Plan aims to ensure all children get best possible start in life

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The council is currently carrying out a public consultation regarding its draft plan for improving the lives of everyone in the Lisburn and Castlereagh area over the next 15 years.

The local authority wants local people to have their say on the Draft Community Plan 2017 - 2032, which focuses on five key themes - Children and Young People, The Economy, Health and Wellbeing, Where We Live and Our Community.

Over the next few weeks we will be taking a closer look at the Strategic Community Planning Partnership’s proposals under each of the key themes. This week: Children and Young People.

According to the 40-page document, there are approximately 28,000 people aged 0 - 15 years living in the Lisburn and Castlereagh area. And the proposed actions set out in the plan are aimed at ensuring all local children and young people get the best start in life.

“A hallmark of a good society is the priority it attaches to giving everyone the best start in life. This outcome is about ensuring that all of our children and young people grow up safely and happily in a society where they receive the support they need to achieve their full potential and where they have the opportunity to express their views and have a say in decisions that affect them,” the plan states.

“We know that there is a strong relationship between what happens in the earliest years of life and future experience of health and wellbeing and other life outcomes. Foetal and neonatal health, the quality of parenting, family and community support, early years provision, education and, critically, poverty, are all key factors in determining life chances. Ours is a whole community approach in which schools, families, communities and statutory services work together. Tackling poverty is central to giving children and young people the best start in life.”

The actions-based plan aims to ensure that:

• All children and young people have an equal chance to fulfil their educational potential.

• Children and young people in need and looked after children experience stability and positive transitions into adulthood.

• The positive role of children and young people in the community is valued and encouraged.

• Children and young people are protected from harmful effects of drugs and alcohol.

• Children and young people are physically active and enjoy good mental health.

• Children and young people live in a society that respects their rights.

The document proposes a number of actions over the next couple of years, including the development of good quality parenting programmes, local family support hubs and new social enterprises that will benefit young people.

It also highlights the importance of developing programmes for children and young people to take part in play, recreation and sport, and says the establishment of a Youth Council would enable young people’s voices to be heard and get them involved in the decisions that affect them.

The final Community Plan will be published in April 2017 followed by a detailed action plan for the first two years of the plan, 2017 to 2019.

For more information about the plan, to submit feedback, or for details of community engagement sessions taking place across the district from February 2 to March 1, log on to the council’s website or email