The Support Hub in Mid and East Antrim was officially launched in September 2017 and brought together all the statutory, Voluntary and Community groups in the Mid and East Antrim area to improve the lives of vulnerable local people. The Support Hub has illustrated how different agencies come together, work together and share information in order to help vulnerable people improve their situation.
When agencies in the Hub share what they know this gives a ‘clearer picture’ of a person’s problem and means people can get the help they need. The Mid and East Antrim Support Hub marks a positive step forward in improving the lives of local vulnerable people as it offers a real opportunity to help local people and families to get the support they need through working together and early intervention. The Support Hub has been designed to support a wide range of vulnerable people within the local community, these include:
- Young people susceptible to organised crime gangs or paramilitary influence;
- Repeat victims of anti-social behaviour;
- People with learning difficulties, social functioning or mental health problems; people with drug or alcohol misuse or dependence;
- People at risk or with a history of offending; and
- People at risk of exploitation.
The Support Hub helps these people through collaborative working and meeting regularly with the individual and trying to find common ground where all parties can move forward and progress. Mid and East Support Hub will continue to offer a real opportunity to help local people and families to receive the support they need. Mid and East Antrim Support Hub also aim to develop an annual information/awareness event to all citizens in the Borough to ensure that as many people are aware of this project as possible. 59% of the people who have taken part in the Support Hub have been successfully removed with a huge reduction in disruptive behaviour among participants.
The Support Hub has been a huge success since its introduction and was also recently nominated for an award at the Northern Ireland Local Government Awards under the category for best local authority community planning initiative.
Planning Safer Places
The Community Safety & Cohesion thematic group have carried out 4 successful projects to date in improving the safety of our Borough through community-based solutions, these are;
Bytes Detached Youth Project
The Bytes youth team have been actively engaging with PSNI and local youths and are constantly providing constructive advice, engaging with people on Facebook and liaising with churches and schools during term time. This has helped to decrease Anti-Social Behaviour in our Borough by 4%. The Bytes team have acted proactively in engaging with our communities to ensure that Anti-Social Behaviour in our Borough is solved both for our young people and our residents.
The Bytes Detached Youth Project has received £18,000 in funding from Council to ensure that this great work continues.
This project is based on appointing Community Safety Wardens to liaise with the PSNI and the Housing Executive to work within local areas where Anti-Social Behaviour may be common, for example local parks and estates. The Community Safety Wardens have forged close links with the Housing Executive Neighbourhood Officers in the Boroughs 3 main towns in order to identify and resolve low level anti-social behaviour at the earliest possible opportunity.
They also provide a reassuring and visible presence for people who may have are fearful of crime. This project has been in operation since 2016 and as a result Anti-Social Behaviour has decreased in both Ballymena and Larne with positive community engagement being achieved throughout this project. MEA PCSP fund this initiative in partnership with the Housing Executive and will continue to do so to ensure Anti-Social Behaviour is dealt with proactively.
In partnership with the Department of Justice MEA Council are bringing ‘Banjaxed’ to youth centers throughout the Borough, Banjaxed is a play written by Patricia Downey and it is hoped that it will help to raise awareness about the danger posed to children from paramilitary and organised crime groups. The play is based on real-life stories from children in Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre and explores social issues that aim to challenge, provoke and engage audiences.
Representatives from the PSNI, Probation Board, Youth Justice Agency and Department of Justice are all present at the plays, this allows young people to discuss any issues or queries with the relevant people. In order to tackle community safety issues and to build relationships at a local level community engagement is key. Banjaxed is a great play that provides us with the opportunity to engage with young people and to ensure that paramilitarism has no place in our society.
Similarly to Banjaxed ‘Blackout’ is a play which MEA PCSP and the Department of Justice have partnered to ensure that this play is performed for another 5 secondary schools. Blackout’ tells the story of James, a young man who wakes up in a prison cell with no idea of why he is there. As he recalls the events of his life, he reaches a point where he realises his future lies in his own hands.
The production involves young people from Hydebank Wood College who have personal experience of the courts service and criminal justice system. The production is visiting Carrickfergus Grammar School, Larne High School, St Louis Grammar School, Cullybackey College and Carrickfergus Academy. The play forces young people think harder about the effects of drugs and alcohol and of the perceptions of young people and crime.