Health Minister Robin Swann has praised the commitment of social care staff who have been supporting the mental health and wellbeing of vulnerable people.

During a visit to the Inspire supported independent living service in Belfast, the Minister commended staff for their dedication and service throughout the pandemic.

Millburn Close is home to 26 people with mental ill health who are offered 24 hour support by Inspire staff to help them manage their recovery, develop their skills and live independent lives in their own homes within the community.

The Minister said: “It was a great opportunity to see the excellent facilities at Millburn Close and learn how Inspire supports its service users to live independent lives. I had the pleasure of visiting some residents in their own homes and hearing about their experiences.

“I also want to say thank you to the staff who have been on site with the residents throughout the pandemic. There is a great community spirit at Millburn Close and I commend Inspire for their visionary, person-centered approach, which reflects a key theme in my Department’s Mental Health Strategy which I launched last June.

“Right across Northern Ireland, in the most challenging of times, social care workers have been there for people who are struggling with their mental health, exacerbated by feelings of isolation and loneliness resulting from the COVID-19 restrictions on everyday life. As we come out of this phase of the pandemic, I know social care staff will continue to be there for the people they support, helping them to get some normality back into their lives.” 

Kerry Anthony, Chief Executive Officer of Inspire said: “It was wonderful to welcome Minister Swann to Inspire. He took the time to hear directly from people who use Inspire’s services about their experiences, interests and hope for the future. We talked to the Minister about the model of inclusive recovery based services that he could see in action at Millburn Close.  It was encouraging to see the Minister genuinely interested in engaging directly with service users and frontline staff and reinforcing the importance of breaking the stigma around mental illness.”

This week, the Minister has announced that a further £6.02m has been allocated to the Mental Health Support Fund and a number of organisations will shortly be hearing if their applications have been successful. In an earlier tranche of funding, Inspire was awarded £474,150 to establish a new regional advocacy service, Advocacy for All, to support thousands of people across NI with mild to moderate mental ill health.

Alex Bunting, Group Director of Inspire Mental Health and Addiction Services, said: “Advocacy for All is a regional service that people will have access to no matter where they live. There will be no postcode lottery, no waiting list and anyone who reaches out to us will get to speak to someone immediately.

“Our experience tells us that this service has been missing for far too long. Time and time again, we heard from people who had not been given appropriate information about their illness, its symptoms and the services available to them. Through this service, people with lived experience of mental ill health, along with their family and carers, will get the information, advice and support they need. It champions individual choice and control when it comes to how best to manage and improve their mental health and wellbeing.”