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Brain Injury Charity Responds To Covid-19 Crisis By Creating Online Portal For Service Users

Brain Injury Matters has maintained its services to those affected by Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) despite the challenges of the current Covid-19 crisis.

Shifting rapidly to a range of technological solutions Brain Injury Matters has adapted how it supports children, young people, adults and families affected by ABI.

From regular phone calls through to a web portal the charity has managed to preserve its vital lifeline to users.

CEO, Joe McVey, explained that the shift to remote services was essential given the concerns of those that they supported.

“In the beginning many of our services users found the impact of COVID-19 and lockdown very unsettling, worrying and concerning for their families and themselves,” he said. “There were many questions and queries about how or if BIM will be able to continue to provide services.”

Knowing that they needed to respond a range of options were developed.

“Brain Injury Matters took the decision promptly to move to remote working but ensuring that we maintained the support and engagement of all services users,” Joe explained. “All services moved to telephone and online communication by way of Zoom, Skype, Facebook, WhatsApp and the Family First Portal.

“All programmes are now delivered through these mediums, with staff having become familiar overnight with this way of working. It was also imperative that staff were able to communicate directly with one another and their line managers to ensure support during this time.

“Support was vital to our clients during this time of uncertainty, to help survivors of acquired brain injury to reduce feelings of isolation, anxiety and stress brought on by their brain injury and made worse by the coronavirus.”

Adult service users are now supported by the ‘Positivity Hub’ online (funded by the CFNI) to engage with those who previously attended the Belfast Brain Injury Centre.

Brain Injury Matters children and youth services also continue to provide services.

“While we are unable to visit, we continue to provide support by telephone, online and the Family First Portal,” said Bridget Smyth, head of children and youth services, adding: “The portal has been updated and developed to allow us to communicate better with families so that staff can continue to intervene and support families.

“Our Family First Portal is an Online Tool is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and developed in partnership with the psychology services of BHSCT that allows us to share documents, have conversations, and organise virtual sessions through use of technology such as Zoom & Skype.

 

“Families are able to communicate with other families through the Portal, and there is now a lovely community of families with children affected by ABI, sharing their experiences of ABI and how they are adapting to life in lockdown. We are also in the process of creating videos to demonstrate skills, strategies and activities that parents can do with their children during this uncertain time.

“While we are developing technology to stay connected, we in the Children and Youth Service do not underestimate the importance of connection through more traditional means such as phone calls, and have been supporting parents and families in this way since lockdown.”

To find out more about Brain Injury Matters please visit www.braininjurymatters.org.uk

Business

Northern Ireland Construction Company Named Winner of Prestigious Responsible Business Award

Kieran Harding, Managing Director, Business in the Community NI, Ian Henry, Director, Henry Brothers Ltd and Jennifer Cruickshank, HR Manager, Henry Brothers Ltd)

Henry Brothers Ltd has been named NI Responsible Company of the Year at Business in the Community’s 2021 Responsible Business Awards.

A panel of independent judges awarded Henry Brothers with this prestigious top award for demonstrating the implementation of a wide range of successful corporate responsibility initiatives that strategically address key issues and challenges in a way that creates value for both society and the business.

Winners in all eleven responsible business categories were announced at a hybrid Awards event, hosted in-studio by TV and weather presenter and journalist Barra Best and broadcast live across Business in the Community’s digital platforms.

Northern Ireland’s leading responsible companies were recognised for outstanding contributions to their people, the planet and the places where they operate, with categories that cover all themes in responsible business, including wellbeing, diversity and inclusion, environment, community, digital innovation, and more.

The Awards, organised by responsible business network Business in the Community, take place annually and in 2021 the event was run in partnership with JP Corry, SPAR and Department for Communities, and in association with Ulster Business and U105.

The eleven 2021 winners were:

  • Age-Friendly Business Award, sponsored by Age-Friendly Network – Bank of Ireland
  • Diversity and Inclusion Award, sponsored by Belfast Harbour – AMS
  • Education Partnership Award, sponsored by Allen & Overy – Heron Bros. Ltd
  • Environmental Leadership Award, sponsored by Heron Bros – Danske Bank
  • Innovation in Employability Award, sponsored by George Best Belfast City Airport – Translink
  • Investing in Your Community Award, sponsored by Arthur Cox – PwC
  • Responsible Digital Innovation Award, sponsored by Allstate NI – Sentireal Ltd
  • One-to-Watch Award, sponsored by Ciena – Dowds Group
  • Responsible Product / Service Award, sponsored by Translink – Huhtamaki
  • Wellbeing at Work Award, sponsored by Larne Port – Northern Ireland Water

Kieran Harding, Managing Director, Business in the Community says: “Congratulations to each of the winning organisations for leading the way in responsible business. This year has been really challenging for a lot of businesses and people in Northern Ireland, so I want to thank our winning, highly commended, and shortlisted organisations for continuing to make responsible business action a priority.

“The judging process of the Awards is robust, and the standard of entries was phenomenally high this year. All winners demonstrated true leadership in the area of responsible business and their entries are sure to inspire others in their own responsible business journey.”  

Online attendees of the event enjoyed a community digital showcase highlighting positive stories of business action for the benefit of communities during the past year.  Entertainment pieces included a performance of uplifting original song ‘Calendar’ by Northern Ireland singer Daisie Conway, and a specially commissioned poem ‘Defining Hope’ screened at the event was written and performed by Belfast-based poet Niamh McNally.

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Business

Par Equity Seeks to Double Northern Ireland Funding to £20m

Pictured (l-r) are Andrew Noble, partner at Par Equity and Ronnie Geddis, Par Equity’s regional chairman for Northern Ireland.

Edinburgh-based venture capital firm has already invested £10m in the region

Par Equity, an Edinburgh-based specialist in high-growth early-stage tech businesses, is increasing its support for cutting-edge companies in Northern Ireland to £20 million after a string of successful transactions.

Established in 2008, Par Equity has built a strong reputation for backing young, innovative companies in Northern Ireland, Scotland and England’s northeast and supporting them with its growing team of expert advisors.

The company, which has already invested £10 million in a range of successful early-stage companies including Datactics, Cumulus, Plotbox and TriVirum, said the additional funds would help ambitious local firms to develop new technologies and expand into new markets, unlock other forms of funding along the way.

Andrew Noble, partner at Par Equity, said:

“We’re hands-on investors at Par Equity and, together with our network of industry experts, we’re providing that much-needed business advice as well as the financial support.  We’ve identified, and heavily backed, some excellent companies in Northern Ireland and we’re excited about unearthing new opportunities in the region over the next two or three years.”

Par Equity’s first major funding success in Northern Ireland was Belfast-based digital imaging analysis and software company PathXL in 2012. Since then, it has provided essential finance, direct support and management advice to some of the region’s most successful new companies.

In April 2021, Par Equity invested further in Trivirum, Plotbox and Datactics, leading investments rounds of up to £3.5 million. This included a £2 million investment round into data management specialist Datactics following on from its initial investment into the company in 2019. The Datactics investment round, which was supported by other existing investors, Kernel Capital and Clarendon, will see the company grow to beyond 50 employees and into profitability.

In addition to these three investments, Par Equity also provided a £1.1m bridging round in Belfast start-up Cumulus Neuroscience last year, leveraging a further £6 million of investment from the UK’s Dementia Discovery Fund.

The funds are being used to help Cumulus develop a new, industry-leading integrated physiological and biomarker platform that provides clinical trial data and AI-powered insights to accelerate the development of therapies for Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders.

Cumulus Neuroscience’s CEO, Ronan Cunningham, said:

“Great ideas can be the foundation of a great business, but without the necessary funding, the potential for growth will always be capped. We’re delighted that after just a few short years, we’ve secured the finance we need to accelerate our technology to market and address exciting new growth opportunities on the global stage.

Funding through Par Equity, the Dementia Discovery Fund, and other partners are helping us to scale-up quickly and establish ourselves as a market leader in our space.”

As one of the larger investors in Northern Ireland, Par Equity believes it can help fill a gap in the market and provide the scale of funding fast growth companies need to get to the next level, but which is not currently available through local financing options. In 2020, Par Equity appointed Ronnie Geddis as the chair of its investor network in Northern Ireland deepening its activity in the region.

“Like Scotland, we know that Northern Ireland businesses don’t always get their fair share of venture capital funding in the UK and that business often struggle to get that next level of funding they need to really scale up their operations,” said Ronnie Geddis.

As someone who has invested and been in receipt of investment in Northern Ireland, there is a clear role for Par Equity to bring its scale and expertise to Northern Ireland to help some of our most exciting businesses achieve the global success they deserve,” added Ronnie.

Par Equity has invested in more than 60 companies since it launched in 2008. Collectively, those companies have raised £266 million from investors.

Earlier this year, it secured three major awards at the UK Business Angel Investment Awards 2021, including Angel Group of the Year, Scale-up Team of the Year and Exit of the Year.

A panel of 37 judges reviewed the hundreds of nominations received across the 12 categories to select the leaders and trail blazers from the UK’s investment ecosystem.

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