A Visit to Action Ability Belfast

by | Mar 21, 2024 | News

It was a pleasure to meet Action Ability Belfast’s Floating Support Co-ordinator Nicky Clarke at our 40th Anniversary Celebration in December.

Our mutual passion for supporting those in the community who had experienced homelessness brought us together. We shared experiences and talked about the recent successes of Homeless Connect and our delight at being in attendance. We followed through with our plans to meet up and I was not disappointed.

Action Ability Belfast is nestled in the Springvale Campus on the Springfield Road in West Belfast. The organisation exists to support the social inclusion of people with a disability into their communities. Once through reception the Action Ability office is situated off to the right. I was brought through to a huge room on the bottom floor and introduced to Leanne Mulhern (Team leader- Befriending and Advocacy Service) and Cathy Clayton (Floating Support Worker). There was a lovely atmosphere in the room, the ladies set out snacks and drinks and people began to arrive.

I could tell the staff were very well respected and liked by the folks who use this service.  Within minutes the room was filled with 25+ people full of chat and craic. The feeling of belonging amongst folks was so evident. I was given such a warm welcome as the Action Ability Service User Forum Meeting got underway.

We began by watching their 25th Anniversary video.

This video showcased what the service has achieved to date. Members in the room were included in the video and it was really positive to experience the sense of inclusion amongst folks who were a part of the forum.

Action Ability support their members in many ways.  Emotional support and socialising are attained through various events and programs. Healthy relationships with staff are established as they assist members to socialise within their own communities.

Joe McNally (Project Co-ordinator) spoke with passion about the great work the peer volunteers had achieved to date including a wonderful working relationship with the Grand Opera House for the Christmas Show.

The group also discussed, with great excitement, the upcoming Summer Activity Program. It was great fun!

We moved on to a more serious topic as I spoke a little about the reason I was visiting Action Ability. I shared some of my own lived experience and spoke about what Homeless Connect had done to date and what we would like to do moving forward. Unfortunately, homelessness can affect anyone regardless of lifestyle, status or ability.

Action Ability offer a floating support service for their members to support independent living. They do this by assisting people in maintaining their current accommodation. If the accommodation is unsuitable, staff will assist in seeking alternative options. A floating support worker can ensure the property is safe and secure by working closely with those in the social housing sector. They offer advice on things such as finances, tenancy agreements and adaptations that can be made to the home to make life a little easier. Having an advocate like this can make the difference between sustaining a healthy tenancy and being at risk of losing a home.

I look forward to working with Action Ability and the folks who use their service. I was impressed by the level of respect and the feeling of belonging at this Service User Forum. It is easy to see the hard work and dedication of the team; it was evident in how everyone interacted.

Action Ability’s passion and inclusive approach will set the bar high for other services and those who use them. Working together we can work towards a brighter future for us all.

For now my job is to raise that lived experience voice to the right position at the right table – together we can make a difference.

Nikki McConville is Lived Experience Co-ordinator at Homeless Connect



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