Belfast Telegraph

Monday 15 September 2014

Councils join forces in bid to support children in care

Ards and North Down Borough Councils have joined forces to ensure a positive outcome for children and young people in care.

‘Improving The Outcomes For Looked After Children', is the project launched by the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (SEHSCT), the Public Health Agency (PHA) and Ards and North Down Borough Councils.

The project will support children and young people living in residential homes and foster care, who are moved into a community where they have no previous connections.

Access to local leisure facilities, training, social and community infrastructure and employment opportunities will be provided by the project.

The project consists of a number of areas of work; work placement in gardening, maintenance, leisure services and photography; an Army work experience programme based at Ballykinler Training Centre; sports development and a part-time facilitator, who will work with the foster |parents/children to support their integration into the local |community.

Highlighting the importance of the project, Chris Totten, PHA head of health and social well-being improvement (south east), said: “There are several children's homes in the Ards and North Down areas and we know that children in care experience some of the worst inequalities in health and poor outcomes in areas such as mental and physical health, teenage pregnancy and drug and alcohol abuse.”

The project aims to reduce isolation, enable access to a wide range of facilities and opportunities by supporting physical, |educational and emotional development and create belonging within the wider community.

Improving the outcomes for looked after children is a response to the Minister for Health's call for pilot projects between clusters of local councils and the PHA and is co-ordinated by North Down YMCA.

Explaining the role of both councils, Ashley Boreland, chief executive at Ards Borough Council said: “Both Ards and North Down Borough Councils have joined this partnership with enthusiasm and a commitment to ensuring a positive outcome for the children and young people who are participating in what is a unique and innovative pilot project,” she said.

Chief executive of SEHSCT, Hugh McCaughey added: “The difference with this approach is public bodies have come together and acted. This has resulted in a range of exciting opportunities.”

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