagnoses and 2 women will lose their lives. Countries across the world are working towards the day we can make cervical cancer a thing of the past. Through raising awareness of cervical screening, spreading important information about the HPV vaccine and calling on governments to take action, we can make cervical cancer be the first cancer in history we have eliminated. You can play your part and together we can end cervical cancer. 

Watch the new video from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, to find out how #WeCan end cervical cancer

Cervical Cancer Prevention Week runs from 23-29 January 2022 and Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is launching its biggest ever campaign – to End Cervical Cancer. Join in to raise awareness of HPV vaccination and cervical screening and call for Government action to make this a reality

About Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is the UK’s leading cervical cancer charity. It provides information and support to anyone affected and campaigns for excellence in cervical cancer treatment, care and prevention. Its national helpline is free and confidential: 0808 802 8000.

Creating sustainable communities through Intergenerational Housing

The left image shows Bianca Rosetti, smiling, with trees in the background. The right image shows Richard Pendlebury, smiling, sat down on a chair.
Today’s guest blog is co-written by Bianca Rosetti, former Age Friendly Lead – Age UK Bristol and Richard Pendlebury MBE DL, Chief Executive – Anchor Society CIO

Housing and care the big challenges

Like many countries, the UK is struggling with two key issues, care and support for older people and a lack of affordable housing. One of the consequences is the pricing out of young people from the housing market (rent and ownership). But the lack of affordable housing is affecting people of all ages, and it was reported recently that there has been a dramatic rise of over 50s having to resort to house sharing. Last year, Age UK reported that there were 2 million older people living in poverty in the UK and many more are likely to be added as we face the worst fuel crisis in modern times.

Commitment to those in need 

In Bristol, many organisations are committed to doing something to alleviate the serious challenges faced by older and young people alike each day. For example, The Anchor Society CIO provides grants for older people facing hardship for basic necessities (e.g. furniture, boilers, and white goods) and Age UK Bristol (AUKB) provides income maximisation support through its Information & Advice service, which brings an average of £2 million in unclaimed benefits and allowances to older Bristolians’ pockets each year. Supported by St Monica Trust, Bristol City Council, and the Anchor Society, AUKB also has a fund to help older people in fuel poverty.   

Innovative intergenerational housing

Short term financial aid in whatever form is essential, but are there longer-term solutions to meeting those in need. Housing costs as a proportion of income are at an all-time high, and a key driving factor of poverty. The Anchor Society, together with All Saints Church Lands Charity, visited an award-winning housing complex in Alicante before lockdown which provides affordable housing for young and old alike. This complex provides housing for over 80, with the young people providing support (befriending) for lower rent. The young people are largely key workers and the ones we met were social work students and young social workers. The support given to older people by their young neighbours means that they need never be lonely or struggling with day-to-day tasks. So, the issues of affordable housing and care are resolved in one project. It is a highly successful housing solution which we are seeking to emulate in Bristol.  

Key to the success of the project will be the creation of community; something that AUKB has been involved with for many years. As the lead partner for the city’s Age-friendly City strategy, AUKB has been working with organisations and departments across local government, the charity sector, businesses to improve services and spaces for older residents now and in the future. AUKB’s programme of social opportunities, including the Friends Ageing Better network and other regular events through its LinkAge service, support people to make social connections and make the most of the arts and culture our city has to offer.

A sketch of the New Fosseway Road development in Hengrove.

New Fosseway Road

In a similar fashion, Bristol City Council is committed to building sustainable communities. As the local authority, there is a duty to provide extra care housing under their Better Lives at Home Programme, alongside a shortage of housing that needs to be addressed.

Goram Homes, Bristol City Council’s housing company, secured planning approval in December for 190 new homes on New Fosseway Road, on the site of a former school in Hengrove. This multi-generational housing development addresses both core issues faced by the city. The plans encompass extra care housing alongside the delivery of new homes including more than 100 new affordable homes. These new homes will add to the 2,563 new homes built in 2021/22 in Bristol, including more affordable new homes than for any year in the last twelve.

By approaching community building in multi-pronged basis, they are able to build sustainable communities that will remain suitable to the changing needs and requirements of the local community.

Working in Partnership

We believe that none of us has all the solutions but that working together we can make a difference. Both The Anchor Society CIO and Age UK Bristol are involved in a number of alliances and partnerships across the city.  

New funding to improve drug and alcohol treatment for those with a housing need

Councillor Ellie King, smiling, standing on Bristol City Hall ramped.
Today’s guest blog is by Councillor Ellie King, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Communities

“Enormous human tragedy surrounds the lives of people dependent on drugs”, said Dame Carol Black, an academic and a senior advisor to the government on drugs and alcohol, who visited Bristol this month. 

Alcohol and other drugs have a serious impact in Bristol. We have one of the biggest drug using populations in the UK, and the second largest estimated rate of opiate and/or crack users (per 1,000 population) of all the English core cities. There are an estimated 6,500 alcohol dependent drinkers in Bristol, and deaths from alcohol and other drugs are increasing. We know that a significant proportion of people who develop dependency on drugs and/or alcohol are known to have experienced trauma, often in early childhood. The impact of drugs and alcohol misuse on our communities and society is devastating and can ruin lives. 

Dame Carol visited local drug and alcohol treatment services in the city including the Bristol Drugs Project, Homeless Health, and The Nelson Trust and met with our partners from police, probation, and housing services. She is also responsible for one of the most comprehensive reviews of drugs in the UK, and her recommendations led to the government’s ten-year Drug Strategy, From harm to hope (2021): A 10-year drugs plan to cut crime and save lives, which aims to tackle drugs and prevent crime. 

I met with her to talk about the work we are doing here in Bristol, which is informed by our Drug and Alcohol Strategy for Bristol, and explained how we are working with local partners and organisations on our long-term ambition to put the three key drivers of treatment, recovery, and prevention at the heart of our approach in the city. Our strategy outlines how we aim to inform individuals and their families, regardless of starting points, and empower them to reach their full potential, access treatment if needed, and reduce harm within their community. 

The work to tackle the harm that drugs and alcohol misuse does to our communities is ongoing. This month Cabinet approved new government funding to improve drug and alcohol treatment outcomes for people with a housing need. This is significant grant funding of over £604,000 for the financial year 2023-24, and the same amount again for the following year. The funding is specifically for a menu of interventions related to the provision of drug and alcohol treatment and housing support for people who are at risk of homelessness. 

As well as having a particularly high level of need relating to the use of drugs and alcohol, Bristol has also seen the number of people sleeping on the streets rising significantly since 2013. The average age of death of homeless men is 47 years old, and even lower for homeless women at 43. People who end up sleeping rough often experience barriers in accessing health and care services, and experience poor health outcomes in comparison to the rest of society. In 2019-20, 40% of people coming onto the streets were ‘returners’ to rough sleeping. Mental health, drugs, alcohol, physical health, and benefits/finances have been identified the five key areas that those at risk of homelessness need more support with. 

Our work tackling drug and alcohol misuse aligns with our One City Plan and our Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2019-2024. The latter outlines a range of ambitions, including focusing maximum efforts and resources to eradicate rough sleeping it by 2027. This new funding enables us to start reducing the harm from alcohol and substance misuse specifically for those with a housing need, by reducing hospital admissions and substance misuse related deaths. In turn, this works towards making our communities safer by ensuring early identification and access to support and treatment for those misusing substances who are experiencing, or are at risk, of homelessness.

The funding will also be used to help reduce health inequalities by promoting good physical and mental health, ensuring health care access is available for marginalised groups and deprived communities. The picture for drug and alcohol misuse in Bristol is complex and the path to recovery for both individuals and the city can be a long one, but with the right plans in place to support people and communities, it is one we can walk together. 

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

Today’s blog is from Claire Bloor, Chair of Bristol Women’s Commission’s Women Safety Task Group and CEO of SARSAS. 

I’m writing this during the #16Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. It’s an internationally recognised day, led by the UN Women, in which organisations and people come together to shine a spotlight on the global epidemic of male violence and, crucially, highlight what is being done – and can be done – to tackle this. 

Locally, Bristol Women’s Commission has been sharing posts across its social media channels from leaders across the city, including Marvin, to illustrate what they’re doing to tackle male violence.

A time for reflection

This is also a time to remember all those women (85 already this year and on average one woman every three days) that are killed at the hands of a man. A moment to feel the full weight and exhaustion of living in a world with the palpable ongoing threat of male violence and relentless everyday sexism that so many of us endure. 

Next Link, who I work with on the Women’s Safety Task Group run a candle lit vigil campaign in honour of this, which this year included an in-person vigil as well as online action.

But it is also a day that we hear women and allies roar and rage against this epidemic of male violence! 

We have had enough of women being given rape alarms and drink covers, being asked why they didn’t leave violent partners, and told to walk in pairs. It doesn’t work. We can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results. 

The time has come for a new approach. For a serious look at the inherent sexism and misogyny embedded in so many of the institutions and systems that repeatedly let women down, and keep us feeling unsafe. 

A time for action

This 16 Days of Activism we are asking, if you could magically change one thing today, what would it be?  

Would it be a root and branch reform of the criminal justice system, a justice system that has effectively decriminalised rape and sexual abuse. We know only 1% of rape cases result in prosecution. 

Would it be better education ensuring that consent, health relationships and the impact of misogyny/ rape culture is taught in every classroom across the country. 

Would it be sustainable funding for the sexual and domestic abuse sectors? Sectors that have seen increases in demands for support of over 40% since the Covid-19 pandemic without the necessary funding to meet this. 

Or would it be that campaigns focus on perpetrators changing their behaviours rather than women being told to constantly moderate theirs?! Like the recent and brilliant Never Have I Ever campaign from Bristol students, to tackle sexist culture/male entitlement?

The time is now

There are things you can actively do to support a change now: 

  • Contact your local MP and councillors to ask them what they’re doing to tackle gender-based violence. If MP’s get enough contact on one issue, they may ask a question around it in parliament or look at shaping legislation. 

Check out what politicians and candidates had to say about this when Bristol Women’s Commission asked them exactly this, here.

  • Sign or start petitions on issues you care about – it might not feel like much, but petitions listed on the government website that get 10k signatures, will receive a response from the government. At 100k signatures, it will be considered for a debate in Parliament.
  • Go to a local protest march e.g. Reclaim the Night. It’s a good way of feeling less alone and finding like-minded people who share your passion for social justice.
  • Ask local schools what they are doing to ensure that children are receiving quality education by experts around consent, sex and healthy relationships.
  • Consider volunteering or donating funds to your local Rape Crisis Centre/Refuge and other charities that support women. 

Voscur’s website (the voluntary sector umbrella organisation also part of the Women’s Commission) is a good place to find volunteering opportunities.

As the brilliant Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project says in her new book, it’s time to ‘Fix the system, not the women’. 

A Christmas gift for Bristol’s foster carers

Councillor Asher Craig, smiling, with a bush behind her.
Councillor Asher Craig, Cabinet Member for

Some Bristol residents are currently having to choose between heating their homes and putting food in their cupboards. The impact of the current cost of living crisis is being felt right across the city.

Our foster carers are amazing, providing a safe and nurturing home to children in Bristol – sadly, we know the cost of living crisis is causing further anxieties for them on top of the challenges they already face.

In April we raised the allowances and fees for our foster carers, who now receive up to £458 a week for each child they look after as well as extra for birthdays and holidays.  

However, with inflation and interest rates going up, we knew we wanted and needed to do more.

We are providing foster carers with a one-off payment of £400 in the lead up to Christmas, to give them a helping hand going into the festive period.

We hope this will take some of the financial pressure off, while we explore more ways to further support our amazing foster carers.

Welcome payment to new foster carers

A carer opening a Christmas present with a young boy.

The main reason carers decide to start fostering, is because they care about and want to help children in Bristol.

Deciding to open your home to a child, or children, who need help is a huge decision to make. Financial planning is an essential part of this process.

Here in Bristol we desperately need more people to come forward to foster, helping us to keep children that need our support close to their communities, schools and people important to them.

As an added incentive, we have agreed a grant of £500 for all our new foster carers when they start caring for their first child, as a welcome to the council’s fostering community.

We understand how tight household budgets are, especially for carers. We hope this will encourage more people to consider starting their fostering journey with us.  

Budget consultation

A foster carer and young girl smiling, whilst opening Christmas stockings.

In light of Bristol City Council’s budget consultation, highlighting the need to reduce our costs and generate more income, some people might be asking if now is the right time to offer new and existing foster carers more money.

The answer is yes. Foster carers play a vital role in our city, caring for children when their own parents or family are unable to.

If fostering becomes unaffordable, we run the risk of losing our valued foster carers and letting children down who are in need of our support.

If we can’t place children with our own foster carers, we need to use more expensive, independent fostering agencies that often place children outside the city.

Our foster carers also have access to a raft of support, training and development, and are part of a wider network of local carers, giving them the right skills and support to be able to care for the children we place with them.  

We are incredibly proud of all our foster carers and so grateful for all they do. We wish them and their families a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

You can find out more about fostering with the council on our Fostering Bristol website where you can make an enquiry and order an information pack. You can also call our fostering team to have an informal chat by calling 0117 353 4200.

If you are struggling with the cost of living, visit for advice and guidance. You can also call the We Are Bristol helpline for free on 0800 694 0184, Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5pm.

You can give your views on our budget proposal until midnight on Friday 23 December 2022 online via the council’s website. To request an alternative format, contact our Consultation and Engagement Team by emailing or by calling 0117 922 2848. 

World AIDS Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World AIDS Day Activities in Bristol – get involved:

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

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

Sparta: Thursday 1st December, 3.30 – 6.30pm

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

University of West England, Frenchay Campus

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

Priscilla Queen of the Desert at The Watershed

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

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

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2022

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

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

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

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

Next Link relaunching as Next Link Plus

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

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

As lead provider, Next Link have joined with Nilaari, Off the Record, Bristol Drugs Project, 1625 Independent People, St Mungo’s, Victim Support, and the deaf health charity Sign Health to form Next Link Plus, a new partnership that will offer more specialist support to all adults and child survivors of domestic abuse in Bristol.

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

IRISi new intervention ADVISE

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

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

Respite Rooms

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

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

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

Survivors Forum

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

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

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

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

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

Remembering the lives that have been lost

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

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

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

Getting help

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

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

Halloween marks the launch of Bristol Good Food Hub

This Halloween, Bristol is in for a treat: we can celebrate the launch of the Bristol Good Food Hub. The new online tool will help citizens and organisations find and access affordable and healthy food, cookery courses, and free child-friendly events and activities, alongside resources, news, and stories from around our city.

The hub, developed by Bristol Food Network with support of Bristol City Council, will bring together organisations and residents involved in Bristol’s thriving food scene to explore how we grow, buy, cook, eat and throw away food.

This has been made possible by The Bristol Good Food Partnership, a collection of organisations working together, behind the website, to deliver ambitious action plans which aim to make change across our whole local food system. Almost 30 organisations have helped develop the action plans including Feeding Bristol, Bristol Food Producers, University of Bristol, Resource Futures, Bristol Waste, The Community Farm, Square Food Foundation, Bristol Green Capital Partnership, and many more. Bristol Good Food is coordinated by Bristol Food Network, with the support of Bristol City Council.

The hub launches against the backdrop of the national cost-of-living crisis, with many people struggling with food insecurity and alongside the climate and ecological emergencies that we are tackling in our city. The hub focuses on making sure Bristol’s food systems work for communities, climate, and nature.

Food plays a key part of Bristol’s story and culture. It filled me with pride to see the unified city approach to getting food out to those who needed it during the pandemic. Seventy groups co-produced our Food Equality Strategy which was launched during Food Justice Week.

Our commitment to tackling food insecurity amongst young people is unwavering, and this half term we’re again providing vouchers to families that receive free school meals to help with school holiday hunger and rising living costs. We also continue to run our free Your Holiday Hub programme over the main school holidays where children attending are provided with nutritious meals and food education.

A photo of a pie with text reading: Bristol Gold Food City.

It was the collective bid from organisations and citizens that led to Bristol being the second UK city to win the Gold Food City award and the community groups that are growing peat-free vegetables and fruit to provide foodbanks from the Blaise Nursery plant donations.

Earlier this month, the Bristol Eating Better Award was relaunched and opened out to schools and early years settings across our city. This is part of our work towards ensuring more children have healthy, sustainable food.

Throughout October we’ve been encouraging citizens to try and choose low carbon foods, and dispose of food waste properly so it feels fitting to end the month with a celebration of the Bristol Good Food Hub. Please head on over to the hub and take a look at the latest news and events, and share your own food stories.

New support tackling domestic violence and abuse

Lucy Downes IRIS Network Director smiling
Today’s guest blog is from Lucy Downes, IRIS Network Director

Survivors of domestic sexual violence and abuse can experience major impacts on their physical and mental health. The signs of this trauma can easily be missed by health care professionals during consultations.

Some survivors of domestic violence would like to disclose information to a health professional, but often do not feel confident or comfortable raising concerns on their own. Many even fear they will not be believed. Attempting to change this, IRISi have launched a new intervention, called ADViSE, which is now running in sexual health clinics across Bristol and South Gloucestershire.

ADViSE stands for “Assessing for Domestic Violence and Abuse in Sexual Health Environments”. As it suggests, the programme supports sexual health staff to identify and respond to the signs of both Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse – and enables them to directly refer patients to a specialist service for support.

It builds on the successful evidence-based model, ‘IRIS’ (Identification and Referral to Improve Safety), which is IRISi’s flagship programme in GP practices nationwide. This new service is jointly commissioned by Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council and will be delivered locally at Unity Sexual Health clinics in collaboration with Next Link, a local specialist domestic abuse support service.

According to a study published by the World Health Organisation in 2012, women affected by domestic abuse and sexual violence are three times more likely to have gynaecological and sexual health problems. Another paper, “Domestic violence in a genitourinary medicine setting–an anonymous prevalence study in women”, reports that 47% of women attending sexual health services will have experienced domestic abuse and sexual violence at some point in their lives and these services can be the first point of contact for support.

While we know that domestic and sexual violence are gendered issues that predominantly affect women, violence can occur in all relationships, across all genders and sexualities. Sexual Health clinics are safe places for LGBTQ+ communities, who may not feel comfortable attending their GP or non-specialist health settings. So, ADViSE is essential in addressing domestic and sexual violence and abuse within these settings.

ADVICE services leaflet. On the right is an image of a medical professional writing on a note pad. On the bottom right of the image is the IRISi Interventions logo. The top left corner has the ADVISE logo, with text reading Assessing for Domestic Violence and Abuse in Sexual Health Environments. Text in the centre reads: ADViSE is running in Bristol and South Gloucestershire - The pilot project aims to help survivors to confidentially disclose their experiences with staff, who can then offer referrals for specialist support.

But how does it work?

ADViSE provides a holistic approach based on on-going training and support for sexual health clinic staff, giving them confidence and knowledge to spot the signs of domestic sexual violence and abuse.

A domestic and sexual violence expert, called an ‘Advocate Educator’ (AE), works alongside an ADViSE clinical lead (CL), a sexual health practitioner committed to improving the response to domestic abuse and sexual violence. Together they provide specialist training for the sexual health clinic staff, teaching them to create an environment that is a safe space for survivors to be heard and to disclose experiences.

The AE also provides advice and consultancy for the sexual health team, they are also the point of contact for patients who would like support and advocacy around domestic abuse and sexual violence. The AE becomes embedded in the sexual health clinics, thus giving patients essential access to both health and domestic abuse and sexual violence services.

This service is available to all Unity Sexual Health clinics across Bristol and South Gloucestershire, serving a population of nearly a million people. The launch of ADViSE means more survivors will have access to vital support. It also shows the importance of commitment from public investors to establish a robust and well-integrated model to address the needs of domestic abuse and sexual violence survivors in a holistic and sustainable way.