MLAs network with Community Groups in Omagh
The Community Development and Health Network (CDHN) recently held an Assembly networking event in Omagh for the benefit of its own members and training participants.
CDHN and the Assembly Outreach Team developed an event giving those with experience in health inequalities the opportunity to engage with MLAs.
The aims of the event, part of CDHN's Pathways to Health training programme, were to increase the level of understanding of the Assembly and how it works and to develop skills and confidence in engaging with elected representatives on health issues.
The event was well attended by local voluntary and community sector organisations and a number of service users. There was lively debate through the day, as well as a wealth of information and support from John McCallister MLA, Barry McElduff MLA and Joe Byrne MLA.
The day began with an interactive presentation from the Outreach Team which included practical examples of the workings of the Assembly. Participants then divided into four workshop groups, where issues for discussing with the elected representatives were explored. These ranged from questions on how to better engage with the Assembly, to wider health and community development related issues like homelessness and bereavement support.
As the event was designed to promote dialogue between participants and the elected representatives, MLAs spent 10 minutes in discussion with each table. This gave all parties involved the opportunity to ask a range of questions and listen to answers.
CDHN finished the event by capturing key learning points. For the MLAs that included the importance of early intervention and sustainable funding for the projects run by the networking participants. The participants said the event fostered a sense of empowerment and equality where they felt engagement with the Assembly was less daunting than they had envisaged.