MY LACES brings kids and students together

Children who took part in the programme stand promoting Care Day at the launch of the MY LACES programme.
Children who took part in the programme stand promoting Care Day at the launch of the MY LACES programme.

A new project launched by the Western Trust in Derry will see ten looked after children the opportunity to receive mentorship from seven social work students every Wednesday after school.

The MY LACES project (Mentoring Young Looked after Children with Educational Support) aims to provide consistent educational support through early intervention to those deemed most vulnerable, and to those who may not be able to avail of this in a normal home environment.

Left to right - Prof. Mary McColgan, Ulster University; Kieran Downey, Western Trust Director of Women and Children's Services; Stephan McLaughlin, Western Trust Head of Service for Looked after Children; Caoimhe Coyle, VOYPIC, Elisha McCallion, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Maeve McLaughlin, MLA; Philip Turbitt, Ulster University and Paul Cassidy, Ulster University Outreach Adviser.

Left to right - Prof. Mary McColgan, Ulster University; Kieran Downey, Western Trust Director of Women and Children's Services; Stephan McLaughlin, Western Trust Head of Service for Looked after Children; Caoimhe Coyle, VOYPIC, Elisha McCallion, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Maeve McLaughlin, MLA; Philip Turbitt, Ulster University and Paul Cassidy, Ulster University Outreach Adviser.

It also provides an excellent enhanced employability resource to students and establishes links/networks in which training programmes could be developed and delivered.

Service Manager for Looked after Children Western Trust, Rosemary Barr said: “The programme aims to support young Looked after Children over the course of three years, from Primary 5 to Primary 7, to assist them with the transition to post primary school. They attend My Laces at the Ulster University each Wednesday after school and receive additional educational support from their mentors who are students at the Magee campus.

“The programme began in October 2015 and the children say that they love to go to the University and they are helped to do their homework and have fun.”

Mr Kieran Downey, Western Trust Director of Women and Children’s Services, said: “Research has consistently shown that looked after children don’t perform as positively as their peers, which is often due to their pre-care experiences. The Western Trust is grateful to the Ulster University and the social work students for their commitment to this great programme.”

Mentor's who took part in the MY LACES programme stand alongside Rosemary Barr, Western Trust Head of Service for Looked after Children, Donna O'Kane, Development Worker with VOYPIC; Paul Cassidy, Ulster University Outreach Adviser and Philip Turbitt, Ulster University.

Mentor's who took part in the MY LACES programme stand alongside Rosemary Barr, Western Trust Head of Service for Looked after Children, Donna O'Kane, Development Worker with VOYPIC; Paul Cassidy, Ulster University Outreach Adviser and Philip Turbitt, Ulster University.

Paul Cassidy, Ulster University Student Support Outreach Advisor said: “This is an exciting pilot project which celebrates a successful and welcomed partnership between Ulster University and the Western Health and Social Services Trust.

“It provides a professional platform for Ulster University Social Work students to mentor looked after and care experienced children.”

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