Trust participates in community health ‘Question Time’

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Wednesday, December 19th, 2012
The Southern Health and Social Care Trust, Middletown Centre for Autism, Newry and Mourne Council and Armagh District Council were among the organisations represented at the recent cross border ‘Community Health Question time’ event held in Armagh. At the event Travellers, those living with visual and hearing impairment, members of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender) community and local women all raised issues in relation to accessing public services. They had the unique opportunity to directly question representatives from public sector organisations on how services can be more effectively delivered to meet their needs. The event was organised by the Co-operation and Working Together (CAWT) cross border Social Inclusion project, with funding from the European Union’s INTERREG IVA programme. Attendees came from the Southern Trust area and also from across the wider border area, both north and south. As a result of the event, representatives from health and social care, councils, education and housing agreed actions to improve access to services and promote better health for more vulnerable and marginalised groups. Implementation of those actions will be monitored by a cross border social inclusion network, which has been established by the cross border CAWT Social Inclusion project. Practical suggestions for improvements to public services were made. This included ensuring the physical environment was welcoming to those from the LGBT community. Ideas were shared on how public services could be more responsive to the needs of minorities and those with disabilities. More staff awareness training around the particular needs of marginalised groups was also suggested. Commenting Mairead McAlinden, Chief Executive of the Southern Trust said: “I really appreciated this opportunity to hear directly the experience of people who use our services and to discuss how we can make it better. “There was a strong desire to see more joined up planning across and between public sector services to better identify when people with visual or hearing difficulties may need help and support in using our services, and also to consider ways to improve access to services, particularly for those most socially excluded and those living in more rural border areas. Mairead added, “Sometimes even small changes to how we do things can make a big difference to our service users.” Event chair Susan Gibson, representing the CAWT Social Inclusion Project, stated that she was delighted with the extent of participation in the event and the real engagement between marginalised groups with planners and decision makers. Susan commented: “There was a real commitment made here today by leaders and representatives to implement the many practical suggestions made by participants. In doing so, we can improve the health of some of the most excluded groups living within the border region.” The event was co-ordinated by the CAWT Social Inclusion project which is delivering training and health programmes to targeted groups of vulnerable women as well as Travellers, across four delivery sites in border areas including South Armagh; Monaghan Town/Castleblayney; Inishowen, Co. Donegal and City of Derry/Castlederg, Co Tyrone.
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