Category Archives: Learning, Skills, and Young People

Funding holiday activities and food programmes for school-age children in Bristol

Councillor Asher Craig, smiling, with bushes behind.
Today’s guest Blog is from Councillor Asher Craig, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Education, and Equalities

For many parents and carers, finding ways to entertain children and make sure they are eating healthy meals can be something of a challenge.

In Bristol, the Your Holiday Hub (YHH) programme provides free holiday activities and meals to thousands of children and young people (CYP) during the Easter, summer, and winter school holidays. Last year over 32,800 spaces were available on the programme for children and young people from Reception to Year 11. Places on the programme are for families who receive benefit-related Free School Meals, or for those children who may require additional support over the school holidays.

Yesterday Bristol’s Cabinet accepted a grant for £1,848,730 from the UK government’s Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme, to cover the school holidays in 2023. This means we can continue running the fantastic YHH programme in Bristol until March 2025.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic combined with huge increases in food and energy prices, has widened the economic divide and amplified the inequalities in our city, which we know disproportionally affects our children.

Children from Your Holiday Hub, playing on a football pitch, running towards the camera smiling.

As part of Bristol’s Belonging Strategy, we want our children and young people to have the best possible start in life, gaining the support and skills they need to prosper in adulthood. The importance of offering these opportunities where children and young people are able to socialise and play together, post-pandemic, cannot be underestimated. We know these basic but vital skills were badly impacted by the long periods of isolation.

Getting children to eat healthily can be tricky. Through Your Holiday Hub, children can learn about the importance of leading a healthy and active lifestyle through exciting and engaging activities, trips and interactive workshops delivered by a network of over 70 activity providers in Bristol. Activities vary from football camps with the Bristol Robins Foundation, to den-building with Branches Our Forest School, to cooking and garden crafts at Redcatch Community Garden to name but a few.

The programme is also a fantastic example of how city partners can come together and tackle city-wide issues with us in a One City approach. Working with us to deliver this large-scale logistical exercise for each of the main school holidays are Feeding Bristol, Fareshare South West, Bristol Association for Neighbourhood Daycare (BAND), and Playful Bristol.

As part of our plans to get more eligible children and young people to access YHH, we have begun to build up a network of trusted school staff or HAF Champions to help encourage eligible families to sign up for to the programme. We currently have 40 wonderful HAF Champions in schools across Bristol. Over the coming months, we hope more school staff will step forward to be the bridge we need between YHH and the children who will benefit from it the most.

I am so grateful for all the hard work and dedication that is put into running Your Holiday Hub which helps so many families in Bristol. Huge thanks to the 72 organisations across Bristol who put together such inspiring holiday activities and food workshops for our children and young people during the school holidays.

Your Holiday Hub activities for the Easter holidays will be available on the Your Holiday Hub website from mid-March. More information about the Department for Education’s HAF programme can also be found on the government website.

Teenagers smiling and laughing, playing with a skateboard at a skate ramp.

Apprenticeships in Bristol

Councillor Asher Craig, smiling, with bushes behind her.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Asher Craig, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Education, and Equalities and Labour Councillor for St George West

This week, we celebrate the important contributions our many apprentices make here in Bristol. National Apprenticeship Week is in its 16th year, championing apprenticeships across the UK and what they mean for individuals, businesses, and also the wider economy.

This year focuses on how apprenticeships in Bristol offer Skills for Life and how learning on-the-job is a great way to get into your preferred industry or career. You can build your skills and gain invaluable experience all while earning money to help you live. These skills can be taken with you wherever your career leads you in the future.

In the last 12 months, we have seen 131 apprenticeships starting at Bristol City Council including with OnSite, our training scheme for the construction industry. Of those, 37 per cent were aged 16 to 24; 20 per cent were from a black, Asian, and minority ethnic background; and 16 per cent were from the Disabled community. We want Bristol to be a fair and inclusive place for everyone to work and continuing to create more equal opportunities for local people to start work, upskill, or change careers is an important part of this.

Sophie McKenzie-Brook, smiling.

An example of someone already on their chosen career path is Sophie McKenzie-Brook, who is a level six apprentice social worker. Sophie is studying for her degree at the same time as building experience in social work with both adults and children. Whilst it can be demanding balancing work and study, she feels more confident and really recommends starting an apprenticeship as an alternative to more traditional education routes.

Tyler Mogg, smiling.

Tyler Mogg is a level three civil engineering apprentice with us. He wanted to work close to home and get paid while completing his qualification. He is studying at Bristol College as well as working in a team within the council. Through his apprenticeship, Tyler is learning new skills (such as CAD design) as well as gaining first-hand experience and he even hopes to continue working with the team after he completes his course in three years’ time.

Yolanda Munyira, smiling.

Yolanda Munyira was already a member of the Youth Council when she decided to enrol on an apprenticeship course. She chose level three business administration as her apprenticeship and currently works closely with building control and the legal department. It is a great way to enter the world of work and Yolanda is enjoying working with her colleagues. Plus, she gets to be involved in many different areas of the council, such as the Hope Virtual School, working with the disclosure team and on Full Council meetings.

As an apprentice, you are fully employed which means you will be paid a wage and will receive a holiday allowance and other staff benefits just like other employees, such as sick leave and a pension. As a Living Wage employer, we believe in rewarding our apprentices fairly for a hard day’s work. The Living Wage Foundation rate is £9.90 per hour if you are over 18, and £7.60 per hour for those under 18 years.

We have also recently introduced a new initiative called Building Bristol. It’s great for the local construction industry as it tackles educational and economic inequality by working with developers, contractors, and employers to plug local employment and skills support services into all major city developments. Any local developers keen to be involved, or who need help completing an employment and skills plan, can get in touch by emailing

Being an apprentice can be so rewarding as well as making such a big contribution to the local workforce. If you want to follow in the footsteps of Sophie, Tyler, and Yolanda with an apprenticeship, find out more on our Education, Skills and Learning website or go to the Bristol City Council website. There are so many different types to choose from and you will be fully supported in whichever direction you choose to go.

Bristol Born Enterprise: Bristol Braille Technology

Ed Rogers, the founder and Managing Director of Bristol Braille Technology, smiling.
Today’s guest blog is from Ed Rogers, the founder and Managing Director of Bristol Braille Technology

Bristol Braille Technology is a tech company based in Windmill Hill in Bristol, who have created and manufactured the first multi-line, refreshable Braille machine. We have been perfecting the machine for around 12 years, before finally going to market in 2019. Since then, Bristol Braille Technology has sold machines all over the world including Japan, Uzbekistan and Dubai to both individuals and organisations who want access to Braille.

The Canute 360 is, in essence, a Kindle for blind people. The device enables you to download a book onto an SD card, convert it to a Braille file and then read the book on the device itself. Each line refreshes as the reader moves down the “page” with the Braille dots appearing on the surface of the machine.

Globally, Braille has been in decline for various reasons. The most common issues cited include the high cost of printed Braille, the size of the resources and the relative difficulty of access to printing or technologies in developing nations.

Currently, Braille readers have access to paper Braille books, which can become enormous depending on the material. A Braille page is around 1/3 of an A4 sheet which leads to books becoming huge bulk items for a Braille reader. The Lord of the Rings trilogy would take up 4ft square of space if laid next to each other!

Blind people in work or education need access to research books, maths equations and real-time graphs to do their jobs, all of these are limited when it comes to paper Braille.

Bristol Braille Technology staff, smiling, holding Canute 360 devices. Ed Rogers, the Managing Director and founder is the furthest left in the picture.

Whilst the Canute 360 is currently solving the problem of space-saving reading, we realised that Braille had far more applications than just enjoying books. Over lockdown, we looked more closely at the Braille display and wanted to find out what else the machine could be used for. From this, we have developed The Canute Console, a state-of-the-art device that uses Python (a programming language) access to features and programs sighted people take for granted.

Plugging straight into the Canute 360, The Console is able to use Braille to give users the ability to access and create their own data via computer programming, word processing, spreadsheets, calendars, computer games and more. Historically, something as simple as an excel spreadsheet has been out of reach to blind and visually impaired people due to a lack of investment in accessible tools.

We currently have these machines out on trial to find out how they can be used, we’re exploring everything from controlling robots, teaching someone to programme their own Braille-based computer games and even finding out how best to access their bank statements.

We are looking for sponsors to get these machines to the people that need them as well as to help support us in finding out what else we can give Braille readers access to. So far we’ve managed games of snake, explored cities all over the world, followed the 2022 world cup matches and lots more.

Our mantra is “Braille literacy is independence” and it’s true. It’s why we’ve joined forces with the group The Braillists, a worldwide community dedicated to teaching and encouraging more people to learn to read Braille and enjoy not only reading for pleasure but also opening more doors when it comes to careers and education.

“If I want to remember something, really remember, I need to read it in Braille”.

Stuart Lawler – Braille reader

To find out more about what we do head to our website:

South Bristol’s new world class Youth Zone

A photo of Cody, smiling. Cody is an assistant youth worker at Youth Moves.
Today’s guest blog is from Cody, an assistant youth worker at Youth Moves. He came to the project as a primary school pupil, and has come all the way through from young person to staff member. And he is excited about the impact the South Bristol Youth Zone could have on young people in different communities across the patch.

I understand the value of youth work, both professionally and personally.

I started out as a young person at Youth Moves, after meeting a youth worker called Paul at my local primary school in Knowle West. He told me that there was this club that I can go to, and they could help me get back into education.

I spent years with the project, and they helped me enormously get my life on track after experiencing a few issues along the way. Then one day I started volunteering as an older teenager because I wanted to give back to the community. I went to college, and after finishing a media course, Youth Moves offered me a chance to be a sports apprentice. I am now aged 21, and have my first full time job as an assistant youth worker, working in the area I grew up in.

I love it. But there are some challenges we face in the south of the city. There can be some tensions between young people from Knowle West and Hartcliffe. I don’t really have a problem working in Knowle because obviously I grew up there and know a lot of people in the area, especially older siblings to most of the young people that we work with. So it’s pretty easy for me to work there. But it’s not so much when I go to Hartcliffe, as a lot of the young people at first don’t want work with someone from Knowle. That’s how entrenched some of this stuff can be.

We must build the relationship first and then sort of let them know where we’re from once they’re comfortable with us. For example, I had one group from Hartcliffe, who told me that had they known that me and another worker were from Knowle, they would’ve refused to work with us. Once they had worked with us for three or four months, we took them to our current base in The Park Centre in Knowle, and some of the young people mixed, they got on.

But this takes time. We even recently took groups from both areas to a residential alongside Hartcliffe Club for Young People.

This is where the team at Youth Moves is strong, as we have staff born and raised in Knowle like me, and those from Hartcliffe that have those trusting relationships. We also have staff from outside the area that can give a broader perspective and fresh eyes on things.

A picture of Cody, standing in front of Morrisons in Hartcliffe.
Cody in Hartcliffe

So, with the new £8 million Youth Zone coming, our plan is to try and bring both communities together. It may seem naïve, but we have already started the work, to break down barriers and build a bridge between groups of young people. A barrier that shouldn’t be there anyway in my opinion.

There was a big divide, especially when I was growing up, and I reckon the Youth Zone will be a big part of solving this, because it’s right in the middle and in a space where all young people feel safe. The problem with our current location at the minute is it can be hard for the young people from Hartcliffe to get to and to always feel comfortable in.

It’s also important for young people from other parts of South Bristol to come too of course. I think once it’s there and it’s been there for a little while, we’ll be able to get funding to be able to transport young people to and from different locations across South Bristol.

Now you may be wondering what a Youth Zone actually is, well it’s basically a giant youth club with loads of facilities that’s open most of the week. Last year I went to visit one in Manchester, and I thought it was amazing. Part of me only wished there was something like that about when I was younger.

Walking through the building I was impressed, there was a gym for people that like their sport, their exercise. A football court, a boxing room. There was dedicated spaces for arts and crafts, hair and beauty. So, you’ve got everything and that’s what you need in a place. There’s something for everyone to do, and that’s where you’ll get everyone mixing and joining in and building relationships between communities and young people themselves.

And I feel like it’s been a long time coming for South Bristol, we deserve something of this standard to give to the young people to keep them off the streets and keep them out of trouble. There was nothing like this when I was growing up.  Bigger buildings like this are so much better because then it gives them a safe space to come to, and more things to do. And young people will probably trust us workers a bit more and open up about stuff they might have going on.

An image of 7 boys, standing in front of a goal, wearing football kits.
Cody as a young person (bottom left) with Youth Moves

It’s important to say that Youth Zone isn’t really all about Youth Moves either, it’s about the area. In the next couple of years, we will be looking for local organisations that we can invite in to come in and run different areas of the building. Local clubs and stuff. It’s going to be bigger than us, we are just based there.We want to make it a whole community thing.

What I love about the Youth Zone concept is also the involvement of young people in it, something that’s key. It’s important that young people have a say, something that can often get lost in debates and conversations on their behalf.

We will be setting up a young person’s advisory group and are actively looking for young people to get involved now. This group will have a say in the naming of the Youth Zone, the design, what will be in there and the shaping of all of it really. The building is for them after all. It’s there for us to work in yes but it’s for them to come in, feel safe, and enjoy.

Young people need to have a say, otherwise it’s not going to be what they really want, doing this it means it’s for them. So, I’m so happy it’s coming and am very excited about working there and what the future holds for the young people of South Bristol.

Urgent appeal launches for more Bristol foster carers

Today we are launching an urgent fostering appeal, asking Bristolians to take on the hugely important role of giving a home to a child in care.

Why now?

We’re calling on residents across the city to become foster carers following a steady decline in the number of people coming forward to foster with the council. At the same time, the number of children coming into care is continuing to rise.

We now have more than 750 children and young people in care in Bristol but only 353 fostering households in our city through the council. We are incredibly grateful to every single one of them for their support. But, unfortunately, it’s not enough. 

Because of the shortage of foster carers and the increase in demand, we need to place around 40 per cent of our children with private fostering agencies, or, in some cases, in children’s homes. Although a necessity, it can sadly lead to sibling groups being separated and children needing to live outside of our city, away from their communities, schools and friends.

That’s why we’re running an urgent appeal for the first three months of 2023, to encourage potential foster carers to come forward and offer local children secure and loving homes.

Previous response

When we reached out to you in 2020 with an appeal for emergency foster carers – to help us place a high number of children in short-term care during the pandemic – your response was incredible.

It resulted in twice the usual number of enquiries about fostering, leading to an extra 24 households being approved as emergency foster carers.

We need people to step up again as we’re at crisis point. This time we’re again looking for all types of foster carers – from short to long term as well as weekends and short breaks.

Who can foster?

If you have space in your homes and in your lives for a child who desperately needs you, please contact us to find out more about becoming one of our incredible foster carers. All you need is a spare room and to be over 21 years of age.

Foster carers come from every sector of society, income level, ethnic group, religion and sexual orientation.

You don’t need any qualifications to become a foster carer, but it helps if you already have experience with children or caring for people – whether that’s with your own family, childminding, or having worked in a caring profession.

Why foster with us

Bristol is not the only local authority to be facing a critical shortage of foster carers. It’s a national trend experienced in many parts of the country. One possible reason is the increased cost of living we are all facing. That’s why we’re offering a welcome grant of £500 to you, along with a weekly allowance and other benefits, when you start your journey with us as an approved foster carer.

Unlike fostering agencies that are run for profit, all our funding is spent on supporting local children through difficult times, placing them with kind and loving carers in homes where they can feel safe and thrive. 

All our foster carers get one-to-one support from a dedicated social worker, as well as training and skills opportunities, and wellbeing support so to be the best possible carers to Bristol children.

We also offer a range of benefits, such as free access to Everyone Active leisure centres and free events, such as theatre trips and social events at parks. 

What’s more, when you foster with us, you become part of a wider fostering family through Bristol Foster Carers Association, which links you up to other local foster carers and looked after children, which is a useful support network to draw on.

What it’s really like

Our foster carers tell us that, despite the challenges, fostering is the most rewarding thing they’ve done.

Alex Kear, a bus driver with First Bus, has been fostering with his husband for 11 years. He’s shared with us the impact fostering has had on his life and the lives of the children they’ve welcomed into their family.

Alex Kear

Alex told us: “The best bit is seeing children having fun, being relaxed and able to enjoy life which was difficult when living at home.

“It’s a joy to be able to see them progressing at school and achieving good results and making new friends in the fostering community. 

“The advice I would give to people considering fostering is to do it. It can be very rewarding to see the children you look after turning difficult corners in their lives that you have supported them through.”

If you’ve been thinking about opening up your home to a child who needs stability, love and support, now is the time to act.

It’s a lot to consider, which is why we recommend contacting our fostering team first for an information pack and an informal chat.

Visit our fostering website to find out more or call Bristol Fostering on 0117 353 4200.

More specialist school places planned for Bristol

Today’s blog is from Deputy Mayor Asher Craig, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Education, and Equalities.

Choosing and applying for a school place for your child or children is one of the most important decisions that families will make. It’s a process which can sometimes be fraught with anxiety about making the right choice. As a parent myself I know this feeling all too well. And if you are applying for a school place for your child or children who have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), knowing that the school will be able to meet their individual needs and provide the specialist provision required will be paramount. 

As a local authority we recognised that our city needed more specialist provision places back in 2021, and we made the decision to set this work in motion, making a Mayoral pledge to create 450 new, specialist provision places within three years. Specialist provision places are for children who have an education, health and care (EHC) plan. Creating these new places across our city takes time and proper planning, and we know this won’t feel quick enough for all families, but real progress is being made. 

Just this month, Cabinet approved a competitive tender and subsequent award of a block contract for 30 new placements in an independent special school in the Bristol area (BS1 – BS16), over the next five years. These placements will be for children who present with a range of complex additional learning needs. 

Phase One of the specialist provision Mayoral pledge will establish 142 new places in total. Over 106 of these have already been delivered and the remaining 36 are coming between January and April 2023. Over 80 specialist places are also being delivered as part of other capital projects including Knowle DGE, Elmfield School for Deaf Children, and City of Bristol College (Project Rainbow)

In addition, the number of High Needs places at the city’s existing special schools have been increased by 37. These additional places have been created at Soundwell Academy, Venturers Academy, Elmfield School for Deaf Children, Briarwood, and Kingsweston School

In September, Cabinet approved funding for the progression of a variety of projects as part of Phase Two of the specialist provision project, which will deliver hundreds more new places to complete the 450 pledge and probably more. 

Through forecasting, we have also identified the need for a new special school in our local area and have applied to the Department for Education for funding, as part of their new special free school wave. Local data suggests the need for a 164-place school providing specialist provision for children with a range of needs. We anticipate the school will be for pupils aged from 4-19 years and will support the need of our community by offering a flexible provision, catering for Trauma; Neurodiversity; Speech, Language, and Communication Needs (SLCN); Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC); SEMH (Social, Emotional, and Mental Health); Severe Learning Difficulty (SLD); and Cognition & Learning Needs (C&L).      

Our proposed site for the school will be located to the north of Bristol, on the Elmfield Site, in the neighbourhoods of Southmead, Westbury-on-Trym, and Henbury. Bristol City Council are deeply committed to ensuring the new proposed school truly benefits the local community, so we ran a consultation in autumn this year which showed the vast majority were in favour of the location for the new school, with most of the responses coming from parents and carers of SEND families. We will find out if our bid for the funding has been successful in January 2023.

This work is part of our SEND Sufficiency and Capital Proposals. Cabinet approved an investment of over £28 million in Bristol’s special schools, which included major improvements to current special schools as well as significantly increasing the number of specialist provision places in new and refurbished buildings for students with SEND.

As noted in our recent positive Ofsted/CQC revisit inspection, the identification and assessment of CYP with SEND in Bristol is improving, with the Ordinarily Available Provision document detailing interventions to meet needs, within typical school assessment and support processes. There has been a cultural shift in the way that professionals and schools, work together which is improving the way that they work together to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND.

It’s important to know that not every child with an EHC plan will need a specialist provision place. For many, their needs can – and should – be met by a mainstream school place and that, depending on their needs and the school, this environment is the better option. 

In Bristol we have a clear Ordinarily Available Provision offer on Bristol’s Local Offer website, which details the resources and support we expect to be available for all children and young people with SEND in mainstream education settings. Mainstream schools in our city are working towards becoming more inclusive and aim to provide an environment, culture and education ethos that enables all our children, no matter what their additional needs are, to feel a sense of belonging. However, the level of need and increasing demand for specialist school places in Bristol means it is right that we have this 450 target and ambition in place. 

Albert Kennedy Trust’s new Bristol offices

Dominic McGovern, smiling, with a tree and buildings behind him.
Today’s guest blog is from Dominic McGovern, Marketing and Communications manager for akt

“Good society happens… because we make it happen” is what Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said last month at the opening of akt’s new offices in St Paul’s Learning Centre. Mr Rees kindly came down to the opening to speak about some of the socio-economic issues that face young LGBTQ+ people in the UK. 59% of LGBTQ+ young people have faced some form of discrimination or harassment while accessing services.

More than two-fifths of local authorities and housing associations in the UK have not received training on LGBTQ+ inclusion or LGBTQ+ homelessness. akt is committed to helping educate public bodies about the myriad complex issues that affect young LGBTQ+ people, and we are looking forward to working with the mayor of Bristol and his team over the coming weeks and months to help find long-lasting pathways into safe and affordable housing for the young people of Bristol.

akt was founded in 1989 by Cath Hall, a foster carer and ally who noticed a lack of specific care and support for young LGBT+ people facing issues surrounding homelessness. Since then, akt has spent 33 years supporting LGBTQ+ young people into safe homes, employment, education, or training. 24% of young people facing homelessness identify as LGBTQ+ and 77% of the young people who use our services told us that family rejection and abuse after coming out or being outed was the primary reason for their homelessness.

Many of the issues that faced young LGBTQ+ people at akt’s founding, including rejection, abuse, and lack of access to housing support and services, are still as present today as they were in 1989. Part of akt’s long term strategy is to work with policymakers and successive governments to develop a national youth homelessness strategy that will directly benefit young LGBTQ+ people by prioritising education for local authorities on issues that affect the community and monitoring data to make sure that there is specific housing support for LGBTQ+ communities in areas that need it.

Data from the young people who use akt’s services has shown that 63% of the young people we helped in Bristol between 2021 and 2022 identified as trans, non-binary or were questioning their gender identity. This is a full 15% above the 48% nationwide. Up until 2022, akt worked remotely in the area, and lots of the young people in Bristol who use our services do so digitally, so akt’s new office will be a vital lifeline for many of the young LGBTQ+ in the South West.

Creating the conditions for real health: the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector in Bristol

Rebecca Mear, CEO of Voscur, smiling looking at the camera.
Today’s guest blog is from Rebecca Mear, CEO of Voscur

What is health? Is it only the “absence of illness or injury”? Or is it – as the World Health Organisation recommends – “‘a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

However, you choose to define it, what we do know is that there is a wide range of social factors that determine whether you will experience good health. These factors include where you are born and where you live, what you do for work, and the structures around you that create “inequities of power, money and resources”.[1] Essentially, your health – and therefore your life expectancy – has very little to do with the services you receive in a hospital or GP surgery, and everything to do with the opportunities you have access to within your life and personal circumstances.

Bristol is a city full of contradictions, and one that is most stark is the differing experiences between those who are born and live in certain, more affluent areas compared to other areas where people face poverty and disadvantage.

The term ‘Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector (or VCSE sector) is used to describe a hugely diverse range of groups and organisations, some of which are crewed entirely by volunteers and some of which turn over millions of pounds a year – and every shape and size of organisation in-between. What they have in common is that they all aim to make life better in some way for people or communities.

A photo from the launch of Voscur's publication The Power of Community, a women is speaking on the stage. a man and women sit in the background.
Launch of Voscur’s publication The Power of Community

Much of the VCSE sector focuses on working with people who experience disadvantage, barriers or inequality in some form. The VCSE sector encompasses the people who are there, day in day out, year in year out, in the community centres or social spaces, bringing people together, listening to them, providing advice or support, referring people into other services to get the help they need, and following up with them. It also includes the people running activities that keep people active or give them social contact that they wouldn’t otherwise have, or the chance to learn skills or work towards employment or volunteering. These VCSE organisations offer people on the ground long-term social relationships – the funding for one project may have ended, but you can still interact with the people in that organisation, and they will still care if you are facing difficulties, and find ways to support, empower and enable you. In short, the VCSE sector is the place where real health – not health and social care services, but the conditions for a fulfilled, happy life within a neighbourhood or community where interactions happen – is made to happen.

However, it has historically been really hard for the VCSE sector to demonstrate the role it plays in improving our lives. A huge amount of organisations and groups deliver activities or services that are, essentially, preventative: the group that brings young people together regularly and in doing so prevents mental health issues being exacerbated for those young people; the English language skills programme for refugees and migrants that prevents long-term unemployment; the befriending service for older people that prevents them feeling isolated and experiencing a quicker decline in their physical health. Yet the VCSE sector has always struggled to demonstrate the long-term preventative nature of its work within an analytical framework that calls for metric-driven quick wins. The impact is over a long time period – one that requires a much longer presence and commitment than election cycles at either local or national level, and this creates a disconnect between the VCSE sector and its potential partners in the public sector.

A photo from the launch of Voscur's publication The Power of Community. In the foreground people sit on tables, in the background a man speaks on stage.
Launch of Voscur’s publication The Power of Community

Imagine a scenario where the public sector was not under pressure – again at both national and local levels – to be seen to be investing in the ‘crisis’ services such as hospitals or social care. Imagine what would happen if some of the resources at the disposal of the public sector were invested in the community-based organisations that are leading on a range of innovative services or activities that allow for both innovation and a real commitment to the people within that community to be entwined together.

There are so many solutions to problems already being delivered by the VCSE sector for communities of both interest and place across Bristol: redistributing resources away from the “burning platforms that suck in oxygen[2]” of ‘crisis’ services into the activity that will prevent people’s lives descending into those crises, could make an incredible, life-defining difference for many. To do this would take a lot of courage; public sector organisations would need to be prepared to explain to the public why the latest drug or gadget hasn’t been invested in over – for example – a community-led service that doesn’t look glamourous or in any way connected to our traditional concept of “health and social care services.” It would also take courage to invest in achieving those longer-term outcomes, many of which will not be realised in the lifecycle of that current administration or management, and many of which cannot be easily measured.

However, Bristol is a place of innovation, and we have an excellent set of foundations to take forward this type of partnership working. The abject set of challenges that the public sector – most notably Local Authorities – is facing in terms of extreme budget cuts mean that we simply have to start trying something different. The VCSE sector cannot pull rabbits out of hats; it will need investment: but it can make money go so much further by focusing on the services that have a long-term, deep – and yes, sometimes unquantifiable – preventative effect. We invite the people and communities who are already there on the ground to tell us what the radical reimagining we propose here would look like for them, and we invite our partner organisations in Bristol and nearby to work with us to make this happen.

A photo of two people chatting at the launch of Voscur's publication The Power of Community.
Launch of Voscur’s publication The Power of Community

[1] Health Equity in England: The Marmot Repot Ten Years On

[2] Greg Fell, Keynote speaker, NAVCA conference November 2022

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. 

Your Holiday Hub reopens for winter

Young people and parents attend a pond, with an allotment in the background. This is at Your Holiday Hub's activities club.

Lots of children and young people look forward to this time of year, two weeks off school, Christmas decorations, presents and festive food. However, the winter holidays can also be a very challenging time for many families in Bristol. This year is especially difficult due to the added financial pressures that come with the current cost of living crisis. Our children and young people are often the most affected when it comes to crises such as this.

I am invested in supporting and inspiring young people in ways that helps relieve some of these added pressures. Now, well into its second year the Your Holiday Hub programme, funded by the UK Government’s Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme, will be returning to offer eligible children and young people access to free holiday activities and food this winter holiday.

Children and young people aged 4 to 16 years old, who are eligible, and in-receipt of free school meals will be able to access free holiday activities and food during the school holiday (19 December to 30 December). Activities this winter range from festive arts and crafts, cooking workshops and Ninja Warrior. During the sessions, young people are encouraged to learn new skills, forge new friendships and have fun in the meantime.

A young girl, smiling, holding a paint brush. This is at Your Holiday Hub's activities club.

At the heart of the Your Holiday Hub programme is food. Food should be a source of connection, and comfort. However, for many families who are struggling to afford to pay the bills, food can become a source of stress. Bristol has been working towards child equality over the school holidays since 2019 with the Bristol partnership The Healthy Holidays programme, led by Feeding Bristol and FareShare, which sought to create a city where no child goes hungry during the school holidays. As part of the Your Holiday Hub offering, with each four-hour activity, children and young people will receive a hot meal as well as learn about food, nutrition and healthy living through interactive workshops and classes.

Eligible families will also receive free school meal vouchers for the full winter holiday. These vouchers will be distributed through the schools.

Huge thanks go out to all the wonderful organisations across Bristol who organise holiday activities and food delivery for the Your Holiday Hub programme.

A full list of organisations and activities is available on the Your Holiday Hub website.