Southern Trust staff have been working in partnership to provide support and advice in weekly Welcome Centres for Ukrainian families with the objective of providing advice and support and where necessary to signpost to other services.
Families escaping the Russian invasion in Ukraine are welcomed each Tuesday and Wednesday by a group of agencies in weekly Welcome Centres set up in local Council run facilities in Newry and Brownlow respectively.
The development of the Welcome Centres is a collaborative approach with Armagh, City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Education Authority, Department for Communities, The Bryson Group, Jobs and Benefits and immigration advice services, and is supported by dedicated volunteers from Volunteer Now. Services, including health and social care, are on hand so that individuals and families can register and access all available resources and supports as soon as possible.
Ethnic Minority Support Workers from Newry, Mourne and Down District Council have also established a new Welcome Café initiative as a safe space for displaced families to meet and to provide support to each other at a time of crisis in their lives.
The Welcome Café had been set up in the informal setting of the Gateway Club in Newry (and has now moved to Sure Start premises on Warrenpoint Road) to enable community members to gather, share stories and experiences in order to build relationships and supportive social networks. Staff from the Trust’s Promoting Wellbeing Division, including social work staff from Multi-Disciplinary Teams aligned to GP practices are available in the cafes to and provide advice and support. They are also on hand to provide advice and useful information on services and resources, linking to “grass roots” groups in local areas to further enhance health, well-being and social inclusion.
Staff at the Welcome Café are also encouraging local sponsor families to become involved and to avail of the opportunity to access information and support services. By bringing people together the project aims to build a supportive network for refugee individuals and families and to provide opportunities for wider integration within local communities.
Maurice Rocks is a support worker from the ‘Traveller and Ethnic Minority Support’ service within the Trust’s Promoting Wellbeing Division. He has provided a vital link in following up presentations to see and hear how families are settling in.
“We have been able to signpost and link families to local resources and opportunities to promote inclusion, including connecting young people to sports programmes and exploring what youth club activities are available coming into summer,” he said.
Brian Beattie, Interim Director Older People and Primary Care, said that the Trust are delighted to be working with other statutory, community and voluntary sector partners to come together to offer support and assistance on a wide range of issues.
The Welcome Centres are open on Tuesdays 9.30am – 1pm in Newry Leisure Centre and on Wednesday’s 3pm – 8pm in Brownlow Community Hub and the Welcome Café is open each Friday from 11am – 1pm at Sure Start, 2 Warrenpoint Rd, Newry BT34 2PF.