Tag Archives: Communities

Time to Talk Day

Today’s blog is from Councillor Ellie King Cabinet Member with responsibility for Public Health and Communities.

Over the past three years, we have all faced many significant challenges, many having widespread impacts, including on people’s mental health and wellbeing. The COVID-19 pandemic, the lockdowns, restrictions and uncertainty, while important for slowing the spread of the virus, had a major impact on a lot of people’s mental health and wellbeing. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), one in six adults said they experienced some form of depression in the summer of 2021.

Talking about our mental health helps to reduce stigma and create supportive communities, where we can talk openly and feel empowered to seek help when we need it. Time to Talk Day is an important way to start that conversation.

As we face a cost of living crisis, and rising cost of food and energy bills, we need to highlight the impact it is having around mental health and wellbeing, to let people know that it is ok to talk about it.

The cost of living crisis is affecting many people, whether that be reducing the amount you turn the heating on or struggling to get a normal food shop in. These difficulties and worrying about finances can have a significant impact on mental health and wellbeing, and if you already have poor mental health, these money worries can make things even worse.

Whether you are struggling financial or with mental health and wellbeing, or both, it is important to reach out regardless of what level of support you need. You do not need to be in a crisis before asking for help, it is better to ask the questions and get advice before getting to that point.

I know that I struggled during lockdown home-schooling my two children and worrying about my friends and family. It can be difficult asking for help, you may feel ashamed and awkward about asking but it is important to know you don’t have to suffer alone. While it may take some time to work things through, help is available, you will not be judged and if you are anything like me, you will find it a huge relief and support.

Welcoming Spaces

Since October, 90 Welcoming Spaces have opened across Bristol. They are places where people can keep warm, socialise with others, and access support. Citizens Advice Bristol are running drop-in sessions at various venues to give practical guidance around benefits, money, debt and energy, and they can signpost to specialist legal if more assistance is needed.

Welcoming Spaces are open for all to visit whether you are having a good or bad day. If you are feeling lonely or struggling to keep warm at home, need mental health or emotional wellbeing support, or are finding you’re struggling due to worries around the cost of living, please utilise the services available and don’t suffer alone. Help is available.

You can find your nearest Welcoming Space on the Bristol City Council website.

Other support

If you don’t feel comfortable attending a Welcoming Space, other support for mental health and money issues are available across the city.

Every Mind Matters give expert advice and practical tips to help you look after your mental health.

If you’re struggling most days, it’s important you ask for support. Community Access Support Service can signpost to organisations across Bristol for all groups of people and communities.

If you start to feel that daily life is getting too much to cope with, you can contact The Samaritans or Shout 85258.

The Samaritans offer support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on:

  • 0330 094 5717
  • freephone 116 123

Shout 85258 offers confidential text support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When you need immediate help, text SHOUT to 85258.

Bristol Mind also has online resources to support older people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing.

VitaMinds is a free and confidential NHS service which offers a range of short-term talking therapies to people aged 16 and over who live in and are registered with a GP in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

Second Step supply mental health and wellbeing services to help people take the next steps in their recovery. They give practical help and emotional support tailored to everyone.

Changes Bristol give free peer support to any adult suffering from mental distress. This includes weekly in-person and online support as well as a telephone befriending service.

Citizens Advice can give you free advice around money, housing and legal problems.

Use the Money Helper website for free tools to help track spending, save and get help while you’re working.

Get tips about managing money from Money Saving Expert.

Further cost of living support is available on the Bristol City Council website or you can call the We Are Bristol helpline for free on 0800 694 0184, Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5pm.

Bristol’s Quality of Life survey: The Impact of the cost of living crisis is significant

Results from 2023’s Quality of Life survey highlights the impact the national cost of living crisis is having on Bristol residents. Unfortunately, there are increases in residents worries about everyday life, costs and functions. Almost half of participants are extremely or moderately worried about keeping their home warm this winter.

Across Bristol there are many people having to choose between putting food on the table and heating their homes, a choice that no one should have to make in 2023. Our city’s advice services are incredibly busy with people asking for help and advice on managing money and debt, and there are so many people concerned with how they will pay their rent or energy bills next month.

With the national cost of living crisis having a staggering impact on so many people across our city, it is unsurprising that themes associated with it have come through strongest in our annual Quality of Life survey. Now in its 23rd year, the Quality of Life survey is an extensive annual residents’ survey for Bristol.

This year’s survey saw a total of around 4,000 responses. Overall, 62% of people reported being satisfied with life: a significant drop from before the pandemic, when satisfaction rates were 75%. In particular, food insecurity is notably worse than last year and pre-pandemic. 8% of respondents told us they are now experiencing moderate or worse food insecurity, but this is doubling to 16% in the most deprived areas.

Everyone has seen a huge increase in their energy bills, and this does not seem to be stopping. Analysis from Investec forecasts the energy price cap for households will fall to £2,478 in the summer, which may ease some of the pressure on citizens struggling to cope, but is still far too high for most. A new question added to the survey this year asked if people were “worried about keeping their home warm this winter”, answers show almost half (48%) are extremely or moderately worried, rising to 62% of people in deprived areas. Over the winter months this concern has been addressed with a network of Welcoming Spaces, where people can keep warm, socialise with others, and access support. People’s satisfaction with the cost of rent or their mortgage (49%) also fell significantly, a 10% drop compared to 2019.

I know that these past few months have been incredibly tough for so many. Remember, you are not alone. If you are struggling to put food on the table or to pay your energy bills, please reach out. If you just need some basic advice around money management and budgeting, please reach out. You do not need to be in crisis before asking for support, it’s better to ask the questions and get advice before you get to that point.

Aside from the cost of living, a new question asking if people “feel unsafe from sexual harassment using public transport in Bristol” shows 8% of respondents overall feel unsafe; 12% of women feel unsafe but this doubles to 25% of young women aged 16-24 feeling unsafe. This is essential data for us as we continue work on vital initiatives, such as the city’s Women’s Safety Charter, to help tackle gender inequality, women’s safety and to make Bristol a fair and inclusive city.

On a positive note, citizens’ satisfaction with Bristol’s household waste (74%) and recycling services (73%) both rose significantly last year and are above pre-pandemic levels. Those who think “air quality and traffic pollution is a problem locally” has fallen significantly to 70%, much improved on pre-pandemic levels, and has also seen improvement in the most deprived areas (63%). However, the satisfaction with the local bus services continues to fall significantly (38% from 49%) and this fell even further in the most deprived areas (34% from 49%).

You can read the full Quality of Life survey headline report on the Bristol City Council website. The full range of 2022/23 indicators will be published in March via the Data Dashboard on www.bristol.gov.uk/qualityoflife, with a final report to follow. The 2022 survey consisted of 75 questions that will produce around 190 indicators, on topics such as health, lifestyles, community, local services and living in Bristol.

If you need support or advice with the cost of living please reach out, there are organisations that can help you. Visit the Bristol City Council cost of living webpage or call the We Are Bristol helpline for free on 0800 694 0184 between 8.30am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

There are also things you can do for yourself as well to help you manage your money or debt. Citizens Advice has a budgeting tool to help you understand what you’re earning and spending and where you might be able to cut costs. They also have a debt remedy tool. You can find out if you’re eligible for Pension Credit and how much you could get on the government website. Bristol City Council’s benefits calculator will help you find out what benefits you can claim. Citizens Advice Bristol are also running drop-in sessions at some of the city’s Welcoming Spaces to provide people with practical guidance around benefits, money, debt and energy.

Bristol Light Festival is back!

Vicky Lee, smiling, in front of Bristol harbour.
Today’s guest blog is from Vicky Lee, Head of Bristol City Centre BID
(Business Improvement District)

Now in our third year, Bristol Light Festival will illuminate the city centre with stunning, interactive, and captivating light installations, creating a trail through the centre of Bristol from this Friday, 3 February, until next Sunday, 12 February.

Bringing more light, fun and colour to the city centre will brighten up the winter evenings. Visitors can explore eleven light installations as they come to life between 5pm till 10pm, enjoying the city’s food, drink and hospitality offerings along the way. Presented by Bristol City Centre BID, this year’s festival will have something for everyone: the perfect winter pick-me-up that is sure to delight.

We want to bring a sense of fun, togetherness, and joy to the city across the late winter period, encouraging visitors to explore Bristol at night and enjoy the centre’s rich selection of night-time economy businesses.

Two children looking at each other, laughing, at the The Trumpet Flowers light installation in Sydney in 2019. This installation will be coming to Bristol Lights Festival 2023.
The Trumpet Flowers light installation in Sydney in 2019. It will be coming to the upcoming Bristol Light Festival.

Bristol Light Festival demonstrates the importance of free-to-attend events in supporting city centre businesses and attracting people to spend leisure time in the city during the quieter months. This was evident in 2022 with £3.4 million additional revenue in local businesses reported across the event, providing an economic boost for businesses when they need it most.

Each year we work with key partners and organisations, and this year our partner support has enabled the event to grow and offer even more. We have newly commissioned artworks, exciting new locations to discover and a longer ten day event, making it a real city-wide event.

The 2023 programme, curated by our Creative Director Katherine Jewkes, is bringing some exciting artworks to the festival from internationally acclaimed artists and the best of south west talent, most of which have never been seen in Bristol. We look forward to welcoming visitors to Bristol Light Festival to enjoy the city centre and all that it has to offer. The event embodies everything that Bristol represents and showcases it as the vibrant, playful and creative city that we know and love.

Bristol Light Festival is presented by Bristol City Centre Business Improvement District (BID), supported by Redcliffe & Temple BID, Broadmead BID, and Cabot Circus. The festival is also supported by Bristol’s City Centre & High Streets Recovery and Renewal programme, which is funded by Bristol City Council and the West of England’s Combined Authority’s Love our High Streets project, with the aim of supporting the recovery of Bristol’s priority high streets.

For more information, a map of the installations and locations, and updates about the event, please visit www.bristollightfestival.org and follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and using the hashtag #BristolLightFestival

Supporting people with No Recourse to Public Funds

Councillor Tom Renhard, smiling, on College Green.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor
Tom Renhard, Cabinet Member
for Housing Delivery and Homes

In the Autumn, I had the pleasure of chairing a meeting of organisations working across Bristol to support people with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF). NRPF status means that people don’t have access to a wide range of social security benefits and payments, including Universal Credit and Housing Benefit.

It affects a huge range of over 1 million people in the UK, including those seeking asylum, EU citizens, recent arrivals from Hong Kong, and young professionals here on a spousal or family visa. For these different groups, having NRPF status means that when things go wrong – maybe an illness or losing their job – they don’t have access to the welfare safety net that the rest of us have access to. As a result, many people with NRPF, along with their children and families, can face homelessness and destitution through no fault of their own. 

Stills from the Bristol Refugee Rights video of lived experiences of NRPF. A cartoon of a young person playing with toys.
Stills from the Bristol Refugee Rights video of lived experiences of NRPF

Local Authorities receive no dedicated funding from central Government to support those with NRPF. During Covid, the Everyone In policy did briefly give us the chance to offer housing to everyone who needed it in the city. Knowing that this wouldn’t last forever, we set up a One City Task Force to bring together the skills and resources of Bristol City Council, the Homelessness sector and the Refugee sector to take a longer-term view. Through this collaboration we were able to help more than 75 people with NRPF successfully move on from the Everyone In accommodation rather than heading straight back to the streets, cutting rough sleeping by around 80%. 

From this success, an idea was born: the Bristol Model of NRPF support. It’s a holistic and collaborative framework for bringing together services and support based on four key principles – design out destitution, informed and supported, included and involved and a safe place to stay. It builds on the insight and premise that when people have their basic needs catered for, they can then make progress in escaping NRPF-enforced destitution, either by finding new work or by changing their legal status. It also works on the principle that no single organisation or sector in the city can effectively support those with NRPF on their own.

At the meeting, we heard from several organisations about their experiences of working with the Bristol Model. Bristol Refugee Rights and the Big Issue have both worked hard to make sure that people’s lived experiences of NRPF are at the centre of these conversations, and we watched a powerful film that captures the crippling insecurity and hopelessness that NRPF can cause. 

We also heard about how people have creatively found resources to help make the Bristol Model a reality. At the council we’re proud to have put the Model at the heart of our efforts to tackle rough sleeping, including our successful bid for funding from the Rough Sleeping Initiative over the next three years. This will secure some bed spaces for those with NRPF, caseworker capacity, access to legal advice from Bristol Law Centre and a specialist sub-group of our Rough Sleeping Partnership.

There is plenty more to do on this issue, and nobody is resting on any laurels. But we are confident that the Bristol Model gives us the right framework, one that is rooted in lived experience and consistent with the One City Approach. This work sits alongside efforts to tackle Bristol’s housing crisis through building enough new homes for our city and lobbying for required changes in legislation.

We are also truly humbled and grateful that, despite the unjust and often inhumane approach of the National Government on this, we live in a City of Sanctuary full of people and organisations willing to go the extra mile to make sure that everyone has the chance to build a life of dignity and purpose here in Bristol.  

Ayham, a Bristol school pupil, is pictured holding a letter that they addressed to the Home Secretary.
The Mayor recently received a copy of a letter on
a related topic from Ayham, a Bristol school pupil,
addressed to the Home Secretary.

A ground-breaking new facility for Bristol Children’s Hospital

Mayor Marvin Rees (left) and Nicola Masters (right), smiling in front of Bristol Children's Hospital
Today’s guest blog is from Nicola Masters (right),
Director and Co-founder of The Grand Appeal.

The Grand Appeal is the dedicated charity for Bristol Children’s Hospital. As part of our commitment to ensuring the hospital remains at the forefront of children’s healthcare, we are creating a pioneering facility that will be the first of its kind in the UK.

Jingle Jam Building will offer accommodation and treatment facilities all under one roof.

Over 100,000 children from the South West and South Wales visit Bristol Children’s Hospital every year. Imagine arriving in Bristol, an unfamiliar city, with nowhere to go while your child needs life-saving care. With Bristol Children’s Hospital serving the whole city region and often further afield – the largest geographical area of any children’s hospital in England – this is the reality for many families that pass through its doors.

Some stay for days, but many stay for weeks or even months. Jingle Jam Building will mean these families can be together during the last steps of their child’s recovery before they return home.

This unique development will improve the care of young patients undergoing different treatments, such as

  • Children who need long-term rehabilitation and/or therapy after an accident or major surgery
  • Children who need rehabilitation after brain surgery or a brain injury
  • Children under the care of the Orthopaedic team who treat bone, joint, ligament, tendon, and muscle disorders
  • Children treated for chronic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • Children working with hospital dietitians or who need specialist diets
  • Children who have cystic fibrosis
Artist impressions of the Jingle Jam building.
Artists impression of the Jingle Jam building.

It will also increase resource, and capacity and enhance the incredible work of the talented doctors, nurses, and staff at Bristol Children’s Hospital. The building is currently in the planning stage and will be based near the hospital.

This project is only possible thanks to the support of Jingle Jam. Jingle Jam is the brainchild of Bristol-based gaming company, The Yogscast. This epic event is the world’s biggest gaming charity fundraiser, which brings together the gaming community each December to raise millions for good causes, including The Grand Appeal. We’re proud to have worked in partnership with our fellow Bristolians at The Yogscast since 2017. 

A picture of the Cots for Tots House.

Founded in 1995, The Grand Appeal works in partnership with Bristol Children’s Hospital to run a multi-million-pound portfolio of investment.

It’s where babies, children, and young people with highly complex medical conditions – from rare genetic disorders, neurological conditions and congenital heart disease to traumatic injuries, cancer, and kidney disease – are all cared for around the clock. 

Just like Bristol, the hospital is a hub of innovation, where these experts create a brighter future for sick children every day through a vast network of research projects with international impact. So much so that Bristol Children’s Hospital has been recognised in the world’s top 14 children’s hospitals (Newsweek, 2021).

It’s thanks to The Grand Appeal’s partnership with the hospital and our friends at Aardman, that Bristol Children’s Hospital is a pioneer in so many fields today. That partnership is only made possible through fundraising – in all its fantastic forms – by people with one thing in common: the drive to change the lives of seriously ill children and their families. 

Nicola Masters (left) and Mayor Marvin Rees (right) stand, smiling, outside the BRI. A sign on the building says: Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, Paul O'Gorman Building.

That vision that we all share has never been more critical. The incredible advancements in medicine that the last two decades have brought about mean that more and more children are living with increasingly complex conditions and will rely on hospital services throughout their lives. Our goal is not just that they survive; but that they thrive. 

Underpinned by economic uncertainty, children’s hospitals now rely on innovative technology, science and models of care – like Jingle Jam Building – and, of course, on the comprehensive support of charities like The Grand Appeal. 

Jingle Jam Building is just one of the ways we make your children’s hospital the very best it can be.

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

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.

Getting our Filwood Broadway bid over the line

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

Ellis Genge, named this week in Steve Borthwick’s first England Rugby squad, has been among the Knowle Westers to today welcome brilliant progress in investing in their area. Sometimes, you need to maul, scrum, kick, and ruck to get stuff done. Filwood Broadway is a perfect example of trying everything to get things over the line.

There’s been a game plan in place for the area for some time but, for one reason or another, the projects needed to bring the plan to life have not quite got going. Because of this stagnation and lack of progress, we took the decision to start laying the foundations needed to revitalise the area and, working as a team for this part of south Bristol, has got us on a path in 2023 that will see massive leaps forward over coming weeks and months.

What’s happening? What’s happened?

Let’s recap.

Back in April last year, Cabinet approved up to £300,000 of funding to go towards building  a new multi-use games area (MUGA) and providing investment towards new floodlights at Filwood Playing Fields.  During that same meeting I also approved over £400,000 to deliver new public spaces and improvements in the area. Around the same time the council also allocated £90,000 of COVID recovery funding to spend on the children’s play area within the Broadway. These investments have helped kick start the regeneration work and begin laying foundations for the future.

Fast forward to this week and there have been further developments that will move our plans forward significantly.

The big news this week is the major funding we’ve secured from government following a bid to the national Levelling Up Fund. The £14.5 million we’ve secured will go a long way towards bringing new homes to the area whilst introducing better quality public realm (£2.1 million), investment in community centre (£7.6 million), creating space for improvements to local library services (£3 million), new business and commercial space, new sporting facilities, and delivering a greener and more attractive environment. This will enable us to add to the 2,563 new homes which were built in Bristol last year, including more affordable new homes than for any year in the last twelve. The benefit to cost ratio of our successful Levelling Up bid will mean a positive impact worth more than £45 million for this part of south Bristol in local employment, social value, health benefits, and cultural amenity.

The announcement comes as another major step is taken on this path with the approval of plans to build 30 new homes on the site of the former Filwood cinema on the Broadway. The approval given by the council’s Development Control Committee yesterday (Wednesday 18 January 2023), means that we now have the green light to press ahead with bringing much needed social housing and also includes nearly 600 square metres of floorspace for shops.

In the next couple of weeks we will publish an updated plan for the area for the city’s Cabinet to consider and ask to proceed with delivering this exciting vision for Filwood and Knowle West.

Transforming the derelict former cinema site

Opening its doors in 1938, Filwood cinema was arguably Knowle West’s biggest attraction for many years. The cinema could pack over 1,000 people hosting films, concerts, and boxing matches. The cinema was designed by Dennis Hurford and F. G. W. Chamberlain and was built as part of the Filwood Broadway development.

In the 1950s, cinema attendance began to fall in the UK. From the 1960s the cinema began to hold bingo on Saturdays and was sold in the 1980s to become a full-time bingo hall. Eventually, in 1994, the building closed entirely, and some of the original seats and projectors can be seen in the M Shed

In 2023, nearly 30 years since the cinema building was last in use, new changes are planned on the old cinema site. The 20-year Knowle West Regeneration Framework, first published in 2012, has an ambition to develop and transform the Filwood Broadway area for the community – much like the original development plan back in the 1930s.

One of the most significant moments to happen this year will be the demolition of the old cinema. Planning permission to knock down the building was granted in 2019, after falling into a poor state of repair. Wring Group Ltd will carry out the demolition and have begun their site set up and preparation. The physical demolition is due to begin in February and be completed by early May. 

This demolition will pave the way for the new homes and retail space approved this week. Public feedback from two separate consultations on these plans carried out in December 2019 and January 2022 helped to shape the final approach. Feedback from the consultation last year was largely supportive for redeveloping the old cinema site and positive comments were received about how it will enhance the Broadway and local area.

The social homes will comprise of 17 flats and 13 houses including 10 one-bedroom homes, 11 two-bedroom homes, and nine three-bedroom homes. 100 per cent social housing will be delivered at the site, as scheme viability was achieved without the need to include affordable housing such as shared ownership.

There will be vehicle access from both Filwood Broadway and Barnstaple Road, along the new residential street. Pedestrian and cycle access will also be available from Hartcliffe Road. This will help to make sure that for local trips, walking and cycling become the most convenient option, and for trips further afield, public transport becomes a viable option. Public and private spaces will be clearly defined, accessible and safe.

The development will also be set up to utilise renewable energy. Each home will be connected to a communal ground source heat pump system and the commercial units will be served by air source heat pumps for both heating and domestic hot water.

The new development has been commissioned and funded by the council and will make sure that the land is best used – delivering much needed social rent homes whilst helping to reinvigorate the area and provide new services for the local community.

A number of developments are in the pipeline for Knowle West and Filwood in order to regenerate the area and better meet the needs of the city and local community. Find out more.

How Bristol is helping its citizens with the energy crisis  

Councillor Kye Dudd, smiling, with College Green in the background.
Today’s blog is by Councillor Kye Dudd, Cabinet
Member for Climate, Ecology, Waste, and Energy
and Labour Councillor for Southmead ward

As the national cost of living crisis continues into the New Year, many households across Bristol remain in financial difficulty. Our cost of living support site has a dedicated page signposting citizens in need of help with their energy bills. 

Across Bristol, charities and organisations are stepping up to support citizens in helping with bills and making their homes warmer and more energy efficient. 

Bristol Energy Network (BEN) will be attending the New Monday event at The Galleries in Broadmead on Monday 16 January, between 11am and 2pm, to offer guidance and advice to citizens looking to reduce their energy use and save money. There will also be a dedicated Energy drop-in morning at Easton Community Centre on Tuesday 24 January between 10am and 12pm. 

For people working or volunteering in their communities, BEN will be running free, online ‘Energy Help Desk’ training sessions. If you’re interested in attending, please contact coordinator@bristolenergynetwork.org for dates and times. 

Last month we shared a guest blog from the Centre for Sustainable Energy, who provide support to people experiencing fuel poverty, including advice for what to do if you can’t pay your bills, ideas for how to stay warm for less plus a useful tool that tells you how much electricity common appliances use: what uses watt?  

Older buildings across Bristol are less likely to be insulated, so a great way to make your home warmer is to draughtproof and insulate where possible. The Centre for Sustainable Energy have ideas for lower cost options with their DIY draughtproofing tips, and you can hear from Bristol resident Simon on how they made their home more warm and comfortable in his short film: 

Households aren’t the only ones struggling with rising energy costs; charities, community organisations, and small businesses in Bristol are also feeling the pinch. Bristol Climate Hub have tips for making your community building energy efficient and Bristol Green Capital Partnership have a guide to reducing emissions from energy for businesses.

Making our homes and premises more energy efficient will not only help households and organisations save money but will help reduce Bristol’s carbon emissions. 2022 was the hottest year since records began and many countries across the globe are reporting that this month is their hottest January. We’ve also seen more and more extreme weather events in recent years.  

Overuse of energy is a primary contributor to climate change, so by reducing energy use, we’re all helping Bristol reach its goal to be net zero by 2030. 

A heating engineer checking a boiler.

Our administration has secured the City Leap partnership, creating 1,000 new jobs and reducing 140,000 tonnes of emissions over its first five years. It will, amongst other things, deliver energy efficiency measures, renewables and decarbonisation projects to the council’s corporate estate reducing our emissions. As part of the project’s initial £424 million investment, energy efficiency and renewable energy measures will be delivered across the council’s social housing. You can find out what else the council are doing to reduce our own energy use on Our climate action on electricity and Our climate action on heat and buildings web pages. 

The council, however, is responsible for around 0.5% of the city’s emissions, meaning we need organisations and homes to play their part. Last year, we launched the Bristol Climate Ask, which encourages Bristol businesses and organisations to declare their ambition to work towards net zero, it’s great to see so many signing up and reporting that many of their measure are proving good for business. 

If you’re not effected by the cost-of-living crisis and would like to help those who are struggling, you can donate to the Share the Warmth appeal (Centre for Sustainable Energy), Bristol Emergency Winter Fuel Fund (Bristol Energy Network) or Donate to the Local Crisis Prevention Fund: Discretionary Giving

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.