The Elevate funded project allowed us to access funding and support to develop a project to empower over 50’s groups and individuals throughout the borough of Antrim and Newtownabbey, assisting with building skills, connections and sustainability through workshops addressing current issues, needs and tackling health inequalities. Also, to raise the profile of our organisation, building a greater data base of contacts to enable us to get more information and opportunities out to a greater number of seniors across the borough.
We delivered a series of workshops to over 50’s groups and individuals throughout the borough of Antrim and Newtownabbey. The focus of the workshops included carrying out a needs assessment and insight gathering with group leaders, rebranding exercises with the forum to gain their input on the design/vision for our organisation, training on mental health and resilience, IT Training for seniors and Volunteers training. We raised the profile of our organisation through rebranding, designing a new logo and pop-up stands, setting up a Facebook page and producing a quarterly E-News Letter “Age Matters.”.
We have rebranded from “Newtownabbey Seniors Citizens Forum” to “Antrim and Newtownabbey Seniors Forum. We have developed new working partners and set ourselves up as the go to organisation for getting information out to seniors in the Borough. We helped with social isolation through our IT workshop, helping connect people and share information and opportunities through various forms of media. Through raising the profile of our organisation, the network of contacts we have, our Facebook page and quarterly E-News Letter we are being approached more frequently to share information and opportunities from organisations such as Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue, HSCNI/PHA, PSNI, Libraries NI, NI Housing, Volunteer Now, Age NI and Loneliness Network. Getting this relevant information has benefitted many senior groups, families and individuals across the borough.
The focus of the mentoring sessions was to discuss the future direction of the Forum, its current needs and those of the groups and individuals we work with. The Elevate mentors provided us with contacts (including tutors and speakers for our workshops), access to training, advice, and support to achieve some of our short-term targets. As we have recently established a Service Level Agreement (with Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council and partners (one of whom is the HSCNI), the information from our mentoring and networking sessions has helped us prove our case (the need) for the services we provide and the role the community sector can play in addressing Health Inequalities amongst older people. Through completing the CDHN Reflective Practice Tool, we learnt that our Group Systems and Structures was one of our weakest areas that we needed to address, whereas Collective Action and Collaborative Cross Sectoral Working is one of our strong points. We are now better able to identify the needs of our organisation and the groups and individuals we work with. Through the mentoring were able to access Tutors, Speakers, and access to training and resource for our workshops.
By attending the training we have been able to strengthen our case/need for the service level agreement we have with Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council and Partners. The training has given us statistical information, shared learning through networking, support and confidence that there is a need for the services we provide. We have been able to show that there is a requirement for support (funding, staff, training opportunities, equipment, programmes and events etc) for the community sector from the statutory bodies/organisations and this support should be in partnership with policies, procedures and practices put in place to make these partnerships more sustainable and beneficial to address Health Inequalities for all involved.
In our Group Leader’s needs/issues workshop we were able to identify 4 of the top issues for Group Leaders and 4 of the top issues for individuals, these were then prioritised. This information will help steer us on services we deliver and show the need when applying for funding to address these issues. Due to the success and popularity of the workshops, we have already looked at modifying some of them to be delivered as workshops or presentation to some of our senior groups across the borough.
"I would highly recommend involvement in Elevate. This project has given our organisation and staff the opportunity to develop, through support and training and financial support to deliver on the needs of our seniors, and providing information and contacts to expand the partners we work with and capacity build the skills and confidence within our local communities.
Robert McQuiston, Project Co-ordinator