Sixty local residents have been able to stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to a £10,000 initiative delivered by the Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network.
The network, made up of community, voluntary and statutory organisations including Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, secured over £10,000 through the Department for Communities (DFC) and council under the Warm, Well and Connected scheme to roll out a Social Inclusion Tablets initiative.
The aim of the project was to provide people who were not digitally connected with an android tablet device.
In addition to the devices, those who availed of the scheme were offered wraparound support including benefit checks, financial advice and access to the Uniform Exchange and other schemes, in partnership with Mid and East Antrim Community Advice Services (MEACAS) and the Loneliness Network.
The project ran for 3 months from March – May 2021 and all 60 tablets were distributed to local families, and individuals through the following organisations:
Mid and East Antrim Community Advice Services (MEACAS)
The Simon Community
Northern Area Community Network
Northern Health and Social Care Trust (NHSCT)
Ballymena South Community Cluster
The Mae Murray Foundation
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Cllr Peter Johnston said:
“Having access to the internet can be a lifeline during these uncertain times. There is so much online support and advice on offer to help with home schooling, get advice for financial hardships or access to activities online.
“At a time when people were staying at home, the scheme helped local people stay connected with services they need, as well as maintaining social connections to support their wellbeing.”
Yvonne Carson, Thematic Lead for Loneliness, Northern Health and Social Care Trust, added:
“The Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network is one of five working in the Northern Trust area. On behalf of the Trust, I fully support this scheme, which has tackled loneliness in the Borough during the Covid 19 period.
“I understand those who received a tablet are very grateful for this support which has improved their sense of wellbeing and connectedness. “
Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network Chairperson, Marjorie Hawkins, said:
“I am delighted the scheme has been such a success. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all MEACAS involved in running this initiative, Council and the DFC’s Warm, Well and Connected funding scheme, for providing the all-important funding.
“This has been a collaborative approach which highlights what can be achieved by working together. It is vitally important that we work in this way in order to continue to address the issue of isolation and loneliness across the area.”
Michele Campbell, Operations Director for MEACAS, added:
“Residents were given assistance by MEACAS to help them get online and make the most of the device.
“The tablet is theirs to keep and was a great tool for them during lockdown to make contact with friends and family and aid home schooling. We were able to support local families, migrant workers, those with disabilities and our local young people.
“MEACAS were delighted to have been involved in this new and innovative project and I would love to see this scheme roll out again.”
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.
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.”
Help Shape the Future of Marine Tourism in Mid and East Antrim
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council wants to hear your views on how the potential of our Borough’s stunning coastline and inland waterways can be capitalised on through future tourism planning.
The Borough includes part of the world renowned Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which comprises the hilly landscape of the Antrim Plateau and a rocky coastline, which is home to an array of marine life and rich geological and natural heritage.
The coast road is a popular scenic route for tourists and local visitors alike, offering spectacular views of the seascape and the opportunity to visit sprawling country parks, historic harbours, sandy beaches and areas of nature conservation and geological significance.
The area also offers opportunities for freshwater-based activities, most notably along the Lower Bann River, where visitors can take part in a range of water based activities including cruising, angling, canoeing, paddle boarding and water skiing.
Council is in the process of developing a strategy and action plan to identify opportunities and priority actions to ensure our harbours, coastline and freshwater resources can contribute to the future success of our local tourism economy, which was worth an estimated £57 million in 2019.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor William McCaughey, said:
“We want to hear the views and ideas of our community about how this strategy can be developed, as well as how best to build the profile of our coastal and river facilities to the national and international markets.
“It is important that we continue to build on the tourism and outdoor recreation development work undertaken to date to ensure a more prosperous and environmentally sustainable tourism offering.
“As part of that strategy development process, Council has published an online survey to capture feedback on priority actions which will deliver change, and I would encourage as many people as possible to get involved.
“By taking part in this survey, you will be helping to focus our future activities and supporting any future bids to secure new sources of funding.”
You can share your thoughts by filling in the survey here.
This work is being undertaken as part of the CAPITEN project, which was funded by the EU Atlantic Area Programme.