Our Journey Through Disability – Event Videos


Video of the event:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hX0GCTwJGQYY

Parents’ Videos:

Ashling’s Story:          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_e9JlrVkjoc

Sheila’s Story:             https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdXCYh-17pg

Martina’s Story:         https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJWrcdCqDdg

Emma’s Story:           https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20XBbwl0qM0

Pauline’s Story:         https://youtu.be/GISjH_rAm0g

Jim’s Story:                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thpmP-WqTLE

Joan’s Story:              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okccLK0-dUA


Family Connections Good News Stories

South and East Belfast Family Connections have been supporting families throughout the pandemic through a range of programmes and individual support. We have tailored our service delivery to respond to the expressed needs of families and have used creative and accessible methods to engage with parents.


Parents Wellbeing Group

As we went into Lockdown 3 we noticed that many parents were really struggling with their own stress levels and wellbeing. We responded by developing a Parent Wellbeing Group which was delivered online. 20 parents from across South & East Belfast registered for the programme. 


In the group parent were encouraged to take time for themselves and to explore their own stress levels, thoughts & feelings. Parents were able to support each other, share tips for self-care and wellbeing and have a bit of craic together! The activities were tailored to the parent’s interests and included meditation, yoga, self-care bingo and a wellbeing scavenger hunt.


One parent reported “My house is calmer, I’m remembering to take 5 minutes to breathe through the day.  It’s really good to have this group just for me and to see that I’m not the only one feeling the way I do, but it’s also giving me wee easy ideas to make myself feel better”


Awesome At Home

Parent of children with additional needs reported that they were finding lockdown particularly challenging. In response to this we developed the Awesome at Home programme which aimed to provide much needed support to these families.


We used the Five to Thrive Autism approach (KCA) as our evidence base for developing the programme. This approach provides five building blocks (RESPOND, CUDDLE, RELAX, PLAY, TALK) for promoting healthy brain development and positive relationships. It is particularly suitable for use with children with ASD and speech and language delay. We also incorporated resources from Oakwood and Middletown Autism support services.


The programme was delivered remotely. Parents received a weekly video and top tips newsletter as well as ideas for simple, fun and easy activities to support children’s language, behaviour, attention, sensory needs and social and emotional development at home. They also received  a weekly phone call to provide individual, tailored support and check in on wellbeing.

The course is now being rolled out for the fourth time in South and East Belfast and a total of 43 parents have participated.


Parent feedback

“We have got a better insight into how our child’s brain develops and this has enabled us to make the appropriate actions and reactions, as well as giving us a better understanding behind our child’s actions and behaviours”

“The course has given us more ideas for play that will help to encourage our child’s holistic development. We have also gained insight into ways to help promote communication and language development”

“I learned about ‘emotion coaching’ to help name my child’s emotions to hopefully help them to understand their own emotions and help me understand how they are feeling”

“The strategies have really helped me, starting from interaction to taking note of detailed changes in him and a more positive response from me”

Building our Children’s Developing Brain

Building our Children’s Developing Brain: a resource for parents and carers.

Challenging behaviour from children creates pressure on parents. It is often a sign that children cannot handle their big emotions (e.g., mad, sad, sacred). When children feel overwhelmed, they cannot self-regulate. Self-regulation is the ability to monitor and manage emotions, thoughts, and behaviours in ways that are acceptable and produce positive results.

Research shows that when children learn and practice self-regulation skills, they are forming pathways in their brains that increase their ability to manage stress in the future.

Isn’t that the hope of every parent? To teach our kids to manage stress and challenges that life can throw at them.

Building  our Children’s Developing Brain helps  increase that emotional regulation by exploring with parents how the brain works from The Whole-Brain Child’ by Dan Siegel & Tina Bryson with  practical strategies to help the different parts of our children’s brains work together.

A pilot of delivering this to parents in groups via zoom has been undertaken with the social workers from the multi-disciplinary team in Down with encouraging feedback from the parents involved.

Now in February 2021  training has engaged 10 originations including Action for Children, Barnardo’s, Lisburn YMCA, Parenting Matters, The South Eastern Trust, Multi-disciplinary Teams in Down, Belfast and Newry , Home Start, Bryson Care  and the Family Nurse Partnership to deliver it in groups or one to one and strengthen the evidence of its effectiveness. Feedback is coming in from these workers using it. What parents have said about this week:

“It has given me ideas of how to deal with difficult situations.  Mother of a 3-year-old

I found it useful to recognise that the left side of a child’s brain is only starting to develop. The steps in the booklet ‘Getting the parts of the brain working together’ are something I wish I’d known about years ago – I have printed them out so I can keep them as a quick reference”. Mother of 8, 3, 2

A worker who delivers Incredible Years said, “This work really compliments what we do in Incredible years and will take it a bit further.”

For more information contact Ed Sipler at ed.sipler@setrust.hscni.net



General Practice Social Work Update

General Practice Social Work Update

The Social Work (SW) contribution to MDT currently remains populating 6 of our 18 surgeries but please be assured,  Alex is extremely proactive, in partnership with Dr Johhny Burns and Dr Peter Reid,  in canvassing and arguing the urgent need to place Social Workers and Social Work assistants in the remaining practices.

The current Social Work members, 8 Senior Social Workers and 5 Social Work assistants, continue to offer a direct service to patients presenting with social difficulties related to or a cause of the presenting health concern. We have seen a welcome and steady increase in referrals being received by the practitioners.

Practice Based Training

We are pleased to share that the GP based Social Workers are completing a series of Primary Care related training to enhance their current skills, some of which detailed below :-

  • Autistic Spectrum Disorder, assessment and support. Delivered, monitored and supported by Lisa Curlett, Trust Paediatric ASD Lead. This is designed to offer support to the family at the first instance and assist GPs consider if a referral to ASD service appropriate or if there is support and assistance the GP SW team can offer immediately.


  • Motivational Interview Skills Training. Directly linked to assisting those experiencing difficulties in regard to patients relationships with drugs and alcohol.


  • Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Workshops.


  • A suite of Drugs and Alcohol abuse training.


  • Bespoke training developed specifically for the Causeway Coast and Glens Federation SW cohort relating to project and community development challenges by an expert in the field.


SW GP Projects

Despite the SW GP cohort small numbers, the following projects are in development, rolled out or completed.

Shielding. team members, whenever possible, continue to call clients in their practice who have been advised to shield to ensure they have access to food, heating and to check their wellbeing.

Lodge/Mountsandel advent initiative. Forty patients, lonely or isolated, received weekly gifts/puzzles/stimulation packs with a bonus one at Christmas. This programme so well reived, continue to be rolled out over January/February.

Garvagh Forrest Walks. Joint SW MDT and Garvagh Development Group Project assisting those experiencing a range of difficulties from loneliness and isolation,  parental concerns, mental health issues.

ASD/ADHD Support Group. Online ZOOM support group for parents struggling with behaviours being presented by their children and methods being given to understand, manage and support said parents/children.

Christmas Poverty Action. SWrs worked with Age Concern Causeway and voluntary agencies, including local churches, in delivering gifts and food parcels to patients and families in financial crisis during the holiday period.

SW Seed Funding related initiatives

The Department of Health has given a fund to the SW MDT to work in partnership with the community to develop and deliver new projects to assist our communities.

With the significant assistance of Dr Johnny Burns and M/H Lead Jane Reynolds, the following are now either delivering or in development.

Cloughmills Mill. Support group for elders with a range of services and activities to assist those struggling with issues relating to loneliness, isolation, poverty, mental health related concerns.

 Freshminds Programme Bespoke service for parents and young people of those presenting with significant behavioural difficulties, tensions, mental health concerns, all of which would not meet the criteria for a statutory service but would clerly be a family in need of support.

SOLAS. Ballycastle based service now available to take referrals from the Federation via SW Lead.

Walking Groups. Small funding for specific walking groups meeting range of need in Coleraine area.

Forrest Walks Training. Focused training for SW Group to build on success of Garvagh project and identify green spaces in GP Practice areas when similar projects can rolled out with some limited ongoing external support.


The SW GP MDT, with the support of the Practice’s in Portrush and Rasharkin, are piloting a letter drop outlining our services to those communities and we look forward to measuring their impact.


We have exciting and innovative ideas which we are very keen to share with you all and are all very excited by being able to roll out to the whole Federation as soon as we can.

CAJ EUSS info update for non-EU family members of people of NI

CAJ EUSS info update for non-EU family members of people of NI.

This route could apply to people without status who are in qualifying relationships with people from NI: caj.org.uk/wp-content/upl

Use this information along with Stronger Together’s EUSS advice and support service