World Religion Day

Today’s guest blog is by Cllr Tom Aditya, Chair of Bristol Multi-Faith Forum, and Mrs. Tripti Megeri, Secretary of Bristol Multi-Faith Forum.

L-R: Rt. Rev. Vivienne Faull, Zaheer Shabir, Cllr Asher Craig, Cllr Tom Aditya, Parmjit Kaur, Mayor Marvin Rees, Kerry McCarthy MP, Cllr Craig Cheney. The person in the portrait is Parmjit Kaur’s great grandfather, Col. Nihal Singh Bahadur, who died in World War 1, after winning 14 distinguished services awards during his military career.

Bristol Multi-Faith Forum (BMFF) joyfully greets you all on World Religion Day, which aims to create awareness of different cultures and religions and to promote inter-faith understanding, unity, and social harmony. The observance of World Religion Day started in 1950s. This year, it is celebrated on January 17th.

World Religion Day provides the best opportunity to spread the message of community cohesion, humanity, compassion, tolerance, and unity. It encourages people to talk, listen, and understand the basic creeds of other religions. Practices and customs followed by different faiths vary, but every religion preaches kindness and other humanitarian values. Empathy and compassion are core human qualities. Diversity is an essential part of humankind. Tolerance towards different religions and cultures is needed to ensure harmony in society.

Bristol Multi-Faith Forum, instituted in 2004 by the Bristol City Council, acts as an agency for inter-faith and inter-cultural community cohesion, promoting the health and well-being of communities.

In recent years, there has been an increase in hate-crime, racism, intolerance and discrimination related incidents. These can knock-out victims’ morale and adversely affect their mental and physical health as well as personal and professional life. Consistent education and awareness about different religions and cultures can help to address the hate-crime related issues.

BMFF ardently supports the activities of the UK Inter-Faith Network. We participated in the ‘Buddying Scheme’, where we set up pairs of people from different faith communities to learn about each other’s beliefs and practices. Similarly, BMFF plays a collaborative role in organising the Bristol Lord Mayor’s Inter-Faith Civic Celebration, Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s Day, NHS-BT Blood and Organ Donation Campaign, the Healthy Walks, Bristol (Grand?)Iftar, and many such events. Adhering to the principles of social harmony, BMFF facilitates the community leaders’ meetings and supports the faith-communities in the best way possible.

BMFF echoes World Religion Day’s message, by providing a voice and vehicle for multifaith dialogue. BMFF usually organises the ‘Diverse Doors Open Day (DDOD)’ every year in Bristol and provides an opportunity to visit a wide range of places of worship and learn about the many faith communities in Bristol. On the 23rd of February 2020, BMFF hosted DDOD across 12 different places of worship in Bristol, and hundreds of people attended. But this year, due to the pandemic, things will be different, and the community’s wellbeing is our priority. We are hoping to host DDOD again, once the situation gets better. We are fortunate to have the advantage of modern technology and social media platforms, which helps to deliver the message to the wider audience effectively. Let’s save lives by staying at home and spreading the message of kindness.

2020 has been a tough year for everyone and the turmoil caused was beyond anyone’s imagination. But the community spirit and unity displayed in helping the vulnerable people was praiseworthy. Let us continue to help and support each other.

BMFF express its gratitude to the Mayor for sharing the blogspace on this occasion. We welcome you all to join BMFF and to pursue community-building activities, positively. Wishing you all to have a healthy, peaceful, and harmonious time ahead.

Email: info@bristolmultifaithforum.org.uk  Website: https://bristolmultifaithforum.org.uk/

Nobody should be spending winter on the streets

Today’s guest blog is from Thangam Debbonaire MP, Labour MP for Bristol West and shadow Secretary of State for Housing.

For rough sleepers, this lockdown is very different from spring last year. The weather is colder and the virus is more infectious, yet despite these dangers, the government have decided not to reinstate the ‘Everyone In’ programme which quickly got rough sleepers off the streets in March.

This immoral decision is part of a familiar pattern throughout this pandemic. The government has been too slow to act and indifferent to experts’ warnings, allowing risks to build into a dangerous crisis. As far back as July last year, the government was warned they needed to prepare for a tough winter. A government-commissioned report from the Academy of Medical Sciences identified homeless people as especially at risk.

The report stated that rough sleepers could be at increased risk of infection and illness, that homeless hostels were likely places for Covid outbreaks and that quarantine and vaccine measures for homeless people needed specific consideration. It appears now that these warnings have not been heeded. And there are once again people sleeping on the streets.

Throughout the spring, I repeatedly asked the government what information they had on people who had become rough sleepers after ‘Everybody In’ was established. There was no clear answer. Yet they must have known what I knew from discussions with councils and homelessness charities, that people were becoming street homeless and were not covered by the government’s provision.

I know that Bristol City Council and numerous homelessness charities – including St Mungo’s, Caring in Bristol and many others – have worked flat out to try to keep people in accommodation once they were brought in off the streets.  Bristol is a fantastic example of different organisations working together to get rough sleepers into long term support and housing, as part of a wider effort to help 1,200 people with accommodation since March. Our city has continued to make progress in building new affordable homes in spite of the pandemic, and despite Brexit uncertainty too, with Bristol on course to complete 500 new affordable homes this year – more than in any year during the last decade.

But councils like Bristol and leaders like Marvin have had to do that without the full financial support they were promised. They were told by the government that they would have ‘whatever it takes’ and they worked on that basis. Yet here we are months later and councils still haven’t received the full cost in spring. They definitely don’t have the full resources to support rough sleepers now.

However, this isn’t just about money, it’s about leadership. It’s about ensuring the moral imperative that nobody should be living on the streets at any time in a civilised developed country, but especially not at winter or during a pandemic. It’s about following through on the strongly-expressed views of the people of this country, that we do not leave people to struggle in this way.

Street homelessness is not inevitable. It is the result of political choices. Rough sleeping fell steadily through the 2000s until by 2010 it was at historically low levels. But instead of continuing with that progress, successive governments have since presided over increases. This is a consequence of declining incomes, fragile employment, cuts to mental health and addiction services, benefit caps and other choices.

Rough sleeping and wider homelessness was bad before the crisis. Covid has exposed the consequences and made things worse. Inadequate financial support packages and the gaps in these schemes have left too many people struggling to keep up with basic costs and many will have become homeless as a result, often through illegal evictions. More families are living in so-called temporary accommodation (130,000 children were in some form of temporary accommodation in the last quarter of 2020, including around 900 in Bristol) and single people will often end up on the streets, particularly as Covid means they are much less likely to find informal help with friends or family.

It is cold and wet outside. The virus is spreading more rapidly and we know that people with other underlying health conditions are more at risk of getting really ill. There is a moral imperative and a public health necessity for the government to show leadership, act now and make sure nobody is on the streets this winter.

Feeding Bristol

Today’s guest blog is from Ped Asgarian, Director of Feeding Bristol.

These are strange times that we are living through. The likes of which many of us have never experienced before. The pandemic has given many people a more stark exposure and understanding of the problems with our food system and the widespread issues of food insecurity and food poverty that exist within the city. This is a problem that has been worsening over the last decade, but one that we have the power to turn the tide on. We live in a city which has children going to school hungry, and where some households do not have the facilities to prepare and cook food, let alone the funds to pay for regular meals or fuel to cook with. The figures show us that over 14,000 children are eligible for free school meals and 23,000 households experience some form of fuel poverty in Bristol. This has only worsened since March 2020. We need to do better as a city.

Feeding Bristol is still a young charity. We only registered in March 2018, becoming one of the original ‘Feeding..’ Pilots in the UK. Our aims as a charity are to play a role in improving our local food system, enabling all citizens of Bristol the right to access nutritious and affordable food. Working in collaboration with a variety of organisations throughout the city, from Bristol City Council to grass-root, community led organisations, we want to make Bristol a beacon of Food Justice throughout the country. Actually, that should be globally. Bristol has all the ingredients to be a pioneer when it comes to our food system. We have amazing culture and diversity, a council that is open to and supports new approaches in the sector, and we have an innovate and collaborative culture throughout groups, organisations and individuals.

Feeding Bristol has been known for its work over the last three summers leading on the Healthy Holiday’s programme. The project has grown since its first inception, raising almost £300k in the last two years. Funds raised are used to enable organisations to deliver a combination of activities and food which has reached over 7000 children. The project has evolved from cooking projects, sandwiches and fruit, to include working with a wide variety of partners from chefs and restaurants, to play projects and youth groups, and young carers and FOOD Clubs. Over 70 organisations were involved in the delivery of the programme in the summer of 2020.

But Feeding Bristol is more than just the Healthy Holiday’s programme. We are working hard to facilitate systemic change of our food system and culture through innovative projects and ideas such as The Children’s Kitchen (where they teach children in early years settings about food, growing and seasonal eating) and supporting the Food Clubs model which works with Fareshare Southwest to provide affordable healthy food options for families in wards with the highest level of food insecurity. We also work take a lead on the Food Equality strand of the Going for Gold campaign, working with the council on the strategy and action plan for the next decade.

This is a unique moment in time where we can use the spirit of collaboration that has been demonstrated over the last 10 months, combined with the willingness of building something better, to begin to create a fair and just food system. We will continue to work for the betterment of Bristol’s citizens through a more representative and empowered food system, and we hope you will join us on that journey.

Including ExcludedUK

Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Afzal Shah, Labour Councillor for Easton ward and Cabinet Member for Climate, Ecology, and Sustainable Growth.

Here in Bristol, we are proud of our city’s reputation as a hub for entrepreneurial excellence. According to the ONS, Bristol is consistently rated as one of the UK’s most productive cities, and a great place for start-ups, SMEs, creatives, and freelancers of all descriptions. We recognise the resilience of the city’s small and micro-business community, and appreciate the unprecedented challenges resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the Government has seriously neglected this sector. Out of Bristol’s 30,000 plus self-employed, over 6,000 people in Bristol are still without any financial support to see them through the pandemic. This number is much higher when all forms of ‘the excluded’ are counted.

Despite the furlough and Self-employment Income Support Schemes, around three million people nationally have fallen through the gaps of these schemes due to technicalities, and have been left with little, or no, financial support from the Government. There’s catches to the financial support schemes that mean a large number of people such as freelancers, the recently self-employed, directors of limited companies, and so many more, have been hung out to dry.

A quote commonly-attributed to Napoleon is that Britain ‘is a nation of shopkeepers’, which I interpret to mean that Britain is a nation of small businesses. Limited companies are often small businesses or one-man-bands, and the self-employed are the smallest business possible. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and have been for centuries, yet they are being let down by this Government.

The Government’s furlough and self-employment income support schemes have been lifelines for so many people who have seen their incomes decimated by the pandemic, but, it is unacceptable that almost a year and three lockdowns on, the gaps in the scheme haven’t been plugged. This has taken its toll on the excluded, both financially and emotionally.  

There was a lost opportunity to review, and correct, the criteria during Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s autumn spending review. The Chancellor proudly proclaimed that “nobody will be left behind”. Why then, has he failed to implement any support package for those who have fallen through the gaps of the support schemes?

These three million people are represented by an organisation, ExcludedUK, that provides support for the excluded and lobbies the Government on their behalf. I proposed a motion at today’s Full Council to lend our support to the organisation, and to call ‘on the government to address the disparities in support, to ensure that all individuals and businesses currently excluded, entirely or largely, from Covid-19 grants are given the support they need and rightfully deserve’ – one of ExcludedUK’s principle aims.

I know how necessary this is, as I have heard the heart-breaking stories of a number of local residents, ­including those working on short-term PAYE contracts, limited company directors, and people working in both employment & self-employment, who have all been excluded from financial support. One of my residents has even had to pawn personal possessions and survive off loans.

This isn’t acceptable. If the Government can find the money to give people half-price Nandos, then I’m sure that it can find the relatively-small amount to support those who have been hit hardest by the pandemic.

Supporting our schools

The Government continues to trail the prospect of stricter measures, on a day that the Health Secretary has questioned the tier system. Meanwhile, case numbers continue to grow.

We need to get beyond the habit of last-minute announcements that keep those outside of Westminster guessing right up until the point the latest position is revealed, then rushing to work out what they mean. I recognise that it is difficult for Government, but current practice adds to uncertainty and risks undermining public trust and, therefore, efforts to tackle the spread of covid-19. We need inclusive and decisive national leadership.

With new daily cases at a record high in the UK, we understand concerns about safety including those of teaching unions about schools. We know schools are educational establishments but must also recognise that for teachers and staff they are places of work that, like all other places of work, must be safe.

Bristol’s schools have worked hard to implement covid-safe measures so that children can learn and our teachers can teach in a safe environment. Secondary schools remain closed to most pupils for at least another week, adding to the confusion and frustration for parents of primary school-age children. While it is right that vulnerable children and children of keyworkers continue to receive additional support, as during the first lockdown, we cannot afford to begin this year with more of the uncertainty which too often characterised the previous one. Working parents should not be finding out only on the morning of the first day of a new term that their child’s school is not opening as expected, and of course I back the TUC’s call for furlough for parents of children who cannot attend school.  

Our heads and teachers remain best placed to judge what’s best for their schools and have our continued support in making those decisions. Today, during calls with head teachers and teaching unions, I have reiterated that support and emphasised the need for us all to work together to support Bristol’s children and for clear communication with parents and carers. Government must join us in our efforts to engage with the union representatives of heads, teachers, and other school staff in making decisions for education settings, preparing for exams, back-to-school plans, planning for a post-covid educational recovery. 

Schools are unquestionably the best place for children to learn. With domestic violence and abuse sadly on the rise since March, school is also safer than home for increasing numbers of children. The pandemic has highlighted and deepened existing inequalities, including in education – which still remains the surest route out of poverty and toward opportunity. The impact of further school closures will immediately be felt by families and, for too many of Bristol’s children and young people, risks being felt not just this year but for many more into the future.

We need the city to come together to support teachers and children. Where schools are not able to be safe places for all children with full classrooms, we must ensure that online teaching is an option as is supported to be as effective as possible, as part of the solution for our children. We must ensure that support structures are in place for vulnerable children and communities with food and other invaluable support. We need Government to work with parents, teachers, unions, and councils to mitigate the worst consequences of the pandemic and invest in our plans for educational recovery.

Leaving no one behind

Bristol has faced immense challenges in 2020 as we continue to seek to be inclusive and welcoming of everyone who calls our city home. Whether it’s been ensuring that emergency food supplies are culturally appropriate, or attending to the particular impact of COVID on BME-run businesses, or highlighting the amazing contributions of our key workers who were born overseas through the #WeAreBristol campaign, migrant inclusion has been at the heart of Bristol’s COVID response.

Perhaps the most challenging element of this has been around housing those in danger of rough sleeping, and particularly those with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) status. This is a condition imposed by the national government on a variety of different migrant groups, and means that despite working and paying into our system, they are not entitled to any of the social safety net that the rest of us take for granted.

Under the ‘Everyone In’ policy, Bristol City Council had the opportunity to give everyone sleeping rough in Bristol a roof over their heads through hotel-based accommodation. But we knew that simply providing shelter was never going to be enough. So we set up several ‘One City’ working groups, bringing together key leaders and organisations from across the city to develop a holistic package of support for those being housed and seeking to identify pathways for people into more permanent accommodation.

One of those supported through this work was Omar. Omar is a doctor who fled war-torn Syria and moved to the UK in 2016. Since then Omar has been awaiting a decision on his appeal after claiming sanctuary as a refugee. Omar has no access to public funds (NRPF) and relies for support from refugee charities that run drop-in centres and friends. Before the pandemic Omar was sofa surfing with friends across the city. When the pandemic hit us all, one of his friends started to have COVID-19 symptoms and for his safety and that of others, Omar was asked to leave. Omar became homeless and was sleeping rough on the streets. Under the ‘Everyone In’ policy Omar was offered hotel accommodation. And through a partnership between the Council and Bristol Hospitality Network, we have managed to identify a host who has agreed to offer Omar accommodation longer-term while his asylum claim is decided.

As we end 2020 and the ‘Everyone In’ policy comes to a close, we are committed to carrying on the spirit of the partnership work that has provided hope for people like Omar and many others. That’s why we’ve set up a roundtable event in the New Year to continue the conversation between the Council and the VCSE sector about how we can best join forces to support those with NRPF through the challenges of the next few months and beyond.

One of those challenges which is unfortunately not going to go away is the national Government’s Hostile Environment policies. Although that name may have been dropped, sadly its essence very much lives on in the policies and practices of the Home Office. The latest manifestation of this is the recent change to immigration rules which means that people sleeping rough could be subject to deportation, a move which has been condemned across the board for the way it will force people further underground and make them less likely to seek the support that they need to turn their situations around. This kind of policy runs totally counter to our spirit as a City of Sanctuary, and as such we are proud to announce that we will stand with many other Local Authorities across the country in refusing to play any part in collaborating with this inhumane system. We will ensure that Bristol City Council does not share any information on people sleeping rough in our city with the Home Office, and we will encourage our city partners to do the same.

Instead we will continue to call on the Government to fundamentally change course on No Recourse to Public Funds, and ensure that everyone in this country has access to the basic safety net that we all might need in a time of national emergency such as this. 2021 is going to bring all kinds of challenges as we seek to restart our economy and rebuild our communities. We need to ensure that everyone is equipped to play their part and that nobody is left behind, wherever they might have been born or whatever their background.

Thank you, Bristol

I want to start my Christmas and New Year message by saying a big thank you to everyone who has done their part to keep cases down and lift Bristolians’ spirits up.

2020 has been a challenge for so many people and Bristol has shown real solidarity in supporting those most in need. Hidden heroes have been hard at work across our city, working not for recognition but simply to help friends, neighbours, and strangers.

This year has undoubtedly been a difficult one; more difficult than has been seen for generations. One old proverb has felt more apt than ever: “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

In these tough times, suffering sadly abounds. But, amidst the darkness of loss, hardship, and sacrifice, moments of hope have shone through this year. Whether it’s the neighbour dropping round prescriptions for someone who’s isolating or shielding; the redeployed worker coordinating PPE deliveries; the hotelier opening their doors to put a roof over someone’s head; the local councillor filling up his campervan with items for the food bank; the carer looking after often isolated and vulnerable residents; or the business adapting to keep trading and keep staff on; or our football clubs delivering food parcels to vulnerable fans – Bristol’s perseverance and character has reached new heights in 2020.

Just as we must all follow the rules to keep each other safe, we must pull together – because collectively there is no ceiling to what we can achieve. At a time when we continue to restrict ourselves to protect our communities, we are reminded that Bristol’s kindness and compassion has been limitless. This year, more than ever, I have been proud to be Bristolian.

Bringing people together to tackle city challenges has never been more important. A case-in-point is how Bristol has come together as one city to feed children and vulnerable people. Thanks to the generosity of individual Bristolians, restaurateurs, community groups, and charities, we have worked hard to make sure that Bristolians do not go hungry.

Everyone has a part to play in rebuilding a better Bristol, a place where social and environmental justice go hand-in-hand. We are determined to build a city where talent and hard work  determine where you end up – rather than who your parents are, where you were born, or what you sound like. City partners are helping towards an economic recovery which builds back better, rather than reconstructing old inequalities.

As we look forward to 2021, the future can hold much to be hopeful for – with our incredible NHS and other keyworkers already delivering a vaccine. Bristol has a renewed spirit of striving to help others, another shot in the arm in these troubled times.

We can start next year with real hope, if we continue to keep each other safe. Together we can build a better Bristol where nobody is left behind: a City of Hope.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, New Year.

Wise heads on young shoulders

Today’s guest blog is from Alice Towle and John Wayman, Bristol’s Youth Mayors.

First of all, as Youth Mayors we want to extend a massive thank you to all of Bristol’s young people for staying strong throughout what has been an undeniably horrible year.

From the stress of remote learning and exam result uncertainty to the unsettling contrast of soldiering on at school while cases surge, all compounded with individual losses felt by young people, 2020 has taken a toll on everyone’s mental health. Although the holidays will continue to be uncertain for many, hopefully we can all take a moment to remind ourselves of the strength it has taken just to get to this point. If we can do that, we can tackle whatever 2021 throws at us.

And now a classic holiday message for Bristol’s adults: be kind to the young people in your lives. Although everyone has gone through a lot this year, young people’s experience has been uniquely strange and disruptive. Although different people will respond to this disruption differently, try your best to be compassionate and understanding, giving them support if you can.

That sense of understanding is something to hang on to as we go into 2021. In an increasingly chaotic and polarised world it’s important sometimes to take a step back and consider the situation instead of pressing on blindly. Hopefully doing that can keep us all sane in the coming months.

Gathering momentum

Today, some 300 representatives from all corners of the city came together for the latest City Gathering. Bristolians listened, networked, and shared insights into our recovery and looked at how we will build a stronger future. Although held virtually again, everyone was keen to engage and look at how we can make plans into reality.

We started the event by focusing on how we can come together as one city, to benefit the many different parts of our society. Daniel White from The Robins Foundation and Adam Tutton from Bristol Rovers Community Trust led the way by being our first speakers, explaining how the two clubs have played a key role in bringing people together through sport.

With the help of speakers from Avon and Somerset Police and BrunelCare as well as one of the new COVID marshals, we also heard about life on the front line touching upon some the issues they have experienced during the last six to eight months. Dan Edozie from the Bristol Flyers joined us to speak about turning adversity around to make opportunities for change and emphasised the need to protect our young people, especially during periods of crisis.

While it is only right that we focused heavily on our challenges this year, it’s also important to look back and see how far we have come. This is why we wanted to showcase examples of the positive work that’s happening across Bristol. Organisations like Feeding Bristol  are helping both in the provision of food to communities and  supporting local food groups to overcome blockages in the system. Coupled with Bristol Bites Back and Going for Gold,  Bristol’s city-wide initiative to be one of the UK’s first gold sustainable food cities, we are making great strides in the city’s food response.

Bristol actor Joe Sims captured everyone’s imagination with his passion for doing good in the city and the importance of talking about positive work rather than focusing on the negative. The passion he showed for his 500 Reasons initiative – where individuals donate small regular amounts each week to collectively make a £500 donation to local causes – was   was one of the highlights of the day.

Martin Bisp and Jamie Sanigar emphasised the importance of recognising the systemic issues of inequality in the city from their perspective at Empire Fighting Chance. Other speakers highlighted the impact of ongoing issues such as domestic abuse, gender inequality, mental health, unemployment, the role of young people and  older people within our city amongst others.

As our special guest this time, we were  honoured to welcome Dame Martina Milburn, Group Chief Executive at The Prince’s Trust. Speaking about supporting people at this critical time, Dame Martina illustrated some of the areas that we, as a country, need to be focusing our energies on. From jobs, education and training, we need to engage with our young people to give them hope for their future prospects and work with our partners at a local level to make it all happen.

Today’s gathering was truly encouraging, giving a sense of optimism despite the 2020 we have had. We have all shown a resilience that is testament to our collaborative way of working and one which should hopefully see us through these tough times and beyond.

Lastly, a special mention goes to Guy Orpen, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University, who is stepping down from his role in  December. Thank you to Guy all the hard work he has done for Bristol and we all hope he has a wonderful retirement.

I also want to thank everyone else for attending and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

If you would like to be involved in next City Gathering or you just want to find out a little more about the One City approach, please contact the City Office.

What a bloody year

On 18 December 2019 (a year ago to the day!) after a whirlwind year of endless meetings, emails and hard work, we launched Period Friendly Bristol. Chosen by city leaders as one of 2019’s top three One City priorities, the launch event marked the culmination of a series of partnership initiatives with over 100 organisations across a wide range of sectors contributing to making the vision a reality, including Hargreaves Lansdown, Jacobs, WSP, Burges Salmon, Bristol Connected City, Plimsoll Productions, City to Sea, The Real Period Project, Collectively, Hey Girls, Bristol City Youth Council, and Friska to name just a few.

Based on shocking statistics including that more than 140,000 women and girls miss school every year due to an inability to afford period products and 48% of students are embarrassed about their periods, Bristol has taken a leading role in eradicating period poverty by working to make period products available to all who need them, while also combating outdated societal attitudes to menstruation. We set about this by working with Bristol’s tech and data community, facilitated by Bristol Open Data, and a range of corporate partners, to set up our web app to coordinate a donation and distribution network of period products in several locations across the city, with people being able to put in their postcode and find free period products near them on a ‘take what you need’ basis.

We also worked with The Real Period Project and City to Sea on an education programme. The programme addresses a number of aspects of period dignity and menstrual health, as well as tackling period stigma and informing young people about the environmental sustainability of products. A Period Friendly Schools charter was also developed, with training, guidance and lesson plans to be provided. When schools closed their doors during the lockdown, trainers managed to complete all of their training online. We have developed guidance on how schools can become period friendly and this will be on the Healthy Schools website after Christmas. I also sat on the government’s Period Poverty Advisory Taskforce advising on the national approach to these issues based on the approach we developed in Bristol.

It is clear that Covid-19 and its response continue to highlight gender inequalities within our society. It is also clear that periods don’t stop in a pandemic. This is why the Bristol One City vision to eradicate period poverty and to be a city of period dignity, in which nobody is held back in life or stigmatised against simply for having a period, has gained even greater urgency this year. Research tells us that Covid-19 has exacerbated period poverty. Findings from Plan International UK’s recent report indicate that 11 per cent of girls aged 14-21 have not been able to afford period products in lockdown instead resorting to makeshift products such as toilet roll, socks, fabric or paper. Almost a third of those who responded said that they struggled to access or afford these items during lockdown. This simply shouldn’t be happening. That’s why we have now established Period Friendly Places as a charity, with a view to expanding our model beyond Bristol, and will continue to work with our city partners to get products to those who need them and to address stigma. This is something that we can only tackle if we do it collaboratively, as One City.