Action for Children Named As Lord Mayor Supported Charity

Action for Children has been named as one of the charities that Belfast Lord Mayor Kate Nicholl will support during her year in office.

Councillor Nicholl said raising awareness of children's issues including poverty and mental health is one of her priorities as Lord Mayor, and she has chosen to support the charity to help ensure the voices of children and young people are heard loud and clear.

She added: "I'm so impressed with the work that Action for Children is doing, not just for fostering in Northern Ireland and work with young carers, but how everything they do is underpinned by their desire to tackle child poverty and mental health.

"It has been an extremely hard year for children and young people and the effects of the pandemic are long-lasting. It's so important that we make sure their experiences and their voices are at the forefront, and I'm delighted to give them my support and shine a spotlight on the work of this great charity."

Action for Children point to recent figures that show 1 in 4 children in Northern Ireland are growing up in poverty and studies highlight that certain groups of children are less likely to bounce back as restrictions have eased.

Northern Ireland also reports 25% higher levels of anxiety and depression among young people than elsewhere in the United Kingdom and with growing evidence of the impact of school closures on children's and adolescents' mental health, Action for Children continue to point out the urgent need for a robust structure and fully funded early support as vital in our schools, youth settings and communities to help curb the negative longer-term impact of the pandemic.

Action for Children is a UK children's charity created to help vulnerable children and young people, and their families. By delivering services in communities across Northern Ireland, they aim to ensure children have a safe and happy childhood, having reached over 15,500 children, young people and families last year alone.

In Northern Ireland, Action for Children offers support for young carers, early Intervention support, Sure Starts and Family Support Hubs. They have a growing fostering service and support young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and those who need support with their mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Lorna Ballard, Northern Ireland Director for Action for Children, said: "Our staff have witnessed first-hand the challenges that children and young people in Northern Ireland face as a result of poverty, and things have worsened during the pandemic. We know that when children have a good start in life, a safe and stable home and emotional support within their families and communities, they are more likely to thrive and have better outcomes throughout their lives.

"We're delighted to have been chosen as one of the Lord Mayor's charities of the year. The support of the Lord Mayor is vital, as we strive to ensure the voices of vulnerable children and young people are heard while plans are made upon how the country moves forward.

"As a mother herself, Kate has a strong understanding of the impact that the pandemic has had on children and young people and we're honoured to have her support, as we work together to ensure policymakers understand what is important in ensuring a safe and happy childhood for all."

Sheena McMullen, Campaigns, Advocacy and Policy Advisor at Action for Children added: "The recent launch of the Mental Health Strategy recognises the emphasis needed on early support and prevention alongside a whole-life approach from infancy to older age. Action for Children welcome this key development and believe this year will be crucial in working towards effective implementation and adequate funding to achieve the vision of the Strategy.

"Partnership-working across all levels of government and within the voluntary and community sector is vital to meet the needs within the community and truly enter a recovery phase. We're delighted that the Lord Mayor shares this value of collaboration and expressed her desire to use her tenure to encourage this way of working amongst all stakeholders towards better outcomes for children, young people and their families.

"This year, the stakes are high in making sure that all children and young people have the chance to thrive and Action for Children along with the Lord Mayor are urging all of us to play our part in making that happen."

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