South Antrim MLA David Ford and Antrim Councillor Neil Kelly organised the meeting designed to highlight the potential for a range of services at the former Northern Regional College (NRC) site in the town, including the redevelopment of the Health Centre in collaboration with new Fold accommodation.
Last year Fold Housing was commissioned by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) to provide a facility for older people in the town. Identifying the former NRC site as its preferred option, the group will rely on other service providers to use the site in order to make it viable.
David Ford MLA said: “Alliance is not content to sit back and watch this issue unfold at its own pace. There is a real lack of older people services in Antrim which must be addressed. We are working hard with everyone involved to ensure we achieve the best possible result for the people of Antrim.
“The NRC site provides a great opportunity for a joined-up approach to providing health services in Antrim. Not only could the site hold residential and care services for older persons, but there is great potential for Fold to work with the Trust to develop links and access to the health centre over time. Good planning could see the site utilised for the benefit of the whole town, an opportunity which shouldn’t be missed.
“While we understand the Trust may not be in a position to develop the whole site, we are pleased they have given a commitment to look at possible options, including exploring the potential for joined-up plans for the site.”
Councillor Neil Kelly added: “Fold has shown a genuine interest in developing part of the former NRC site in Antrim and we must not waste this opportunity. The lack of older person’s facilities in the town is one issue I hear regularly on the door steps, one that could be addressed through a serious joined-up approach.
“The health centre is also due a much needed upgrade and it was heartening to hear the Trust recognise this as a key priority. Alliance will continue to monitor the situation in the coming months and we look forward to hearing from the Northern Trust how they will plan to develop this site further.”
Councillor Kelly also took the opportunity to discuss the impact of the Compton review with Trust representatives, in particular the move from placements in residential facilities to care and support at home.
Raising concerns about the level of support offered to older people and carers at home, Councillor Kelly questioned further how carers, in particular, would be given the help required.
He added: “I was reassured by Trust representatives at this meeting, who confirmed the level of support offered to older people and their carers would be based on assessed need, and those family members in a caring role would be offered carers assessments and direct payments if this was a preferred option.“
David Ford MLA concluded: “I was pleased to hear that our efforts will not go unnoticed, with the Trust agreeing to explore some of the ideas raised by myself and Councillor Kelly. It is clear that everyone is aware of the potential for the site to be put to good use. I will continue to work hard to monitor and progress this situation, and work to present solutions if possible.”