Connect with us

Mid and East Antrim

Mid and East Antrim Welcome its First ‘Chatty Bench’

Mid and East Antrim’s Loneliness Network are thrilled to launch its first ‘Chatty Bench’ in the borough.

Located in the beautiful surroundings of Shaftsbury Park, Carrickfergus just off the Marine Highway, this brightly painted yellow bench has been introduced to provide a place for people to come together to have a chat.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Peter Johnston said: “The ‘Chatty Benches’ initiative is one of many that aims to engage people in activities to minimise their sense of isolation.

“The ethos behind it is to encourage anyone who wants to engage in conversation with someone to sit down on the bench and just have a chat. There is also a plaque on the bench with a unique QR code on it, which residents can scan to access information on the Loneliness Network.

“I am delighted to see the bench placed in my home town of Carrickfergus and look ahead with anticipation for others to follow in the Larne and Ballymena areas soon.”

The Loneliness Network

Sabrina Lynn from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust says: “One in three people in Northern Ireland are likely to experience feelings of loneliness in their lifetime (NISRA). Throughout this difficult year of lockdown, isolation and restrictions on our social activities, human contact has been limited which has impacted upon our mental health. The challenges the pandemic has created in terms of creating loneliness in communities is something that the Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network aims to tackle. “

Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network Chairperson Marjorie Hawkins said: “We recognise that everyone is likely to experience some feelings of loneliness in their lifetime. Often seen as a problem faced traditionally by older people, loneliness is a different kind of pandemic that is also non- discriminatory and can be detrimental to many lives. Tackling this is a mission that we are deeply committed to.”

Yvonne Carson, Thematic Lead for Loneliness, Northern Health and Social Care Trust stated: “Chatty Benches are designed to help tackle loneliness and support positive mental health within the community. We hope this ‘Chatty Bench’ will be seen as a place for people to come together to chat and connect.”

Mid and East Antrim

A ‘Chatty Bench’ installed for Larne and Ballymena

Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network launched two more ‘Chatty Benches’ in the Larne and Ballymena area on Monday marking ‘Loneliness Awareness’ week. 

Located in the beautiful surroundings of Larne Town Park & Wellington Street in Ballymena, the ‘Chatty Benches’ are brightly painted yellow and have a plaque with a unique QR code linking users to useful information on the Loneliness Network.

Deputy Mayor Cllr Matthew Armstrong said: “The ‘Chatty Benches’ initiative is one of many that aim to engage people in activities to minimise their sense of isolation. The ethos behind it is to encourage anyone who wants to engage in conversation with someone to sit down on the bench and just have a chat. I am delighted to have participated in launching two more in Larne Town Park and on Wellington Street, I look ahead with anticipation for others to follow in the Mid and East Antrim Borough soon.”

Sabrina Lynn from the Norther Health and Social Care Trust said: “1 in 3 people in Northern Ireland are likely to experience feelings of loneliness in their lifetime (NISRA). Throughout this difficult year of lockdown, isolation and restrictions on our social activities, human contact has been limited which has impacted upon our mental health. The challenges the pandemic has created in terms of creating loneliness in communities is something that the Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network aims to tackle. “

Deputy Mayor Councillor Matthew Armstrongwith Emma McCrea of Ballymena BID and Yvonne Carson of the Northern Trust at the new Chatty Bench in Wellington Court, Ballymena.

Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network Chairperson Marjorie Hawkins said: “We recognise that everyone is likely to experience some feelings of loneliness in their lifetime. Often seen as a problem faced traditionally by older people, loneliness is a different kind of pandemic that is also non- discriminatory and can be detrimental to many lives. Tackling this is a mission that the Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network is deeply committed to.

Yvonne Carson, Northern Health and Social Care Trust stated: “We hope that the ‘Chatty Benches’ continue to be enjoyed by all in the community and if you see someone sitting down on it, sit down and have a chat with them, it’s the first step to helping someone feel a bit less lonely. Happy Chatting.”

The Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network was formed in late 2019, it is a collaboration of community, voluntary and statutory organisations committed to combating loneliness and addressing vulnerabilities in people of all ages across all walks of life.

Continue Reading

Mid and East Antrim

Autism Friendly Mid and East Antrim is Ready to Welcome you this Summer!

Leisure facilities and visitor attractions owned and operated by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council have gone ‘above and beyond’ to create accessible and ‘autism friendly’ environments – and that’s official!

Council’s Seven Towers, Carrickfergus Amphitheatre and Larne Leisure Centres, as well as Carnfunnock Country Park, Ballymena’s People’s Park and The Gobbins at Islandmagee, have all achieved ‘Autism IMPACT Award’ accreditation from Autism NI, and in partnership with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust (NHSCT).

Dr Petra Corr, Director of Mental Health, Learning Disability and Community Wellbeing with the Northern Trust, Joanne Keown from Autism NI, and the new Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Councillor William McCaughey, were joined to officially celebrate the achievement in the stunning coastal surroundings of The Gobbins yesterday.

Councillors Cheryl Johnston, Matthew Armstrong (Deputy Mayor) and Danny Donnelly, who are Elected Members Autism Champions and sit on the Mid and East Antrim Autism Friendly Steering Group, also attended the launch, along with Council Chief Executive, Anne Donaghy OBE.

The IMPACT Award was presented to Council in recognition of the work undertaken to open up our facilities and services to autistic individuals and their families and carers.

The prestigious achievement involved staff training and a number of adjustments to improve accessibility and overall customer experience, including pre-visit guides and ‘quiet spaces’ at a number of venues.

Katrina Morgan, MEABC Director of Community, with Mayor, Councillor William McCaughey, and Council Chief Executive, Anne Donaghy OBE, at the official launch of the Autism Friendly MEA initiative, at The Gobbins, one of a number of council venues to achieve, in partnership with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, to achieve IMPACT Award status from Autism NI.

IMPACT

Launching the IMPACT Award during one of his first public engagements, Mayor McCaughey, said:

“I am delighted to share in this celebration of the commitment of Council, in partnership with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust and Autism NI, to make our Borough an ‘Autism Friendly’ place to live, visit and work in.

“Under Council’s Community Plan, we want to create a strong, vibrant, safe and inclusive community, where we all work together to improve the lives of everyone, and this initiative is a very important milestone in meeting that objective.”

Anne Donaghy OBE added:

“I commend all our staff who have completed the Autism Champion training to gain a greater understanding of autism and how by making adaptations, we can better support those with autism and their loved ones within our community.

“As the mother of a child with additional needs, I know how vital it is for equal access to all our facilities and attractions, to ensure family days out and experiences are filled with joy. This is something I am very proud to say that our Council continues to champion.

“From a trip to the park, to arranging a swim, theatre visit or guided tour, we want people with autism, their families and carers, to experience a welcoming and enjoyable visit.”

The NHSCT’s Dr Petra Corr also spoke at the event:

“We are delighted to be working alongside Mid and East Antrim Borough Council in supporting them to make their borough autism friendly. I would like to commend them for their hard work and dedication in completing and achieving the Autism NI IMPACT Award and accreditation within both their leisure centres and outside spaces.

“Making these public services and spaces accessible and autism friendly is vitally important in order to provide a welcoming and understanding atmosphere for our autistic community.

“Many families and autistic individuals from within their communities will benefit from the hard work and persistence they have put in over the last year and more. We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the Council in the months to come.”

Joanne Keown, Training and Development Officer with Autism NI, added:

“Autism NI are delighted to work with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council to help improve the autism accessibility of their services.

“Through the IMPACT Award programme, staff across various venues have accessed training to support them in building their understanding of autism and how they can make adaptations to support autistic customers and their families.

“Each of the venues have been making practical adjustments to their services and the information they provide to better support the autism community throughout their borough. We look forward to continuing to expand the autism awareness and accessibility across more facilities in partnership with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.”

Continue Reading