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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Community stays connected thanks to local partnership

Mayor Cllr Peter Johnston along with Yvonne Carson (Northern Trust) and Lisa McAuley (MEACAS Volunteer Receptionist).

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 • PSNI • Northern Area Community Network • Northern Health and Social Care Trust (NHSCT) • Network Personnel • 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.”


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