Press releases

Bristol City Council Housing Banding Public Consultation

December 8th 2016


Despite showing support the proposed Bristol City Council policy on priority housing allocation for survivors of domestic abuse does not go far enough.

Bristol Women’s Voice is very pleased to see Bristol City Council taking action to make essential changes to housing allocations for survivors of domestic violence and abuse, following a campaign by Bristol Women’s Voice member Mehala Osborne. Many women fleeing domestic abuse are currently unable to access council housing and end up living in refuges for extended periods, due to being incorrectly placed in lower priority housing bands.

Penny Gane, Chair of Bristol Women’s Voice says “With one in three women being turned away from refuges due to lack of space, many who flee are forced to return to their abusers. Prioritising women fleeing domestic violence and abuse will not only mean they can leave an abusive situation, it will also help others access the services they desperately need.”

Bristol City Council’s proposed new policy intends to place survivors who have an MARAC (Multi-agency Risk Assessment Conference) in place in band one. A MARAC is a meeting to form a coordinated action plan for survivors, in which information is shared on highest risk domestic abuse cases between specialists from the statutory and voluntary sectors. Whilst this policy does constitute some progress, MARAC’s are only in place in about 10% of domestic abuse cases and so only 25 – 50 women per year would receive priority banding in Bristol, rather than all survivors. Avon and Somerset Police recorded 24,568 domestic abuse crimes and incidents in 2014/15.[i] We know there is an issue with under reporting, therefore the actual number is likely to be higher, we also know that many women who go into safe houses do not report to the police. Nationally it is estimated that 66% of women experiencing domestic abuse have children and that 130,000 children are living in households with a high risk of domestic abuse.[ii]

Mehala Osborne, a service user and campaigner says “I was saddened and disappointed by the proposed policy and consultation. When I went through and answered the questions it left me wondering how this policy is going to make any difference. Not only have they failed to follow through on the campaigns main point, the unanimously supported motion from council and advice from services, they have created a policy that will not have any significant impact at all. Sadly I fear the whole consultation has missed the point and will not even begin to assist services and Safe House residents in moving on to freedom and independent living effectively. During my time in Safe House I felt utter guilt knowing not only that I was the ‘lucky’ one to get the room, but even more guilt knowing when I was ready to move on I had nowhere to go. I was left in situation that continued my victim label, oppression on my life and rights and an isolation that left me utterly desperate to move on and utterly depressed. This policy will not help the ‘bed blocking’ problem safe houses face and force them to turn away the most vulnerable and at risk women and children wanting to flee domestic abuse.”

Bristol Women’s Voice urges the Council to reconsider this policy and revise it so that all survivors are in band one. In order to give women the freedom they deserve and enable refuges to aid more women in need, all survivors must be placed into band one for housing allocation.

Louie Herbert, campaigner at 38 Degrees says “The plan that Bristol City Council are proposing will not achieve what the thousands of 38 Degrees members who signed Mehala’s petition and wrote to their councillors believed they were getting. When the Council unanimously voted to prioritise all survivors of domestic abuse for social housing everyone who had taken part in Mehala’s campaign felt that this was exactly what was going to happen.”

What can you do to help?

Bristol City Council are asking people for their views on their proposal – they want to ensure that any change in policy meets the needs of the people it serves and is effective in delivering the desired outcome of moving quickly.

Bristol Women’s Voice has written a draft response to the Council’s consultation survey. It can be found on the Bristol Zero Tolerance website.

You can access the survey at – please also share it with others you know and ask them to follow our guidance. Details of the draft policy can also be found at

If you have any concerns or comments, please contact Charlotte Gage on by Friday 23rd December. If you require a paper copy of the survey, or you need a copy in a different language or format, please get in touch with Paul Sylvester, Housing Supply Manager on 0117 3521601 or via email:



Notes to Editor:

The campaigning organization 38 Degrees have been supportive of the campaign hosting a petition which influenced the original Council decision and now promoting the consultation to their members

[i] See Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Needs Assessment, December 2015

[ii] See CAADA report, November 2012


BEHIND CLOSED DOORS conference: What can businesses do to tackle domestic abuse and stalking?

November 1st 2016


Next week over 60 businesses will gather in Bristol for the BEHIND CLOSED DOORS conference to help employers to understand the impact of domestic abuse and stalking on the workplace and what their responsibilities are to their staff.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “It is a shameful fact that in our modern day society, domestic and gender based violence is still a very real problem for a large proportion of our population. As a Zero Tolerance City we are working with a large range partners to try and make Bristol a place where no one has to live in fear of this kind of behaviour.

“Behind Closed Doors is an event to let employers from around the city know how they can support their staff, who might be suffering from this kind of abuse, and ensure that it does not happen in their workplace.

“I would like to encourage employers from around the city to come forward, take part in this event and sign up to the Bristol Zero Tolerance initiative. With such a widespread issue we need the help of everyone to help ensure that Bristol can be a place where gender-based violence, abuse, harassment or exploitation is not tolerated.  Together I am hopeful that we will be able to eradicate this kind of abuse from our streets, homes and communities.”

In England and Wales domestic abuse costs £1.9billion[1] a year in lost economic output. Gender-based violence and abuse impacts the workplace in multiple ways. This can be direct and may threaten workers’ safety, or there can be secondary effects and disruptions which also effect the workplace.[2] Violence and abuse leads to measureable time taken off work and lost jobs, as well as to less easily measureable lost productivity on the job. Domestic abuse can also impact negatively on employees health and wellbeing and on wider staff morale as well as organisational image and reputation.

Keynote speaker Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “Domestic abuse is everyone’s business and it’s really important that we work together to let victims know we’re there for them when they need help and support.

“Working together we need to take a stand against offenders who continue to abuse their partners and together we need to encourage friends and families to speak out if they believe abuse is happening.  Abuse is not a private matter and employers and colleagues have an important part to play in tackling it.

“We must continue to challenge victim blaming both in society and amongst our colleagues and other professionals.  To do this, education is crucial as only by being able to identify the signs of abuse can we work towards tackling this heinous crime. This conference is an important step in making a world free from abuse a reality.”

According to official crime figures, 1.4 million women and 700,000 men had experienced some kind of domestic abuse in 2013,[3] there were also an estimated 406,000 victims of sexual assaults in 2013 and nearly one million victims of stalkers.[4] Therefore it is likely that all workplaces have staff that have in the past experienced abuse/stalking or are currently experiencing it, as well those who are perpetrators. Gender-based violence is often thought of as a private matter. Yet over 75% of people who endure violence are targeted at work through social media, phone calls, and site visits;[5] and in 2011, 1/3 of all domestic violence homicides happened on workplace grounds[6] as with the tragic case of Hollie Gazzard. Studies have found that an estimated 74% of domestic violence survivors were harassed by their partner while at work, while 21% of perpetrators contacted their partners from work to threaten them, and 29% contacted partners to scare or intimidate them.[7]

Nick Gazzard said: “The Hollie Gazzard Trust are delighted to be Partnering with Bristol Zero Tolerance and bringing the BEHIND CLOSED DOORS conference to Bristol. It is important that we continue to raise the awareness of domestic abuse and stalking and the devastating effects that it has both in the home and in the workplace. With 1 in 4 women experiencing domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime, it is highly likely that all workplaces have staff that have or are experiencing abuse as well those who are perpetrators. BEHIND CLOSED DOORS will help businesses understand how they can spot the signs of abuse and understand their legal obligations.”

On November 11th a range of different types of businesses from across Bristol, and beyond, will come together to find out about an employer’s duty of care to their staff in relation to domestic abuse and stalking and their legal obligations and liabilities. They will learn how certain types of abuse can escalate and how this can take place either within the workplace or directly outside it. They will also learn how staff, management and businesses can be ready to identify staff who are subjected to abuse or stalking, to be able to handle domestic abuse and stalking through developing effective workplace policies and procedures, and how to signpost staff to the correct specialist organisations.

The conference is part of the Bristol Zero Tolerance initiative and is also an opportunity for businesses to find out how they can sign up to the Zero Tolerance Pledge and take action on this as well as access the Women’s Aid ‘Domestic Abuse: It’s Your Business’ training which is available to organisations and businesses as part of the initiative.

There will also be a theatre piece from Alter Ego Creative Solutions of ‘Behind Closed Doors’ a hard-hitting applied theatre production that was developed in association with The City of London Police to raise awareness of the issues surrounding domestic abuse and violence.

The conference is being run in partnership between Bristol Zero Tolerance, a city-wide initiative tackling gender-based violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation, and The Hollie Gazzard Trust created following the murder of 20-year-old Hollie Gazzard in 2014 in her workplace by an ex-partner.

To find out more and to book see




It is estimated that providing public services to victims of gender-based violence, and the lost economic output of women affected, costs the UK £36.7bn annually.[8]

In the UK in any one year, more than 20% of employed women take time off work because of domestic violence and abuse, and 2% lose their job as a direct result of the abuse.[9]

56% of abused women arrive late for work at least five times and 58% miss at least three days of work a month.[10]

On average, workers who experience domestic violence miss 26% more work time due to absenteeism and lateness than workers who do not experience violence.[11]

Women’s Aid ‘Domestic abuse: It’s your business’ training

Bristol Zero Tolerance pledge

Bristol Zero Tolerance is an initiative working towards Bristol becoming a city free from gender-based violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation. Bristol is the first city in England to take on this challenge and we hope that it will inspire other cities to implement similar initiatives. We are working with the City Council and other bodies to bring together existing action on gender-based violence across the city and are encouraging and supporting other organisations and businesses to sign up and take action on this important issue. For more information see

The Hollie Gazzard Trust was created following the murder of 20-year-old Hollie Gazzard in 2014 in her workplace by an ex-partner. The Trust helps reduce domestic violence through creating and delivering programmes on domestic abuse and promoting healthy relationships to schools and colleges. The ultimate aim of the Trust is to positively change the lives of young people through partnerships in communities, as well as working alongside other charities and professional agencies. The Trust was set up by Hollie’s parents, Nick and Mandy, and her sister Chloe. For more information see

[1] Walby, S (2009) The Cost of Domestic Violence Up-date 2009. Lancaster University sociology/Cost_of_domestic_ violence_update.doc

[2] Report on the Workplace and Gender-based violence. UN Women 2011 –





[7] file:///C:/Users/Sian/Downloads/GBV%20workplace.pdf

[8] Walby, S (2009) The Cost of Domestic Violence Up-date 2009. Lancaster University sociology/Cost_of_domestic_ violence_update.doc



[11] file:///C:/Users/Sian/Downloads/GBV%20workplace.pdf


Bristol Zero Tolerance Film Fest: Exploring gender-based violence through film

15th September 2016


Presenting an evening of hard-hitting discussion and creative media, tackling gender-based violence in the city of Bristol.

Bristol Zero Tolerance (BZT), a new initiative from the Bristol Women’s Commission, and working in partnership with Bristol Women’s Voice, is thrilled to announce the date of its first ever creative media event, the Bristol Zero Tolerance Film Festival. The micro-format film festival, which will last the course of an evening, will take place on the 27th September 2016 at The Station in central Bristol, from 6.30pm to 9.45pm.

The Film Fest will host up to 180 delegates, and is opening its doors to all members of the public (18+ due to the content), in a bid to bring the conversation about gender-based violence to the forefront of public discussion in Bristol. The evening will feature a selection of UK-made short films, kept secret until the night, all of which are exploring the common theme of gender-based violence. The series of shorts will then lead into a screening of US documentary Sin By Silence (2009, 49 minutes), which follows the experiences of convicted female survivors of domestic abuse who formed a support group in prison in the 1990s.

BZT took on a new member of their team to aid in the programming of the festival lineup, who has found public media to be somewhat lacking in content that portrays gender-based violence in a constructive light. “I have selected quite a mixed range of shorts for the festival, and some of what we are showing is really hard-hitting stuff. I think you need to be brutally honest when it comes to the subject matter of gender-based violence, whilst also avoiding turning it into an object of pity. Although it is a very serious subject area, I think the selection is very empowering and successfully celebrates recovery from various forms of abuse.” – Amber McClatchey, Programmer for the BZT Film Fest.

Bristol Zero Tolerance— named for it’s aims to make Bristol a city with a Zero Tolerance to all forms of gender-based violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation— is building a strong network of partner organisations in the city, many of which will be in attendance supporting the event. In addition to the selected films, the event will host a photography exhibition, produced by contributors from See It From Her’s (SIFH) Survivor Project. SIFH is an organisation that gives women and girls the tools and support they need to tell their own story through the medium of photography, and delegates at the film festival will be encouraged to think about how to support more projects like this in Bristol.

Charlotte Gage from Bristol Zero Tolerance said:

“We wanted to raise awareness about gender-based violence in a creative and exciting way, to challenge people and get them to ask questions about what gender-based violence is and what responses to it can be. This is part of the wider work of Bristol Zero Tolerance to address attitudes and behaviors which condone and normalize gender-based violence and to create a city where this is no longer acceptable and everyone is able to get the help and support they need to live without fear.”

Focusing the subject matter featured throughout the night on Bristol, the event will culminate with a panel discussion from various experts from across the city, including Sue Mountstevens, Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon & Somerset. The discussion will be facilitated by Charlotte Gage, Partnerships Project Officer at Bristol Zero Tolerance and the event will be compared by Penny Gane, Chair of the Bristol Women’s Commission.

Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “As a signatory of the Bristol Zero Tolerance Pledge I fully support their work in raising awareness of gender-based violence. Indeed, tackling these crimes is a priority for me as Police and Crime Commissioner. It is only by standing together to say that gender-based abuse, harassment and exploitation will not be tolerated in Bristol that we will bring an end to these crimes.

“If you’ve been a victim of gender-based violence, I want you to know that you are not alone and there are people that can help.  I would encourage you to speak out and report it to the police or a support agency; you will be listened to, believed and taken seriously.  Perpetrators of gender-based violence will be brought to justice.

“These films highlight the emotional, physical and psychological damage that gender-based violence can have on a victim. I hope that if people recognise the signs, they will feel encouraged to take action.”




Tickets cost £3 + 30p booking fee via

Facebook event page –

Visit to find out more information, and follow @BristolZT on for updates in the run up to the Festival.

Visit to find out more information on the Survivors Project photography exhibition and further workshops from SIFH

Bristol Zero Tolerance representatives will be attending both of the following events to promote the night:

  • UWE Freshers Fair (at the End It Now! Stall) on 16th September 2016
  • University of Bristol Fresher’s Fair on 23rd September 2016


Bristol Zero Tolerance is a new charity initiative supported by Bristol Women’s Voice, Bristol Women’s Commission, Bristol News & Media, Avon & Somerset Police & Crime Commissioner, Bristol City Council, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, Avon & Somerset Constabulary, Business West, First West of England, Ethical Property Company, City of Bristol College, Moon Consulting, Eden House, University of Bristol, University of the West of England, The SU at UWE, Bristol SU, The Bridge, Unseen, Empire Fighting Chance, Women’s Aid, Bristol Older People’s Forum, Unchosen, Southmead Project, Bristol Disability Equality Forum, SARSAS, One25 amongst others.


Bristol marks international awareness day to end violence against women 

24 November 2015

For immediate release

Bristol’s commitment to eradicate gender-based violence is stronger than ever as the city prepares to mark the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November.

As the first UK city to sign the Equality Charter for Men and Women in 2013, Bristol has continued to increase its efforts to tackle the issue.

This Wednesday (25 November) a new website will launch, designed to make it even easier for local businesses to pledge their support for tackling gender-based violence, abuse, exploitation and harassment in the workplace.

The new website belongs to the Bristol Zero Tolerance initiative which was launched earlier this year by the Bristol’s Women’s Commission as part of its work to identify key issues for women and gender equality in the city.

The initiative is supported by Bristol City Council, Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner, Avon and Somerset Police, Bristol University, the University of the West of England and other partners.

Businesses have been able to sign the pledge since March, but it is hoped the new website will encourage more to do so.

Penny Gane, Chair of Bristol Women’s Commission, said: “Anyone can be a victim of gender-based violence as it is a result of inequality in a relationship. By signing the Bristol Zero Tolerance pledge businesses can show their support and take practical steps to address the issue.

“It’s really simple to get involved – just go online and sign up. We’re asking businesses to commit to at least one additional activity such as engaging in a campaign, running extra training for staff or creating safe spaces for victims of gender-based violence. Employees can also play a big role in spreading the word and raising awareness about the issues and together we can make Bristol a safer place for everyone.”

As well as the website launch, in Bristol the UN awareness day will kick off 16 days of activism and events, including an event on November 26 which will bring women together to discuss what Zero Tolerance means to them.

Stencilled artwork will also be appearing on streets across Bristol to encourage residents to think about the issues and report incidents to Crimestoppers.

George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol, said: “Tackling gender-based violence is something I take extremely seriously and it is fundamental to Bristol being a healthy and caring city. Bristol already has an excellent reputation for our work in this area and we continue to work tirelessly with partners to address these vital issues.

“Stencilled artwork has started appearing on streets across Bristol to encourage residents to think about the issues and report incidents to Crimestoppers. The stencils form part of on-going campaigns running across the Avon and Somerset area.

“Everyone can be involved with making our city a safer place, whether that’s encouraging a friend, family member or colleague to speak up, or reporting violence if you are aware of it. I ask the business community get on board and build the momentum behind it.”

Sue Mountstevens, Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner said: “Tackling domestic and sexual violence is one of my priorities and is taken very seriously across Avon and Somerset.  No one has the right to abuse another person either physically or mentally.

“In signing the pledge we can all play a part in making Bristol a safer place to live and work.  It is only by working together, with partners and local people, that we can truly work towards eradicating all forms of abuse.”

Case study – First West of England has signed the Bristol Zero Tolerance pledge

First West of England is a major employer in the region, and Bristol’s largest bus operator.

First West of England signed the Bristol Zero Tolerance pledge earlier this year. The company is now developing its action plan further after taking initial steps to ensure employees are aware of the issues and able to access support if they need it.

The company recently signed the Bristol Zero Tolerance pledge and has taken steps to ensure employees are aware of the issues and able to access support if they need it.

James Freeman, Managing Director of First West of England, explained what the business is doing and why they wanted to be involved:

“The safety of our staff and passengers is of the upmost importance to us, which is why we’ve signed the Bristol Zero Tolerance pledge.

“As part this, we have committed to continue developing our procedures for dealing with instances of abuse in the workplace, ensuring our staff are always well supported. We even have a confidential employee hotline available for anyone experiencing harassment or bullying.

“To protect the people who use our buses we’ve changed the way we train staff to put a bigger focus on customer service and keeping passengers safe. Our drivers know how to spot the signs of someone who is being harassed or bullied – and how to support people if required.

“Our new buses have safety in mind, and the vast majority now have CCTV which can help keep people safer as they travel around the city. Our drivers are out on the road 24 hours a day, seven days a week so they’re well-placed to look out for people who might need support.”

Notes to editor:

About the Women’s Commission

The Women’s Commission was established in 2013 by the Mayor of Bristol. The commission is tasked with developing a ‘women’s strategy’ for the city and develop a robust plan to tackle inequality.

Gender-based violence
Bristol Zero Tolerance understands gender-based violence to be related to social expectations and positions based on gender and as an expression of power inequalities. Therefore anyone can be the victim of gender-based violence. However, the majority of persons affected by gender-based violence are women and girls as a result of unequal distribution of power in society between women and men.

Gender-based violence includes domestic and sexual violence and abuse of adults and children, sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriage, ‘honour’ based violence and sexual harassment. Gender-based violence is not exclusive, it effects everyone regardless of background and so everyone must work together to tackle this problem.

Events during the 16 days of activism include:
• Nov 24 – UWE End it Now campaign launch – Students’ Union Frenchay, Union 1 Engagement Space, (17:30 – 19:00) A chance to discuss the campaign, how to get involved, meet others passionate about making change or simply find out more
• Nov 25 – Next Link candle-lit procession – starts at Next Link at 4.30pm to College Green at 5pm.
• Nov 26 – Scoping event with Bristol Women’s Voice members, Unitarian Church on Brunswick Square – What would a Zero Tolerance City look like to you? What needs to happen in Bristol to make it a Zero Tolerance city?
• Nov 27 – Reclaim the Night march – Bristol Student Union.  7pm Queens Square to Bristol Student’s Union with stalls and music