Need for counselling services ‘never higher’

Damian McAteer, Vice Chair of UCIT and Francesca Kelly, Aurora Counselling.
Damian McAteer, Vice Chair of UCIT and Francesca Kelly, Aurora Counselling.

A local charity has said more needs to be done to address a gap in the provision of counselling services for young people in Derry.

Aurora Counselling, which secured funding from an innovative community fund to help turn a property into a popular children’s role-play based centre and counselling rooms, has said that the need for counselling services has never been higher.

The Building Better Futures fund provided £25,000 to help create Le Petit Village, as well as a number of counselling rooms, in Bishop Street.

The brainchild of local woman, Francesca Kelly, the ambition is that income generated by the play centre will help subsidise badly needed counselling services for those aged four to nineteen.

“Young people in the city have never been under such pressure and there’s a distressing level of problems associated with family breakdown, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal feelings,” she said.

“Thanks to the Building Better Futures fund, Aurora Counselling established a social enterprise, ‘Kidz Playtime’, which opened Le Petit Village earlier this year.

“We’re also able to provide a number of separate rooms for young people who require counselling, but such is the demand and the lack of suitable resources in the city that more needs to be done. We’re currently exploring new options to provide further dedicated support.”

Building Better Futures is a £1m fund supported by three Northern Ireland charities, Belfast Charitable Society, Building Change Trust and Ulster Community Investment Fund (UCIT).

Launched last year, the fund offers unsecured loans to help groups become more financially sustainable.

Damian McAteer, Vice Chair of UCIT, said: “The Building Better Futures Fund was designed to support innovative projects such as ‘Kidz Playtime’ which meet a real social need in our communities. The project is committed to providing social, emotional and cognitive development for the city’s children, but to also use the popularity of its play centre to support the provision of badly needed counselling services for young people.”

He said the fund would be keen to hear from other charities, community organisations and social enterprises based in the city to discuss how it could help them.