NOW Group Working With Deloitte NI To Improve Prospects For Young People

NOW Family Service celebrates its first birthday

LATEST NEWS

Follow all things social enterprise including news on how we are supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs.

We'll keep you posted.

Open day at the new Loaf Pottery, Crawfordsburn

 

February 2018 

The former Pinewood Pottery in Crawfordsburn is being renovated into an arts centre and cafe by NOW Group. An open day is being held on Tuesday 27th February between 11.30am – 1.30pm for local residents, artists and anyone who is interested in finding out more about the new facility. Visitors will be welcome to take a look around and staff from NOW will be on hand to welcome guests and answer any questions.

The renamed Loaf Pottery will secure jobs for local people and artists to work alongside people with disabilities to develop skills which will increase their employability.  The jobs will initially be based around training, tutoring and and building a range of high end art and ceramic products.  Once established, local artists will be able to use this community enterprise to deliver inclusive courses and have a niche, community-supported platform to market their products to support economic development in the costal area.  Using the model of safe spaces NOW will facilitate and support people with barriers to learning from the local communities and also introduce people from urban areas into the coastal area.  

Loaf Pottery is due to open to the public in early April. The project is funded by the Coastal Communites Fund, Ulster Garden Villages, North Down and Ards Borough Council and Belfast City Airport.The address of the pottery is 24 Main Street, Crawfordsburn, BT19 1JE.
 

 

Evaluation shows an increase in NOW Group's social impact

November 2017 

Each year at NOW Group we commission an independent consultant from Gauge NI to carry out a Social Return on Investment (SROI) evaluation of our work. As part of this evaluation the consultant carries out research into each of our services, looks at the associated data and engages with stakeholders to get an overall picture of the impact we are having.


The evaluation for 2016/2017 has revealed that for every £1 invested into NOW Group, £10 social value is generated, an increase of £2 on the previous year. This means that our services are reaching more people and having a positive impact on their lives. One participant commented, “It has had a big impact on my life in the best way possible.”


NOW Group is a social enterprise that supports people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future. We provide a range of services including a dedicated training and employment team, a transition service for young people moving on from education, a volunteering programme and social forums. We also provide a Family Service which offers support to new and expectant parents.


As this year’s SROI evaluation shows we have a considerable positive impact on society. We challenge perceptions around the capabilities of people with learning difficulties by engaging with employers, we raise awareness of the benefits of using social enterprises through Loaf Catering and Cafes and we improve the customer service of JAM Card holders. Some of this year’s highlights include:


-    A 43% increase in the number of people gaining paid employment
-    370 people supported
-    206 qualifications achieved
-    £181k earned in wages by our participants
-    22 participants supported by our Family Service
-    7700 JAM Card and app users
-    40% increase in Loaf Catering income


Chief Executive, Maeve Monaghan comments, “2016-17 was a year of growth and success for our organisation. Everything we do is focused on having a positive impact on the lives of people with learning difficulties and autism so we are delighted that the SROI evaluation has demonstrated that we have increased our impact. 


“We are already in the midst of another exciting year for the organisation. We have recently launched our JAM Card training which equips businesses to provide excellent customer service to people with learning difficulties and communication barriers, we are continuing to build relationships with employers to secure more job opportunities for participants and building work has recently begun on our new head office space in Belfast City Centre. We are confident these developments will mean we continue to grow the positive impact our services have on participants.” 


Read the full results of the evaluation here and take a look at our Impact Card here.

 

Do your employees have Just A Minute for people with learning difficulties and communication barriers?

November 2017 

Our JAM Card allows people with learning difficulties and communication barriers to ask for an extra minute of patience when in customer service situations. We are now launching a training platform for businesses – including an online course - which will allow them to ensure their staff are equipped to provide an excellent service to JAM Card users. Watch this video to find out more.


The JAM Card, which stands for Just A Minute, is a social innovation from NOW Group an organisation that supports people with learning difficulties and autism into employment. It was our service users who said they would like a discreet way of telling people that sometimes they need a little extra time and patience. The JAM Card was created first as a credit card sized card and has recently been developed into an app for smartphones which received a Highly Commended award in the Innovation in Digital category at the DANI Awards this year.


JAM Card Friendly Organisations


The team behind the JAM Card are launching a package to businesses that will allow them to become JAM Card Friendly. There is the option of an online training course for staff which covers JAM Card awareness or a half day face to face training session with one of NOW’s experienced staff. Organisations who undertake the training will be provided with marketing materials to allow them to alert their customers that they welcome JAM Card holders, including a window sticker and logos that can be used online and on relevant documents such as headed paper.


The training has been tested by partner organisations during a development phase including Belfast City Council. John Walsh, City Solicitor at Belfast City Council comments, “Belfast City Council is delighted to be a JAM Card Friendly Organisation as we are committed to improving our customer service to everyone. When NOW Group approached us we could immediately see the benefits for those who use our service. We believe that the training platform is a valuable resource which has been tested by some of our staff and I look forward to rolling it out across the council.”

 

Increasing confidence and independence 


The JAM Card app says ‘Just a minute’ on one side and ‘Please be patient I have a learning difficulty’ on the other, while the app allows users to choose what their screen says from a list including autism, a brain injury or simply ‘I have a condition’. One of the features of the app is that users can log where they have used it and give the business a rating so that users can see places that others have had a good experience and then make an informed choice about which business to visit. The app was launched to the public in January of this year and has been well received by service users with many commenting that it has given them the confidence to do things they previously wouldn’t have been comfortable with.


Head of Business Development at NOW Group Diane Hill comments, “The JAM Card was initially launched in 2012 and feedback from users has been great, however many commented that they would like to know that businesses are aware of the JAM Card before they show it. We hope that the launch of the JAM Card Friendly business package will mean that businesses will proudly display that they welcome JAM Card holders and ensure that their staff are providing excellent customer service to all.”


Corporate Social Responsibility Opportunity 


There has been considerable support from businesses since the JAM Card was launched with many welcoming the opportunity to improve their level of customer service and prove their commitment to being a responsible business.


Pricing starts at just £99 for a small business. This allows the organisation access to the online training course for 10 people, ‘We welcome JAM Card holders’ window stickers and marketing material. To find out more and register today visit www.jamcard.org. 

 

NOW Group recognised with two awards at Social Enterprise NI Awards

November 2017 

We are celebrating winning two awards at the Social Enterprise NI Awards held at the Stormont Hotel on Friday night!


Chris Campbell, Administration Assistant at NOW Group, was awarded Employee of the Year in recognition of his work setting up Fandom, an innovative social forum for adults with autism. While sausage rolls dubbed ‘Rolls with Soul’, produced at Loaf Catering and Cafes were awarded the Food/Drink Product of the Year.


Speaking about the awards Chief Executive Maeve Monaghan comments,


“We are all thrilled that the hard work of our team has been recognised with these two awards. At NOW our mission is to see more people with learning difficulties and autism into employment so it is of particular significance that our two awards were collected by staff members who we support through our work.


“Chris Campbell first came to us as a participant looking for our support to find paid work. We employed him as an Administration Assistant and he has gone on to set up Fandom which is having an incredible impact on the lives of young people with autism and Asperger’s. Patrick Slane works in Loaf Cafe Bakery and is the man behind our Rolls with Soul, he has gone from strength to strength with the organisation and I am delighted his hard work has been recognised with this award.” 


Employee of the Year – Chris Campbell


Chris Campbell has autism and had been working with NOW Group to look for a job when an opening with the organisation became available; he applied and has been working with us as an Administration Assistant since 2014. Chris is a valued employee, however the outstanding contribution he has made to NOW Group is in the capacity of his voluntary role setting up and chairing the Fandom group. 


It was following a conversation between Chris and other staff members in relation to a lack of services for adults with Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASC) that the idea of Fandom came about. Fandom is a social forum for young adults who are socially isolated and have a high functioning form of autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, the group meets in The Hive, a city centre space run by the NOW Group. The group has been running for two years and meets on a Wednesday evening to socialise and carry out activities based around their interests in comics, videogames and movies. 
The positive feedback from Fandom members is testament to the impact it has had on their lives, one recently commented, 


“I would have found it hard to walk into a room like this and make friends before, it is easier now.” 


Food/Drink Product of the Year – Loaf Catering and Cafes Sausage Rolls


Loaf Catering and Cafes is a social enterprise business run by NOW Group which provides outside catering across Greater Belfast and operates two City Centre cafes, The Bobbin in Belfast City Hall and Loaf Cafe Bakery opposite the entrance to the Royal Hospital on the Grosvenor Road. Loaf’s famous sausage roll has become the hero product of the business, referred to as ‘Rolls with soul’ in recognition of the social enterprise nature of the product. It was created by Loaf’s chefs who tested many recipes before settling on one which became the winner and has gone on to put Loaf in the spotlight.  Available in several varieties including traditional pork, vegetarian and the seasonal turkey, sage and orange all of Loaf’s sausage rolls include a very hearty portion of mouth watering filling covered in melt in the mouth pastry.


Collecting the award on Friday on behalf of the team at Loaf was the man behind the rolls, Patrick Slane. Patrick began working in the cafe on the Grosvenor Road as a kitchen porter in 2015 as part of the West Belfast Works programme after previously being unemployed.  With the support of NOW Group he is working towards an NVQ with support from NOW’s Workable NI officer and is now the main baker of Loaf’s award winning sausage rolls.


NOW Group is a social enterprise that supports people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future. The organisation achieves this goal by offering a range of services to clients including a dedicated employment team, training, a transition service for young people moving from school or college into work, a volunteering programme and a family service. Patrick is on the Workable (NI) programme which supports people already in employment and employers themselves by providing services such as Disability Awareness training and workplace support for employees, employers and co-workers. Workable (NI). Workable (NI) is delivered by a range of providers contracted by the Department for Communities (DfC). 

 

Diane Hill appointed Head of Business Development

October 2017 

NOW Group have appointed Diane Hill as their new Head of Business Development. This is a new role for the organisation which marks its commitment to continued growth and building relationships with businesses across Northern Ireland.

 

Diane is joining NOW with a wealth of experience across sectors including childcare, training and employment. She has over 10 years business development experience during which she has built successful relationships with national businesses and developed innovative partnerships. Diane is also CIPD qualified with HR management experience.

 

The creation of the Head of Business Development role comes at a time of expansion for NOW Group. The winner of Social Enterprise of the Year at the 2017 Belfast Business Awards, NOW was established in 2002 and is a stand out success story of the social enterprise sector in Northern Ireland. The organisation offer a range of services to businesses including corporate catering through Loaf Catering and Cafes, as well as recruitment solutions. NOW’s dedicated employment team work with employers to place its participants in jobs and support both the employer and employee to ensure the relationship is a success. 

 

Speaking about the appointment NOW’s CEO Maeve Monaghan comments, “We are delighted to welcome Diane to NOW. She is joining us at an exciting time as we move away from being an organisation which is reliant on funding to one that is generating income from contracts and social enterprise trading. Diane’s appointment demonstrates our commitment to the social economy and our desire to provide solutions to businesses across Northern Ireland which will ultimately result in the lives of people with learning difficulties and barriers to employment being changed.”

 

Hazelwood Integrated College go one step ahead

September 2017 

NOW Group is delighted to have been selected as one of five employers for the new Hazelwood College Internship Programme alongside Deloitte, Danske Bank, Clayton Hotels and O’Hare & McGovern.

The programme takes place over six months and allows the students to work closely with industry staff on specific projects, whilst gaining a broad view of the business and developing skills for the future beyond the curriculum.  This will provide an excellent opportunity to give students real life experience in the social enterprise sector that goes beyond the usual one week placement.

Ann Osborne, Head of Performance and Quality at NOW comments, “We see this as a way to showcase the social enterprise sector as a very viable career option for the students and their peers. We are also looking forward to learning from the young people and having their unique insight and input into our brand and product development through their research project.”

This week representative from the host organisations, Board of Governors, teaching staff from Hazelwood and selected students were joined by their parents/guardians to celebrate the inauguration of the Internship Programme, the first of its kind, in Northern Ireland.

The successful students, pictured, had every right to be smiling as they completed a two stage selection process to gain an internship position.  Stage one was completing an application form and submitting their CV, followed by stage two which offered them first-hand experience of attending an employer interview along with preparing a presentation slide.

Mrs Kathleen O’Hare, the Principal, welcomed everyone and explained that the college is honoured to be working closely with five leading employers from a range of industries within Northern Ireland. 

Mrs O’Hare’s address highlighted that there is an overwhelming desire for immersive, practical learning and a strong appetite for Hazelwood students to learn the skills that employers are seeking in potential employees,  “Companies are now hiring more interns than ever before in what is now a burgeoning internship market.  Through our internship programme, the students will be well positioned to succeed in the workplace and help bridge the skills gap.”

We look forward to welcoming the five interns to NOW Group!

 

NOW Group attending Legal-Island's Annual Review of Employment Law Conferences 2017

September 2017 

We are delighted to come on board as an exhibitor at Legal-Island’s flagship events taking place in November. Legal-Island specialises in offering employment law information and training throughout the island of Ireland and these events attract almost 1,000 delegates each year.

The Annual Review of Employment Law Conferences brings together expert lawyers and HR thought-leaders to update you on the most relevant workplace related and HR issues in one day. These experts give you the latest information, practical tips and effective solutions to make your life easier, and prepare your organisation for the year ahead.

After attending you will better be able to:

  • Minimise your organisation’s risk of litigation

  • Understand how the relevant new cases from Ireland, UK and Europe impact on your workplace

  • Prepare for the year ahead

  • Update your policies for key areas in your organisation with our action points

  • Refer to all important legislative and case law changes which are relevant to your workplace, with an extensive folder of notes
     

This year the conferences are on the following dates:

Culloden Estate & Spa, Holywood on Thursday 9th November (SOLD OUT)

Crowne Plaza Hotel Ramada Hotel, Shaw's Bridge, Belfast on Tuesday 21st November

 

Price...
Early Bird Charity/Small Company* Rate: £395+VAT (deadline Friday 15th September)
Charity/Small Company* Rate: £445+VAT
Early Bird Rate: £475+VAT (deadline Friday 15th September)
Standard Rate: £545+VAT

Save an additional £20 when you book and pay online.

If you are attending don’t forget to call by our stand for a chat to see how we can help your organisation to support people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future.

The Annual Review of Employment Law 2017 is sponsored by NIjobs.com and Sureskills.

 *All organisations with fewer than 50 employees or charities qualify for the Charity/Small company rate. The number of employees includes all branches, subsidiary/parent companies, boards, trusts and federated organisations.

 
 

Catering trainee Daniel Purse tells us about working at The Bobbin cafe

July 2017 

“I like chatting to the customers and making sure they have everything they need.” Daniel Purse, aged 22 from North Belfast, is a catering trainee with NOW Group where he works in The Bobbin Cafe at Belfast City Hall one day per week while also studying for a NVQ qualification in catering. Daniel has a learning difficulty and was unsure what the future would hold after he left school, his placement is allowing him to gain work experience and he hopes to go on to work in catering. 


Improved opportunities 


Daniel first got involved with NOW Group when he left school and wasn’t sure what direction to take next. NOW support people with learning difficulties and autism through a range of services including employment support, training and helping transition from full time education. It was while on the transition programme that Daniel found out NOW offer a catering training programme which provides practical work experience in one of their social enterprise cafes, Loaf Cafe and Bakery on the Grosvenor Road and The Bobbin in City Hall, as well as the opportunity to gain an accredited qualification.


Daniel has now been working in Loaf for over a year and enjoys having the opportunity to gain new skills and socialise. In the cafe he helps stock the fridge, clears tables and prepares food. 


“I like working in The Bobbin because you get to see all sorts of people. There are tourists, local people and councillors all coming through. I’ve made lots of friends through my placement.


“He’s out there enjoying life”


John Purse, Daniel’s Dad, says that he has noticed an increase in Daniel’s independence since he began working with NOW.


“He is much more independent now than he was. I can arrange to meet him somewhere in town and just see him there, whereas before I would have had to go and meet him at the door of wherever he was leaving.


“One day Daniel had arranged to meet some friends he knows through NOW to go ten pin bowling after his work placement. He called me to arrange to meet him for lunch in between finishing work and meeting his friends, I like that he has the confidence to make plans like that now.
“Having the opportunity to work in a place like the cafe is important as he is learning new skills, developing as a young man and making friends. It is reassuring to know he is doing well and enjoying life, he could be just sitting in the house by himself.”


Catering trainee opportunities available 


NOW Group currently have catering trainee opportunities available for people with a learning difficulty or autism. Students get the opportunity to learn the theory of catering by studying towards an NVQ for half a day during the week as well as gaining practical in one of Loaf’s cafes or outside catering business for one day per week. 


If you would like to find out more get in touch with Anne Cheevers on 028 9043 6400 or email anne.cheevers@nowgroup.org. This project is part funded through the European Social Fund Programme 2014 – 2020, the Department for the Economy and the Department for Communities.


NOW Group recently won Social Enterprise of the Year at the Belfast Business Awards and is the parent organisation of Loaf Cafes and Catering which run The Bobbin cafe in City Hall, Loaf Cafe and Bakery on the Grosvenor Road opposite the entrance to the Royal Victoria Hospital and Loaf Catering an outside catering business delivering fresh food across Belfast, find out more at www.nowgroup.org. 

Catering trainee opportunities available at Loaf Catering and Cafes

July 2017 

“Just because someone has a learning difficulty doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of working.” That is the message from Gillian Harvey whose daughter Natasha is a catering trainee with social enterprise NOW Group in their cafe The Bobbin at Belfast City Hall.


Natasha Harvey, aged 22 from Carnmoney, was unsure what she wanted to do after leaving full time education when someone suggested she should contact NOW Group, an organisation who provide training and employment opportunities for people with learning difficulties and autism. She got in touch and found out that NOW were offering catering placements in their cafes that provide the opportunity to get practical experience by working one day per week in one of the organisations social enterprise cafes, Loaf Cafe and Bakery on the Grosvenor Road and The Bobbin in City Hall, as well as one day in the classroom studying for an NVQ Level  1 in catering.


Gaining independence and friendships


Natasha has been with Loaf for over a year now where she currently works two days per week in The Bobbin Cafe. She has gained experience in customer service, food preparation as well as food hygiene and says that since beginning her training her confidence has improved.


 “I think I have become more independent since I started here. In the cafe I help keep the place tidy by clearing tables, before I wouldn’t have chatted to strangers but now I am more confident and can talk to the customers.”


Before Natasha began her training with NOW she relied on her Mum to give her lifts everywhere as she did not have the confidence to travel by herself on the bus. As part of her training with NOW she completed route training which teaches participants how to travel on public transport by themselves, Natasha is now happy to get the bus from her home in Newtownabbey into Belfast to go to Loaf or to meet up with friends.


Talking about her route training Natasha comments,


 “One day I was in class for my NVQ course just off the Falls Road when a few girls I had met through NOW came up to meet me and show me how to get the bus back down into town. This was really nice of them and helped me be more confident getting the bus.”


Proud parent


Natasha’s Mum Gillian Harvey says that she has noticed a difference in Natasha since she began her placement. 


“Before Natasha wasn’t able to get the bus by herself so I would give her a lift to places and have to go back to give her a lift home. Now she is happy to get the bus into town herself and even goes in to meet friends she has made through NOW. 


“I’m grateful that the NOW trainee scheme is giving Natasha the chance to gain work experience. My hope is that Natasha would gain permanent paid employment in the future, even just a few hours a week.


“All we want is the opportunity for our children to prove themselves; just because someone has a learning difficulty does not mean they aren’t capable of working. My dream is for someone to give Natasha a chance.”


Catering trainee opportunities available 


NOW Group currently have catering trainee opportunities available for people with a learning difficulty or autism. Students get the opportunity to learn the theory of catering by studying towards an NVQ for half a day during the week as well as gaining practical in one of Loaf’s cafes or outside catering business for one day per week. 


If you would like to find out more get in touch with Anne Cheevers on 028 9043 6400 or email anne.cheevers@nowgroup.org. This project is part funded through the European Social Fund Programme 2014 – 2020, the Department for the Economy and the Department for Communities.

 

Translink get on board with the JAM Card

June 2017 

Northern Ireland's public transport provider Translink have announced their support of the JAM Card project and their plans to roll it out across the whole network. Ulsterbus, NI Railway and Metro staff will be made aware of the scheme to ensure they can assist customers and support them in accessing services safely and independently.  

Making the announcement as part of Bus + Train Week, Translink Belfast Area Manager Damien Bannon said:

“We are committed to ensuring our services are accessible for everyone travelling in Northern Ireland. We do this in a wide range of ways through our timetabling, ticketing, enabling assistance animals to travel with their owners and ensuring all vehicles allow for wheelchair, scooter and buggy access.

“We are very aware that many potential customers lack the confidence to travel on public transport. The JAM Card has proven to be extremely effect tool of breaking down this barrier and encouraging some of the most vulnerable in our society to lead an independent and active lifestyle.

“We are therefore delighted to develop our partnership with the NOW Group and this innovative initiative; it has been in use on the Metro for a number of years so we are excited to be able to roll it out across the network just before Bus + Train Week 2017. We want to support people of all abilities to make Translink your first choice for travel in Northern Ireland.

“A JAM Card awareness raising programme is being rolled out for our drivers, conductors and frontline staff to ensure they can support any passengers using the new App which is also free to download for all Apple and Android phones,”

NOW Group’s Partnership and Innovation Manager, Jayne McStay commented on the announcement:

“We are delighted that Translink are raising awareness of the JAM Card among all drivers, conductors and frontline staff before Bus + Train Week.

 

The JAM Card was the idea of our service users with learning difficulties who said they would like a discreet way of asking for a minute of patience in situations such as counting out change or asking for a ticket.

 

Thanks to funding from Nominet Trust and Big Lottery it is now available as an app and a plastic card, feedback from users has shown that having a JAM Card gives people with learning difficulties and communication barriers the confidence to travel independently on the network of trains and buses across Northern Ireland.”

 
 

NOW Group named Social Enterprise of the Year

May 2017 

NOW Group has won the title of Social Enterprise of the Year at the Belfast Business Awards hosted by Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce.

The Belfast Business Awards celebrate the very best of business and commerce in the city annually and 2017 is the first year they have introduced the ‘Social Enterprise of the Year’ category. The award was created to recognise a Belfast based social enterprise that is fervent about achieving social or environmental change above maximising profits. The judging panel were looking for an organisation who can demonstrate how they make a positive impact on society and how they collaborate with the community.

The social enterprises shortlisted for the award were Clanmil Housing Group, Newington Credit Union, NOW Group and Usel, with NOW Group being announced as the winner at the gala award dinner in Titanic Belfast.

The key objective of the NOW Group is to see more people with learning difficulties and barriers to employment get jobs with a future. They achieve this goal by offering a range of services to clients including a dedicated employment team, training, a transition service for young people moving from school or college into work and a volunteering programme. NOW has also recently introduced a family service programme which offers support to new and expectant parents with learning difficulties as well as an independence building programme.

NOW Group is the parent organisation of two social enterprise businesses – Loaf Catering and Gauge NI, a research and evaluation business – the profits of both go back into the work of NOW.

Pauline Fitzsimons, Head of Services at NOW, comments “We are thrilled to be named Social Enterprise of the Year at the Belfast Business Awards! The social enterprise sector in Northern Ireland has a lot to offer and we were honoured to be shortlisted among such good company as Clanmill Housing Group, Newtington Credit Union and Usel all of which do fantastic work.

At NOW we are committed to improving the lives of people with learning difficulties and autism. In the last financial year we supported over 500 people - we helped 40 people into paid jobs, supported over 250 people attain qualifications and helped 60 clients avail of work experience. We are delighted that our team’s hard work has been rewarded with this prestigious award.”

NOW Group is a social enterprise supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future across Northern Ireland.

 

Official opening of Belfast City Hall's new exhibition space and new look 'The Bobbin' Cafe

May 2017

The official reopening of The Bobbin social enterprise café coincides with a brand new tourist attraction being unveiled at Belfast City Hall on Monday 15th May.

The City Hall’s east wing on the ground floor – where The Bobbin is located -  has been completely renovated to facilitate an extensive new exhibition area.

‘Belfast City Hall: a journey from past to present’ offers a journey from the city’s past to present, showing the vibrancy and diversity of Belfast City Hall across six themed zones and 16 separate rooms.

• The City, Growth and Governance,
• The City at Work and Play,
• City Speech and City Streets,
• The City Commemorates,
• The Reflection Space, and
• The City Celebrates.

The exhibition is presented within the original architecture of City Hall as designed by Alfred Brumwell Thomas in the late 1890s. It has its own dedicated reception area and entrance is free to members of the public. There is a charge for commercial groups and a £3.50 hire charge for headphones if you wish to listen to an audio tour. A commemorative booklet is also available for just £1.
 
A free guided tour of Belfast City Hall is also available for those wishing to further explore the building. Led by an experienced guide, the tours last around an hour and covers the history of the building and its finest features, including the Council Chamber. 
 
After the exhibition and/or tour, there is the opportunity to relax over refreshments, coffee and cake or a spot of lunch at The Bobbin. The café had temporarily closed while the renovations were taking place and was greatly missed. It reopened last month with a new look, new menu and even more space and customers have been taking to social media ever since to share their photos and good wishes.

The Bobbin is run by Belfast-based Loaf Catering and Cafes, a social enterprise supporting people with learning disabilities and autism get training and jobs in the catering industry. In addition to The Bobbin, it comprises of an outside catering branch ‘Loaf Catering’ and Loaf Café & Bakery which can be found on the city’s busy Grosvenor Road, directly opposite the Royal Victoria Hospital.

All of The Bobbin’s profits go to its parent organisation NOW Group, a social enterprise supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future. The Bobbin provides 15 training and work experience places each week for people with a learning disability.  

The café’s new menu has been very popular with customers since its launch. There’s lots of new dishes to sample including Irish wheaten bread with hot smoked salmon and scrambled eggs or a breakfast floured bap with sausage, smoked bacon & black pudding for breakfast.  Lunch options include Loaf’s famous traditional pork sausage roll (voted best in Belfast) with homemade secret recipe relish; Irish beef stew served with homemade wheaten bread; or seasonal soup of the day served with a selection of fresh artisan breads.

The Bobbin also has a new space – a separate room for group bookings. If you would like more information or to make an enquiry relating to the group booking space, please call Piia Laurtis, Café Manager, on 028 9050 2068 or email: thebobbin@nowgroup.org

From Monday 15th May, The Bobbin’s opening hours will be as follows:
Monday – Wednesday: 9am – 5pm
Thursday: 9am – 7.30pm
Friday: 9am – 5pm
Saturday & Sunday: 10am-5pm
 
*The Belfast City Hall exhibition area opens to the public on Tuesday, 16 May. For more information on exhibition space and tours, call 9027 0456 or log onto to www.belfastcity.gov.uk/cityhall

NOW Group is a social enterprise supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future across Northern Ireland.

NOW Group partner with Deloitte as part of One Million Futures strategy

 

May 2017

Deloitte, the business advisory firm, has launched a five year social impact strategy to help improve the lives of one million people. One Million Futures will see the firm work with more than 45 charities, schools and social enterprises across the UK to invest in a range of programmes that seek to raise aspirations, improve skills and develop leaders.  This will include supporting 27 education and employability charities and social enterprises across the UK through Deloitte’s Society Partners programme.   In Belfast Deloitte partner with NOW Group, Kinship Care NI and Hazelwood Integrated College.

Through a focus on education and training, One Million Futures aims to help one million people get to where they want to be; whether it’s in the classroom, the workplace or the boardroom. 

Mark McClintock, Impact Lead Partner at Deloitte Belfast, commented: “Our partnerships in Belfast are part of Deloitte’s new social impact strategy, One Million Futures, which aims to help one million people overcome barriers to education and employment.  We want to play our part in giving individuals the skills and opportunities to succeed.

“The One Million Futures initiative focuses on what Deloitte can do to improve society – raising aspirations, improving access to skills and developing new leaders. As our economy continues to evolve it is more important than ever to align the aspirations and behaviours of individuals, businesses, policy makers and educators.”

Recent research carried out by Deloitte showed students from the least advantaged backgrounds earn, on average, nearly 10 per cent less than their most advantaged peers six months after graduating from the same subject. Deloitte research has also shown there is likely to be far greater demand in the future for essential skills such as reasoning, critical thinking and complex problem-solving, rather than skills traditionally focused on in schools.

Mr McClintock added: “At Deloitte we are committed to supporting young people, giving them the skills they need to become future leaders.  We are demonstrating this through our own BrightStart Apprenticeship scheme and our sponsorship of Catalyst Inc.’s Generation Innovation programme, both of which are positive indicators of the talented young people we have in Northern Ireland.”

NOW Group supports people with learning difficulties to overcome barriers to education and employment. Last year it supported over 400 individuals, 83 per cent of whom successfully gained qualifications and 30 per cent of whom went on to further training or employment.

Deloitte will support NOW by offering staff time for projects which will either strategically develop the organisation itself or directly work with beneficiaries on specific programmes, over the next three years. Projects have already started including staff mentoring to develop financial processes, a workshop on cyber security and a strategic review of the organisation. Deloitte has also signed up as a corporate catering customer.    

Maeve Monaghan, NOW Group CEO, said: "We are looking forward to working with Deloitte to grow our social enterprises, engaging more employers and supporting more people with learning difficulties into jobs with a future.”

Kinship Care NI is an award winning charity which supports children and young people who cannot be cared for by their own parents to live safely and securely within their own families and communities. The Charity runs a range of projects and services and a number of social enterprises across Northern Ireland.

Jacqueline Williamson, CEO at Kinship Care NI, said: “We are absolutely delighted to be selected by Deloitte as their Society Partner.  This partnership will enable us to grow our impact and make a positive impact on the lives of the children, young people and families who come through our organisation for support.”

Since 2013, Deloitte has supported Hazelwood Integrated College with a number of initiatives, including employability workshops, leadership & development, app day, partnering with Young Enterprise to provide mentoring and taking part in the Deloitte UK TMT Schools Challenge.  Over the next few years, Deloitte will be working alongside Hazelwood on a number of new initiatives that tie in with the company’s One Million Futures strategy.

 

Pictured are Mark McClintock, Impact Lead Partner at Deloitte Belfast; Maeve Monaghan, NOW Group CEO.

NOW Group is a social enterprise supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future across Northern Ireland.

The Bobbin is back with a new look and a new menu!

 

April 2017

The Bobbin social enterprise cafe reopened its doors at Belfast City Hall on Monday 24th April with a new look and a new menu! It was sad to see the doors temporarily close at the café last Autumn as a loyal base had been built up of customers keen to spend their money in a cafe that makes a difference – but it was all worth it in the end! Wait until you see inside the new look Bobbin!


The reopening brings social enterprise back into the heart of Belfast city centre, providing 15 training and work experience places each week for people with a learning disability or autism. All of the café’s profits go to its parent organisation NOW Group, a social enterprise supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future. Please remember this when considering where to buy breakfast or lunch in the city centre!

 

The Loaf Catering and Cafes staff and trainees have been busy behind the scenes creating a brand new menu. The breakfast offering now includes more traditional options. What about trying the Irish wheaten bread with hot smoked salmon and scrambled eggs or a breakfast floured bap with sausage, smoked bacon & black pudding next time you call in?


There’s also the usual morning favourites: creamy porridge with honey; buttermilk pancakes with mixed fruit berries and maple syrup; toasted granola with natural yogurt and berries and not forgetting, fresh scones made by Loaf’s in-house bakery team served with jam and butter. For lunch, the customer favourites are back! Loaf’s famous sausage roll (voted best in Belfast) with homemade secret recipe relish; traditional Irish beef stew served with homemade wheaten bread; seasonal soup of the day served with a selection of fresh artisan breads and homemade Quiche of the Day with salads. There’s also have a range of sandwich varieties, salad bowls and a daily special on the menu.


If you’re looking for something sweet, why not try our brand new ‘Afternoon Tea For Two’? There is also an extensive range of pastries, buns and traybakes available as well as a tea and coffee menu.


And that is not all! Monday 15th May will see the official unveiling of a brand new exhibition area as well as a new café section for group bookings. All will be revealed soon!


The Bobbin will be operating under temporary opening hours at first:
Monday to Friday - 9am to 5pm
Saturday - 10am to 5pm
Sunday - CLOSED

After the official opening on Monday 15th May, the opening hours will change to:
Monday – Wednesday: 9am – 5pm
Thursday: 9am – 7.30pm
Friday: 9am – 5pm
Saturday & Sunday: 10am-5pm


If you have any queries, please call The Bobbin on: 028 9050 2068 or email: thebobbin@nowgroup.org

NOW Group is a social enterprise supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future across Northern Ireland.

Family Service Easter Party

 

April 2017

NOW Group Family Service held an Easter Party recently for clients, staff and their children. Eleven families attended and the day was enjoyed by all.  There was a range of egg-cellent themed activities including an egg hunt, egg and spoon race, guess the eggs in the jar and arts and crafts.

 

The NOW Family Service supports families in which there are parents who have mild to moderate learning difficulties or are on the autistic spectrum. The team work with new and expectant parents with children under five in the Belfast area to support them by building confidence, developing their parenting skills and helping them feel more connected to their communities. When they are ready to go back to work the service also provides opportunities for parents to move onto NOW’s training and employment service to help them find a job.

The team support clients to do things they otherwise might not have the confidence to do with the aim of helping them connect to their local community and gain the confidence to do these things independently in the future. This includes attending medical appointments, going along to parenting classes and mums and tots groups with them. They also encourage peer support where people can meet others in similar situations to share stories and build friendships.

If you would like to find out more about the service you can get in touch on 07710714275 or email families@nowgroup.org. 

NOW Group is a social enterprise supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future across Northern Ireland.

Would you like to join our social forum 'Kidnap Wednesday'?

 

April 2017

‘Kidnap Wednesday’ social forum meets every Wednesday afternoon in The Black Box venue in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. The forum is a place for people with learning difficulties to discuss and highlight the issues they face living day-to-day in the local community. Kidnap Wednesday also has a monthly calendar of events that members help create ranging from specialist talks, arts and craft in the Black Box Green Room and also external outings across Belfast and NI.


In order to join the group, you must be aged over 18, have a learning difficulty, autism or Asperger's, be able to travel independently and be able to get to and from the Black Box and other venues that Kidnap Wednesday may attend.


The Black Box is located at: 18-22 Hill Street, Cathedral Quarter, Belfast, BT1 2LA


NOW Group’s Volunteer Co-ordinator Rebecca Macartney is happy to answer any queries you may have and provide more information on the types of activities Kidnap Wednesday take part in. Please contact Rebecca by calling: 028 9023 2139 or 07710705753. Alternatively, please email: rebecca.macartney@nowgroup.org

NOW Group is a social enterprise supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future across Northern Ireland.

Volunteer with NOW Group!

 

March 2017

It’s been a long Winter and the Spring has finally sprung! It’s time to get out of hibernation and back into the swing of things. Volunteering with NOW Group is the perfect way to do this. It’s a great way to meet new people, encounter new experiences and develop new skills. We have a number of different volunteering opportunities available for older or retired people. Why not get in touch and let us match your interests to volunteering positions currently available?

There are many opportunities for personal growth and experience while volunteering with NOW Group, a social enterprise supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future. We work right across Belfast, Antrim, Newtownabbey and North Down offering services covering employment and training support, a Family Service (Belfast only), and Transition from school to work.

NOW Group also has two social enterprises: Loaf Catering and Cafes and Gauge NI. (Loaf comprises of an outside catering business and two cafes – Loaf Café and Bakery on Grosvenor Road and The Bobbin at Belfast City Hall. Gauge NI helps organisations demonstrate their social impact by measuring the outcomes of their work.)

Volunteering opportunities are available in many different roles and positions right throughout the organisation:

 Kidnap Wednesday Social Forum Volunteer

Transition II Social Forum Volunteer

Training Mentor

Catering Mentor

Employment Mentor

 

*NOW Group’s Volunteer Co-ordinator Rebecca Macartney is happy to answer any of your questions on volunteering or the volunteering roles currently available.

Please contact Rebecca by calling: 028 9023 2139 or 07710705753. Alternatively, please email: rebecca.macartney@nowgroup.org.

NOW Group is a social enterprise supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future across Northern Ireland.

JAM Card app now available

January 2017

A new app has been released which allows people with communication barriers such as learning disabilities / difficulties, autism, Asperger’s or a brain injury to alert staff in retail outlets, public transport and other areas of public life that the card-holder needs Just A Minute of patience and time when interacting with them.

 

The JAM Card app is a digital innovation from social enterprise NOW Group who support people with learning difficulties into training and employment.  It began as a plastic credit card sized card and was the idea of service users of the organisation who said they often felt under pressure when they were out and about in everyday life and would like a discreet way of letting people know that they needed a little extra time.

 

Digital Solution

 

Hundreds of people are already using the plastic card throughout Northern Ireland which says ‘Just a Minute’ on one side and ‘Please be patient, I have a learning difficulty’ on the other. NOW Group wanted a way to reach more people and felt that developing the card into a digital app would allow more people to access it and could also provide additional functionality as well as data feedback.

 

The development of the app began thanks to a partnership set up by the Building Change Trust Techies in Residence programme between NOW Group and Ciaran Murray, owner of Creative Metrics. The programme sees organisations from the third sector paired with technology firms to come up with a digital solution to a social problem.

 

It allowed a prototype of the app to be developed which is now available to download for free for Apple and Android phones. As the app develops additional features will be added including the ability for users to rate the experience they had when using it which will allow businesses and services the opportunity improve the customer service they provide to people with disabilities.

 

£100,000 Funding

 

The clear potential of the app led to successful funding applications with both Big Lottery Fund and Nominet Trust totalling £100,000.

 

Big Lottery Fund have provided £50,000 Big Lottery Fund NI Director Joanne McDowell said: “This is a great example of how our funding is putting people in the lead to make the changes they want in their communities. We hope this investment in the development of the NOW Group’s JAM Card will support people with disabilities, groups and services to work together to create new solutions to the issues they face. We want to thank National Lottery players for making this funding possible.”

 

The project received a further £50,000 from UK social tech funder Nominet Trust who support organisations using the internet and digital technology to address social challenges. Vicki Hearn, Director of Nominet Trust, said “With the JAM app, people with additional needs can instantly and discreetly let others know that they might need extra time to get on a bus, or patience from staff when paying in a shop. It’s great to be supporting this amazing social enterprise from Northern Ireland by funding the app’s next stage of development: a TripAdvisor-style platform through which disabled people will be able to give companies a ‘disability rating’. This offers a space for their voices to be heard, and showcases the value of being an accessible business.”

 

Increasing confidence and independence

Feedback from users has demonstrated that people feel more confident in public when they use the JAM Card. Some people who would have previously relied on their parents or taxis to travel now feel able to take public transport by themselves as they can show the bus driver their JAM Card and get the extra time they need to buy their ticket.

Partnership and Innovation Manager of NOW Group Jayne McStay comments, “Our hope is that the card and the app will make daily life just a little easier for people with learning difficulties / disabilities, autism and Asperger’s. The great thing about the JAM Card is that was the idea of our service users. At NOW Group we are committed to making a real impact in the lives of the people we work with so we are always keen to listen to their views and problems and co-design solutions where possible.

We believe that it will also be beneficial for businesses. It saves embarrassment on both sides if someone is having difficulty in a customer service situation and allows the member of staff the opportunity to be patient and kind when caught up in the hustle and bustle of their job.

 

We are delighted to have received funding from the Big Lottery Fund and Nominet Trust to develop the app and test it among users. So far the JAM Card has impacted hundreds of lives throughout Northern Ireland and our hope is that with the digital innovation of the app this will increase to thousands of people.”

Pictured launching the new app are NOW Group service users Francis Fitzsimons and Caoimhe McEvoy with Natalie Hanna and Sean McEleney from Translink. The JAM Card app is available to download for free now from both the Google Play store and the Apple App Store. Credit card sized plastic JAM Cards are also available by getting in touch with the NOW Group on 02890 436400 or emailing admin@nowgroup.org.

NOW Group is a social enterprise supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future across Northern Ireland.

NOW Group Ambassadors Appointed

 
 

January 2017

Six NOW Group clients have been appointed as Ambassadors for the organisation. The Ambassadors will be meeting regularly throughout the year and will provide important feedback about services, speak with new clients at induction days about their experiences and help with promotional events and campaigns.

The six Ambassadors are Elvin McBurney, Francine Rooney, David Dempster, Ann Marie McArthur, Claire McCormick and Carl Grant (not pictured). They all applied for the position and went through an interview process where their enthusiasm and commitment shone through and impressed the panel.

The group will be meeting regularly throughout the year with Employment Development Manager Sean Hanna and Marketing and Account Manager Christine McClune to talk about NOW Group’s services and have their input into events such as the annual celebration event and the new client induction. Each of the group has been involved in a number of NOW Group services including training courses, employment services and Workable NI.

 

Speaking about her new role as an Ambassador Ann Marie McArthur commented, “I wanted to apply to be an Ambassador because I thought it would be an interesting thing to do. I was chuffed when I found out I had been successful and am really looking forwarding to helping with events and talking to people about NOW.”

NOW Group is a social enterprise supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future across Northern Ireland.

Generous donation received from 4c Executive

January 2017

NOW Group were delighted to receive a very generous donation from 4c Executive this week. 

 

The organisation decided to send their Christmas cards electronically last month instead of printing and posting them to their clients. Pictured is Roseanne Lenzi from NOW Group collecting the cheque from Orla and Gareth from 4c Executive.

 

Thank you so much to everyone at 4c Executive!

NOW Group is a social enterprise supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future across Northern Ireland.

 

SES Contract Renewed for Workable (NI)

January 2017

“People with disabilities have the right to participate in the workforce, and government and employers have a duty to support them in that goal.” This was the message from Communities Minister Paul Givan as he announced new contracts with lead providers of the Executive’s flagship ‘Workable (NI)’ disability employment programme.

 

NOW Group’s Pauline Fitzsimons (Head of Services) and Sean Hanna (Employment Development Manager) attended the official launch of the new and improved Workable NI programme, which was held at the Cedar Foundation in Belfast on Thursday 8th December.

 

‘Workable (NI)’ supports people with a range of disabilities to secure and retain paid jobs across every employment sector throughout Northern Ireland. The programme is currently supporting almost 700 employees.

 

While the Workable (NI) programme has been running for the past 10 years, new contracts have been awarded to three lead providers to deliver the programme over the next five years. The three lead providers are: Disability Action; Ulster Supported Employment and Learning (Usel); and Supported Employment Solutions (SES), a consortium of seven local disability organisations.

 

NOW Group delivers the Workable (NI) Programme as part of the SES consortium. The other partners are: AMH (Action Mental Health NI), Cedar Foundation, Action on Hearing Loss, Mencap, Orchardville Society and RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People).

 

The aim of SES is to offer a Supported Employment approach in the delivery of programmes to assist people with disabilities and health conditions to enter and stay in employment. NOW Group specialises in supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future.

 

Speaking at a launch event of the new phase of Workable NI, Minister Givan said: “Disabled people are often faced with numerous and complex barriers to finding and retaining paid employment. Workable NI provides its participants with tailored support for their individual needs to help them move into and sustain suitable employment.

 

“Employers who have been involved in the programme have found that participants of Workable NI have the ability, motivation and determination to enhance any workforce. Their appreciation is evidence of how the Workable NI programme is not only successful for the individual participant but can also create a more diverse, inclusive and richer working environment.”

  

The Minister continued: “This new phase of the Workable NI Programme has increased flexibilities regarding hours of employment and levels of support on offer. Ensuring disabled people are afforded their right to work is a priority. I wish Disability Action, Supported Employment Solutions and Ulster Supported Employment and Learning, continued success with the programme and reaffirm our commitment to working in partnership to ensure the programme grows from strength to strength.”

 

The leads provide teams of dedicated and specialist employment officers, who work with individuals who are seeking employment or those who are in work, but experiencing real difficulties due to their disability. They also offer tailored support to the host employer, including disability training for staff, mentoring support and input into the employee’s performance review process.

 

Pauline Fitzsimons, NOW Group Head of Services, said of the contract renewal: “NOW Group is delighted to be part of the SES Partnership.  Working in partnership with organisations that share our values and ethos has led to an effective, person-centred service which offers choice for individuals and a wealth of shared specialist support offering a high-quality service for the people we work with.  This will translate into people retaining jobs that they have worked hard to achieve.”

 

NOW Group is a social enterprise supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future across Northern Ireland.

NOW Group Working With Deloitte NI To Improve Prospects For Young People

 

December 2016

Participation rates in higher education of disadvantaged young people are disproportionately low and at risk of falling, a new report from Deloitte has found. 'Fair access to work: Levelling the playing field for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds' was published on Monday, 12 December. It is the second report in Deloitte’s One Million Futures series which aims to address the challenges faced by many people in the UK in accessing education, training and employment.

 

The report provides practical steps for how these barriers can be overcome to the benefit of our society and economy. Other key findings of the report included:

 

Most popular subjects for students from disadvantaged backgrounds are education and subjects allied to medicine;

 

Professional divide is widening;

 

The social mobility pay gap is nearly 10 per cent; and

 

Graduates are less likely to be impacted by automation and the most disadvantaged students are well-placed to develop essential talents required for the future workforce.

Deloitte conducted an analysis of approximately 300,000 students, drawing on the 2014-15 Destination of Leavers Survey data, to understand the issues surrounding access to and outcomes after higher education. The Fair Access to Work report reveals the difference in starting salaries between the least and most advantaged students can be as high as 15%, depending on the subject studied. The biggest gaps occur for graduates of law (14.8%), computer science (13.8%) and social studies (13.5%). There are also examples where the least advantaged students earn more, such as medicine (2%), dentistry (2%), engineering (1.4%) and technology (1.4%), although the differences are minor.

David Sproul, Deloitte’s senior partner and chief executive, said: “The research shows that the least advantaged graduates face considerable barriers to employment after graduation, even if they perform as well as their most advantaged peers. Improving social mobility is one of the UK’s biggest challenges and its urgency has been brought into sharper focus by events this year. 

 

“It is important that businesses, higher education leaders and the government work together to get this right. Failing to do so limits the talent pool from which companies can recruit and reinforces a perception that the rewards of economic prosperity are reserved for a privileged few.”

NOW Group is working with Deloitte as one of their Society Partners, to tackle the additional barriers faced by people with disabilities. NOW will focus the support from Deloitte’s Belfast office on its Loaf Catering social enterprise in west Belfast, which trains local people with learning difficulties seeking employment in the catering and hospitality industry.

NOW Group has been chosen as Society Partner alongside 21 charities, 9 social enterprises and 18 schools across the UK. This major partnership is helping to deliver Deloitte UK’s new Responsible Business strategy, One Million Futures. Their goal is to help a million people get to where they want to be; whether it’s in the classroom, the workplace or the boardroom.

 

Through this strategy, Deloitte seeks to overcome barriers to education and employment, giving individuals the skills and opportunities to succeed. It focuses on what really matters to Deloitte in society – raising aspirations, building skills and developing leaders. Maeve Monaghan, NOW Group CEO, said: "We are looking forward to working with Deloitte to grow our social enterprises, engaging more employers and supporting more people with learning difficulties into jobs with a future”.

NOW Group is a social enterprise supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future across Northern Ireland.

 

NOW Family Service celebrates its first birthday

October 2016

A service aimed at supporting families in which there are parents who have mild to moderate learning difficulties or are on the autistic spectrum has celebrated its first birthday.

The NOW Family Service has supported 30 clients since it began in October 2015. It has worked with new and expectant parents with children under five in the Belfast area to support them by building confidence, developing their parenting skills and helping them feel more connected to their communities. When they are ready to go back to work the service also provides opportunities for parents to move onto NOW’s training and employment service to help them find a job.

The team support clients to do things they otherwise might not have the confidence to do with the aim of helping them connect to their local community and gain the confidence to do these things independently in the future. This includes attending medical appointments, going along to parenting classes and mums and tots groups with them. They also encourage peer support where people can meet others in similar situations to share stories and build friendships.

Head of Services, Pauline Fitzsimons comments, “It has been a fantastic first year for our Family Service programme. We began this service because we knew that there was a need for additional support for parents with learning difficulties and autism. At NOW we have worked with this client group for years and realised that pregnancy and parenthood can bring with it a different set of challenges for people with learning difficulties.

 

The main aim of the Family Service is to ensure that the new babies have the best start in life in a family that is equipped to look after them. We provide support to the whole family - parents, siblings, grandparents to help build up their confidence in looking after the new baby and to link in with services available in their community.”

As people with learning difficulties can often feel isolated from their community the NOW Family Service has spent the last year building connections with organisations that can help clients integrate with other new parents. Relationships have been formed with maternity services in the local hospitals, social services, Family Support Hubs and Sure Start among others.

The NOW Family Service is funded by The Big Lottery Fund for a further three years with the possibility of extension. If you would like to find out more about the service you can get in touch on 07710714275 or email families@nowgroup.org.

 

NOW Group is a social enterprise supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future across Northern Ireland.

 

Celebrating Social EnterpriseNI Awards

October 2016

Social Enterprise NI, an organisation promoting and supporting social enterprises across Northern Ireland, hosted the Social Enterprise NI Awards on Thursday 20 October at Stormont Hotel, Belfast. The awards recognised and celebrated the excellence in social enterprise and the outstanding achievements of social entrepreneurs to deliver social impact. 

Ortus Group, an organisation based in Belfast that is providing unique business support programmes, property services and language services to a diverse range of start-up and SME businesses, won the coveted award of NI Social Enterprise of the Year.  “We are absolutely delighted to be named as NI Social Enterprise of the Year. At Ortus our social giving is central to our ethos, achieved through initiatives such as direct donations to local community and voluntary organisations, working in partnership with local influential groups.” says Seamus O’Prey, C.E.O. of The Ortus Group. “Annually we provide over 300 free workshops as well as providing over £40,000 worth of free business support and mentoring to local SMEs, plus additional monetary contributions to community groups through the Charity Initiative Fund… We are looking forward to an exciting 2017, where we can continue to grow as a company and invest in our local community.”

In addition to the recognition of social enterprises at the awards, Social Enterprise NI showcased a wide range of social enterprises through its preparations and running of the event. This included bottled water on tables from Clearer Water, a social enterprise based in Larne; filming of shortlisted candidates by Slack Press, a social enterprise filming company and table plan created by Stepping Stones, a social enterprise providing training opportunities for people with learning difficulties.

 

Colin Jess, Director of Social Enterprise NI said, “This has been our biggest and best awards to date, with over 250 guests attending. It is great to see the commitment, energy and enthusiasm within the room and also the increased interest in the sector.  This year we have been joined by organisations representing the public and private sectors, who are keen to understand the social enterprise business model.  We look forward to working closely with all sectors and political parties to continue this momentum and to position the social enterprise sector as a strong contributor to the mainstream NI economy.”

Sponsoring the awards and showing support for the sector on the night were an impressive list of public and private organisations including Belfast City Council, Department for Economy, Department for Communities, 4c Executive, Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT), Housing Executive, Edwards & Co. Solicitors, Charity Bank and Causeway Conferencing. 

 

Gareth Hanna from 4c said, “4c Third Sector was delighted to partner with Social Enterprise NI at their awards this year and champion the incredible organisations that work within this sector. Social Enterprises throughout Northern Ireland not only provide vital services and support to the vulnerable and disadvantaged in our communities but also contribute a great deal into the local economy. 4c Third Sector is proud to support the ongoing growth and development of the sector and looks forward to the Social Enterprise NI Conference in the New Year.”

 

A special guest at the awards was Yvonne Strachan, Deputy Director in the Scottish Government and responsible for leading its work in the Third sector. Ahead of the awards Ms Strachan spoke to MLAs, government departments and the central procurement team at a lunchtime Roundtable event at Parliament Buildings, Stormont. A key learning at the meeting was the experience of Scottish government in embedding its own eco systems in the Third Sector.  

 

For further details on the awards and social enterprise sector in Northern Ireland visit www.socialenterpriseni.org or follow the organisation’s Twitter page @socentni. 

 

NOW Group is a social enterprise supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future across Northern Ireland.

Loaf Catering Commended At Social Responsibility Awards

 

October 2016

The popularity of Loaf has been recognised as it received a commendation in the Community Food Award category in the Irish Food Writers Guild Community Food Awards. The awards celebrate and recognise social responsibility in the food sector in Ireland and organisations were shortlisted for their community oriented work in areas as food education, conservation, sustainability or for their charity or other community programmes. 

 

This what the Irish Food Writers Guild had to say about Loaf Catering:

 

"Loaf Catering is a corporate catering business and social enterprise delivering fresh food to homes and businesses in the greater Belfast area. Using local suppliers whenever possible, Loaf Catering is also an accredited training site, providing training and work experience placements for catering trainees with learning difficulties or autism. All profits go to the NOW Group to help support people with barriers to learning and employment join the workforce. Loaf wants communities to be more connected with what they buy and eat and for every £1 invested in loaf, £8 is returned in social value. The judges were impressed with the strong, independent feedback they received about Loaf and felt it represented a model social enterprise that others could (and should) follow."

Aoife Carrigy, chairperson of the IFWG said, “These awards are very special as they recognise the broader significance of food within our communities and society: as a source of nourishment and enjoyment, and as a connector between people, but also as a birthright of citizens in terms of the need for equal access to good food produced in a sustainable manner.


“We have a shared responsibility to protect the future of our food. These Community Food Awards celebrate projects we believe have made positive impacts, with an emphasis on inclusivity and a commitment to people and passion before profit. The awards aim to highlight some of the excellent work being done on both large and small scales within our communities, and to say thank you to those who carry out this often thankless work.

CEO of NOW Group Maeve Monaghan commented: “At Loaf we are passionate about good food and using local produce as much as possible. We were delighted to get involved in Belfast Restaurant Week as it is a great opportunity to celebrate all the good food that is available on our doorsteps.

 

As well as the Café & Bakery, Loaf also run an outside catering business that delivers fresh food to homes and businesses in the Greater Belfast area. Loaf Café and Bakery is situated at 307 Grosvenor Road, Belfast, and is open Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 4.30pm. For more information on Loaf visit www.loafcatering.com, follow them on Twitter at @LovelyLoaf or like the Facebook page Loaf Catering and Cafes

 

NOW Group is a social enterprise supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future across Northern Ireland.

 

Loaf keeping it local during Belfast Restaurant Week

October 2016

Social enterprise Loaf Café & Bakery celebrated Belfast Restaurant Week this week by hosting a special lunch to showcase the very best of local good food.

 

In attendance was Aisling Ní Labhraí, Executive Director Cultúrlann, Gerry Lennon, Chief Executive Visit Belfast, Howard Hastings, Chair Visit Belfast, Kevin Gamble, Director of Féile an Phobail, Harry Connolly, Executive Director Fáilte Feirste Thiar, Pat Walsh, Owner, Balmoral Hotel and Maeve Monaghan CEO NOW Group.

 

Belfast Restaurant Week runs from 8th-16th October and celebrates the best local food and drink on offer in the city. To mark the occasion Loaf is running a special menu which includes colcannon soup with cheese & champ bread and Special Recipe Loaf Sausage Roll with mixed salad, including ingredients harvested from a local community garden.

 

Loaf is committed to using local produce where possible and you couldn’t get any more local than by using ingredients from a community garden just yards from the café on the Grosvenor Road.  As part of the collaboration, Loaf donates coffee grounds and cardboard to the garden in return for deliveries of freshly grown fruit and vegetables such as money maker tomatoes, purple kale, Maris Piper potatoes, Braeburn apples and rhubarb. The staff and trainees at Loaf then use the produce to create all sorts of delicious soups, stews, salads and crumbles for customers.

 

And it’s not just the community garden gifting the fruits of their labour to the social enterprise. The café also was recently visited by pupils from St Oliver Plunkett Primary School, west Belfast who donated produce from their school garden and GroundWork NI regularly delivers fresh leafy greens from their allotments at Colin Glen.

 

The Café & Bakery opened last year on a site that had been derelict for ten years and has been impressing customers with its home baking, local produce and welcoming staff.

 

The popularity of Loaf has been recognised as it received a commendation in the Community Food Award category in the Irish Food Writers Guild Community Food Awards. The awards celebrate and recognise social responsibility in the food sector in Ireland and organisations were shortlisted for their community oriented work in areas as food education, conservation, sustainability or for their charity or other community programmes.

 

CEO of NOW Group Maeve Monaghan comments, “At Loaf we are passionate about good food and using local produce as much as possible. We were delighted to get involved in Belfast Restaurant Week as it is a great opportunity to celebrate all the good food that is available on our doorsteps.

 

"We are lucky enough to have a community garden just a stone’s throw from our door who supply us with fresh food that can be picked and made into something delicious the same day by our chefs.

 

"As a social enterprise, social impact is at the heart of everything we do. The Cafe & Bakery provides jobs and training opportunities for local people and for NOW Group’s catering trainees with learning difficulties. We are delighted that this work has been recognised by the Irish Food Writers Guild and we received a commendation in the Community Food Award category.”

 

As well as the Café & Bakery Loaf also run an outside catering business that delivers fresh food to homes and businesses in the Greater Belfast area. Loaf Café and Bakery is situated at 307 Grosvenor Road, Belfast, and is open Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 4.30pm. For more information on Loaf visit www.loafcatering.com, follow them on Twitter at @LovelyLoaf or like the Facebook page Loaf Catering and Cafes

Find out more about Loaf in this video: http://www.nowgroup.org/video-diaries

 

NOW Group is a social enterprise supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future across Northern Ireland.

NOW Group receive £50,000 from Nominet Trust to develop JAM Card app

 

September 2016

Nominet Trust has announced they are awarding £50,000 funding to NOW Group to help develop the JAM Card app.

The money will be used to develop the app which allows people with learning disabilities / difficulties to alert staff in shops or on public transport and in other areas of public life that they need Just a Minute of patience and time. The funding is being awarded from the Social Tech Seed fund (http://www.nominettrust.org.uk/how-to-apply/social-tech-seed) an open grant-funding programme that offers investment to organisations in the early stages of developing innovative projects that use the internet and digital technologies to deliver social change. 

The JAM Card began as a plastic credit card sized card and was the idea of service users of the NOW Group’s ‘Kidnap Wednesday’ social forum. The group said they often felt under pressure when they were out and about in every-day life and would like a discreet way of letting people know that they needed a little extra time.

NOW Group felt that developing the card into a digital app would allow more people to access it and could also provide additional functionality as well as data feedback. The development of the app began thanks to a partnership set up by the Building Change Trust Techie in Residence programme (http://www.techinres.com) between NOW Group and Ciaran Murray, owner of Creative Metrics. 

There is now a working prototype that records data in the cloud including location, usage type and user information, meaning that in the future a digital dashboard can be created to allow NOW to analyse this data with ease. Other potential features include a news feed and the ability to customise the JAM card message to the needs of individual users. 

Community Development Manager of NOW Group Jayne McStay comments, “We are delighted to receive this funding to help develop the JAM Card app. The JAM Card has already been really popular with our service users and people with learning difficulties throughout Northern Ireland. We received some feedback from users that they would like the option of the card as an app as they always have their phones to hand, so we listened to those comments and began to work on an app. 

"We know that an app has the ability to reach more people and have more of an impact. This funding will allow us to develop the functionality ensuring that it is user friendly and makes a real difference to those using it.”

Find out more about JAM Card in this video: http://www.nowgroup.org/video-diaries

 

NOW Group is a social enterprise supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs with a future across Northern Ireland.

 

For queries about the JAM Card contact Jayne McStay jayne.mcstay@nowgroup.org

 

NOW Group announce appointment of new chairman

June 2016

Gary Irvine, managing director at 4c Executive Search, will work alongside the NOW Group CEO, Maeve Monaghan, the board and full staff team to drive further development of the charity across Northern Ireland.

Recently awarded ‘NI Social Enterprise’ Regional Winner by PwC, NOW Group works to move people with learning difficulties into paid employment, training, transition and volunteering.

Commenting on Mr Irvine’s appointment, Maeve Monaghan said: “This is a very exciting time for NOW as we look to expand our core services across Northern Ireland and scale up our social enterprises - Loaf Catering and Cafés, and Gauge CIC.

“Gary is a highly reputed and respected business leader in Northern Ireland, having grown a large, £40m recruitment organisation over 26 years, which was sold last year to a UK plc. It goes without saying that we are thrilled to have someone with his reputation on board. Gary’s experience and networks in the recruitment industry will no doubt prove to be an extremely valuable asset to NOW, in helping us to work closely with companies across the province to provide new employment opportunities for people with learning difficulties.”

NOW Group also operates Loaf Catering, a fast-growing social enterprise, with two cafés in Belfast and a corporate catering business. The profits generated from Loaf provide great opportunities for people with learning difficulties. The two sites, namely the Bobbin Café in Belfast City Hall, and the Loaf Café in West Belfast are accredited training sites, in which 40 placements-a-week are offered to people with learning difficulties in need of employment.

 

The appointment was also warmly welcomed by incoming chairman, Gary Irvine, who commented: “I have long been an admirer of the work of this wonderful organisation and am delighted to be appointed chairman of NOW.

 

“I believe that, if given the chance to get into learning and employment, adults with learning difficulties and disabilities can be a huge asset to society, so NOW’s work is extremely encouraging and inspirational.

 

“I am confident that my expertise in the recruitment industry in Northern Ireland, coupled with NOW’s commitment and ambition to help these people overcome these barriers and achieve their goal of paid employment, will prove to be a successful combination, during this period of growth for the NOW Group.”

 

Gary has previously chaired Manchester-based Neuven Solutions Ltd, and between 2005 and 2007 was the Chairman of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) UK, the official trade body of the £30bn UK recruitment industry. Gary still holds his position as Director at the REC.

NOW GROUP celebrate learning achievement at ‘Safe Space’ Belfast City Hall Graduation

 

June 2016

Training and employment organisation NOW Group celebrated the learning achievements of its service users with a special event at Belfast City Hall on Monday.

The theme of this year’s event was ‘Safe Spaces’ and was chosen to recognise NOW Group’s commitment to finding and providing safe areas for their services users to come together to socialise and enjoy the buzz of Belfast city centre.

Over 100 people with a learning disability or difficulty, or Autistic Spectrum Condition received certificates at the ceremony recognising their learning achievements in a range of areas including catering and hospitality, personal finance management and employability. These qualifications will help each of them on their own unique path to employment whether it is by themselves or with the support of NOW’s dedicated Employment team.

Many of the graduates are trainees with the organisation’s hugely popular social enterprise, Loaf Catering and Cafes. It comprises of an outside catering division, Loaf Catering, and two bustling cafes, The Bobbin at Belfast City Hall and Loaf Cafe & Bakery on Grosvenor Road.

Accredited training sites, they provide 40 training placements every week for NOW’s servicer users to learn at their own pace in a safe environment. The trainees are matched with a role suited to their learning ability, including front of house meeting and greeting the customers or behind the scenes in the busy kitchens preparing delicious, fresh food.

Guests were treated to light bites from the recently revamped Loaf corporate catering menu in the form of a variety of canapés, mini-traybakes and artisan tea and coffee.

The local business community also helped make the occasion a success. Henderson’s sponsored the special achievement awards, Bank of Ireland

sponsored the graduation gowns, Impro Printing printed the invitations free of charge as did Tennents NI with the soft drinks.

As part of the graduation ceremony, the audience watched a video display explaining the innovative new JAM Card app, which NOW Group’s service users have been designing with Techies In Residence.

The JAM Card (an abbreviation of ‘Just A Minute’) is a credit card-sized plastic card that people with learning disabilities/difficulties can carry and use to alert staff in retail outlets, public/private transport providers and other areas of public life that the card-holder needs Just A Minute of patience and time when interacting with you.

A very special project, the JAM Card was the brainchild of the members of the ‘Kidnap Wednesday’ social forum which was set up by NOW Group as a way of giving their service users and other people with learning difficulties the chance discuss the issues they face day-to-day. The App project was recently nominated for a Digital DNA award for 'Best Tech Innovation in the Third Sector'.

Compere on the day was UTV presenter Pamela Ballantine and also in attendance was Lord Mayor of Belfast Alderman Brian Kingston and Permanent Secretary Dr Andrew McCormick of the newly formed Department for the Economy.

NOW Group Chief Executive Maeve Monaghan said that the last 12 months was a period of remarkable growth not just within NOW Group, but also Loaf Catering and Cafes.

“Not only did we expand NOW Group’s Employment Team to two new areas, North Down and Antrim and Newtownabbey, but we launched a brand new service too. NOW Families is a support service for new and expectant parents with a learning difficulty or disability or a Autism Spectrum Condition in the Belfast area.

“As well as expanding our services, almost one year ago we opened the doors to our second social enterprise cafe in a prime location - Loaf Cafe &Bakery on Grosvenor Road. In renovating a derelict, burnt out bar, we transformed a prime location on one of the city’s main arterial routes, created a new meeting

place in the area and we created 10 jobs and provided over 100 training places too.”

Congratulating the award recipients, Maeve continued: “Today is about celebrating everybody’s contribution – from our award recipients to our dedicated staff who have supported and encouraged them every step of the way. We wish everyone good luck on their individual path to learning and employment and thank them for choosing us to help support them on their journey.”

To end the celebration, Ian McMaster’s Singergy session had everyone on their feet as he led the graduates and guests in an impromptu choir culminating with a roof-raising performance! A perfect way to celebrate the achievements of NOW trainees.

 

NOW Group believes there is a job for everyone

June 2016

NOW Group believes there is a job out there suited to each and every one of us - it's just a matter of being matched up to the job that suits your unique path in life.

 

Providing a range of services supporting people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs, NOW Group is a social enterprise that helps tackle the barriers to employment and learning. The service provides accredited training which prepares individuals for independence and the world of work.

NOW Group trainee Jordan had wanted to work in a funeral home since he was in school - but his teacher told him he wasn't capable of doing the job. So, they set out to help find Jordan the work experience he desired and secured it with Browns Funeral Directors in Belfast. It was the perfect job match for Jordan and NOW Group Employment Officer Hollie Rice supported him throughout it. He thoroughly enjoyed his work experience and received wonderful support from his work colleagues too.

Jordan has now progressed into a paid role with Brown’s carrying out a range of roles within the company.

The promotion from volunteer to fully fledged member of staff is testament not only to Jordan's hard-work and determination, but to the time, energy and heart put in by the staff at Browns into engaging with, developing and working alongside him.

Jordan finds that this work is well-suited to him and wants it to be a job for life. He's even writing a letter to that school teacher to tell her she was wrong when she told him he could never work in funeral directors. Thanks to the support, and genuine friendship, of the staff at Browns, Jordan doesn't only have a job but has begun his career and formed relationships for life.

In acknowledgment of Browns Funeral Directors support to individuals like Jordon they were awarded 'Employer of the Year’ at the 2016 NOW GROUP Graduation ceremony at Belfast City Hall. The event was a celebration of the learning achievements of its service users.This project is part funded through the European Social Fund Programme 2014 – 2020, the Department for the Economy and the Department for Communities. 

Photo Left: Browns Funeral Directors received the Special Achievement Award 'Employer of the Year’ at the 2016 NOW GROUP Graduation ceremony at Belfast City Hall on Monday, 13 June. Geraldine McEwan and Eddie Carlisle, from Browns Funeral Director, are pictured receiving their award with Gary Irvine, NOW Group’s new Chairman.

MORE NEWS

Why it pays to #Buysocial

April 2016

Did you know that by buying a coffee in The Bobbin cafe at Belfast City Hall or a bowl of homemade soup at Loaf Cafe and Bakery on Grosvenor Road, you are helping to support people with a learning difficulty or autism into jobs?

 

The social enterprise cafes are run by NOW Group, an organisation renowned for assisting people facing barriers to training and work on their path to employment.

 

Loaf has been operating The Bobbin cafe at Belfast City Hall since winning the contract in September 2014, beating off stiff competition from a number of high-profile companies.  Six months ago, a second eatery, Loaf Cafe and Bakery, was opened in the west of the city after extensive renovations at the site of the Oak Bar on Grosvenor Road.

 

The cafe and bakery, the bright yellow building located directly opposite the Royal Victoria Hospital, is also home to the Loaf Catering team, who deliver delicious platters of freshly prepared food to customers all over the Greater Belfast area daily and provide event catering for corporate customers.

 

Both cafes have accredited training kitchens, providing 40 training spaces weekly for people with a learning disability, learning difficulty or the Autistic Spectrum Condition who want to pursue a career in catering.

 

Maeve Monaghan, Chief Executive of NOW Group, explained: “We are encouraging everyone to #buysocial in 2016 and to incorporate supporting social enterprises into their daily lives.

 

“All profits made by our cafes and corporate catering social enterprise go back into NOW Group to help provide opportunities to people experiencing barriers to learning or employment.

 

“By visiting our cafes, or using our catering service, you are not only receiving high quality, freshly made food, but you are helping transform the lives of others.”

 

She continued: “In 2014/15, NOW Group assisted 435 people and we also supported 278 people gain 361 qualifications. During that financial year, for every £1 invested in NOW Group £8 was generated in social value.

 

“#buysocial and help us as we continue to help others in 2016!”

 

*If you would like to book a table for a business meeting at our city centre cafe, The Bobbin, please call Piia Lauritis, cafe manager, on (90) 502068. Or if you need to arrange a meeting with a client in west Belfast, why not book a table for at Loaf Cafe and Bakery? Please call Cathy Moore, cafe manager, on (90) 313123.

Free Money Mentors courses for local organisations across NI

December 2015

NOW Group’s Money Mentors financial capability course is offering free group training places to local organisations throughout Northern Ireland.

 

The OCN accredited course is part of the Money for Life Programme, which NOW Group manages in Northern Ireland on behalf of Lloyds’ Banking Group.

Focusing on how to give one-to-one money management support, the qualification enables those working or volunteering in the public or not-for-profit sector to equip the people they support with vital money management skills.

 

The course, an OCN Level 2 accreditation, is particularly useful for those working in charities, housing associations, local authorities, Citizens Advice Bureau and other community organisations. It can be held at NOW Group’s training facility in west Belfast, or a location in your area.

 

There is a 14 place requirement on each Money Mentors group course.However, if you have a smaller group that would like to attend a Money Mentors course, and therefore cannot make the number requirement, please get in touch. NOW Group may be able to facilitate a shared group course.

 

Money Mentors is delivered over two days, two weeks apart and it is compulsory to attend both days.

 

There is a written assignment included and the course tutor will offer support and guidance to help with this.

 

The course is free of charge and the qualifications are fully funded by Lloyd’s Banking Group.

There is a written assignment included and the course tutor will offer support and guidance to help with this.

The course has 8 modules:

 

1. Financial information, advice and guidance
2. Boundaries in meeting the requirements of clients
3. Meeting financial IAG requirements of clients
4. Effective communication skills
5. Values, beliefs and attitudes towards money
6. Independent study

7. Strategies for resolving financial problems
8. Recognising your own skills and development needs (not assessed)

 

*If you are interested, please contact Carolyn Largey, NOW Group’s Training and Development Manager, by emailing: carolyn.largey@nowgroup.org or calling: (90) 312335.

Tackling Youth Unemployment

December 2015

With youth unemployment in Northern Ireland rising to 22% in 2015, NIACE - the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education - is working with the NOW Group to tackle the issue and to improve understanding of ‘what employers want’.

 

NOW Group is taking forward an approach trialled in other parts of the UK as part of NIACE’s role as National Co-ordinator of the European Agenda for Lifelong Learning. Following in the footsteps of What Employers Want, we have trained and supported a group of 18-24 year olds with barriers to employment and learning to interview a range of employers – including Coca Cola, Google Ireland and The Mac Theatre – to find out about the skills, qualities and experience they are looking for from young people.NOW Group is the first organisation in Northern Ireland to use the approach and is utilising its expertise in supporting young people with a disability, to ensure different abilities and needs are well supported.Nicola Aylward, NIACE’s Head of Learning for Young People, said: “It is a pleasure to be working with NOW Group for the first time and to be growing and strengthening our work to support more young people into sustainable employment. Once published, the findings of the project will be added to the range of information and resources available to young people and providers on our dedicated website - What Employers Want.”

 

Ann Osborne, Deputy Chief Executive of NOW Group, said: “The project fits perfectly with our organisational objectives of securing employment, using a co-design approach to programme development and measuring impact. Early wins for us have been seeing an increase in confidence, and improvement in communication skills, including one young person with communication difficulties who does not engage in one to one conversation, happily participating in a video blog. As in a lot of our work it is the unintended outcomes that can prove the most powerful.”

 

NOW Group Acting Employment Manager, Emma McCabe, led the project and said: “Working on the project over the last 3 months has been very exciting for the NOW Group and for our participants. Having the guidance and the resources from the pilot stage has been a great asset to our programme and has given us the confidence to reach out to employers that we would otherwise not have had the opportunity to engage with.”

London is calling

July 2015 

Deputy Chief Executive Ann Osborne and Employment Officer (Youth) Emma McCabe are travelling to London this week to represent the NOW Project at a special Adult Learning in Europe reception.

 

Organised by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), it will bring together a whole range of people – including leaders, policy makers and practitioners – from across the UK and Europe to share and promote best practice in a bid to improve the impact of adult learning.

 

The Forum for Adult Learning Northern Ireland will also be in attendance at the reception which takes place on Wednesday, 9 September at Portcullis House, Westminster.

 

Shared learning is a key focus of the event and it is a great opportunity for NOW to showcase our work on youth employability, specifically for those with barriers to learning.

 

NIACE has developed a new website www.whatemployerswant.org  in conjunction with over 40 employers - including Barclays and MadLab. Aimed at young people, it covers practical topics on how to complete application forms, prepare for job interviews and career progression.

The NOW Project has been chosen to pilot ‘What Employers Want’ in Northern Ireland and will focus on how this resource can be further developed to help young people with learning difficulties.

 

Emma McCabe, Employment Officer (Youth) for the NOW Project, said:  “Over the past month I have had the great experience of working in collaboration with NIACE on the ‘What Employers Want’ Project.

 

“NOW have come onboard for the second pilot phase. The first phase of the project was carried out by youth groups in England, Scotland and Wales. Their findings are being launched this week during the ‘Realising Impact’ conference in London which Ann and I are also attending.”

 She continued:  “Not only are we the only group in Northern Ireland to take part but we are the only organisation supporting young adults with learning disabilities/Autism Spectrum Condition and we are really proud to be a part of it.”

 

Explaining the pilot project, Emma said: “We have been supporting young people on various training and employment services to gain sustainable employment. This programme builds on these services, but it also engages with employers in a way we haven’t done before.

 

“The engagement is between the young people and the employer to find out ‘What Employers Want’. We have had a great time learning new skills, coming up with our group name ‘The Dependables’,  building up confidence and tweaking the programme to suit the needs of our clients, we have had input from our training team, employment team and careers and guidance.

 

“The group are ready to take on the task of interviewing six employers, asking questions such as: ‘In what ways, if any, are young people involved in your organisation?’ and ‘What are the most important things that would help young people be successful in applying for work in your organisation?’, and getting the answers they need to help them succeed in gaining employment.

 

“I am very proud to be speaking this week at the conference about our group’s success so far and what we will be doing next – I will be updating everyone on twitter so stay tuned for lots of London selfies, #HashtagsEverywhere and a special announcement of confirmed employers.”

Funding Celebration for NOW Group

July 2015

NOW Group is thrilled to announce that it is one of five organisations across Northern Ireland sharing in funding worth almost £3.5 million from the Big Lottery Fund’s Supporting Families programme.  

 

The Northern Ireland Social Enterprise of the Year was awarded £679,926 for the Here & NOW project (also known as Family Service) - a brand new service from NOW aimed at supporting families in which parents have mild to moderate learning difficulties or are on the autistic spectrum.

Here & NOW, will work with families – including parents, children and grandparents - in the Belfast area to support them by building confidence, develop skills and make them more connected to their communities.  The project will be supported by the Family Planning Association to deliver bespoke training around relationships and sexual health and will provide opportunities for parents to move on to NOW Group’s other Training, Volunteering and Employment services.

 

Speaking about the funding announcement, Maeve Monaghan, Chief Executive of NOW Group, said: “Having a child is part of life and it’s a big commitment for anyone. For parents with learning disabilities or autism, it can be a bigger challenge. This project will provide practical interventions to parents who often do not receive the support they may need.  We will encourage engagement with existing statutory and community services to build their confidence by giving them the opportunity to make informed decisions and providing relevant accessible information. Many of the project participants just need some support and help to navigate the system and access the services that are out there.”

Ms Monaghan said the project is bringing together a package of support tailored to individual families, including parents, children, grandparents and the wider family. They are being linked up with services they need and activities include support and information on pregnancy and health issues, training, advocacy, and peer support.

 

“Part of this project is about making sure that all the people and professionals that are involved in that person’s life are coordinated in a way that maximises the support that they get, and makes the process as easy and unintimidating as possible,” she said.

 

“Parents may need help putting a plan in place of how their lives will change with the arrival of a child. For some people who don’t have much support, it’s about making sure that they have a strong support network and people to turn to.

 

“The positive impact that early intervention has on a child has been well documented. If we can support these young women and families to look after their children, it will have a really positive impact on children’s lives. They will be nurtured, happier and will get all the support that they need from the professionals.”

 

Other organisations awarded funding from Big Lottery Fund’s Supporting Families programme include Assistance Dogs Northern Ireland, Royal National Institute of Blind People (NI), Men’s Action Network and Forthspring Intercommunity Group.

Joanne McDowell, Big Lottery Fund NI Director, said: “We are delighted to be funding these five new projects through our Supporting Families programme. They will all strengthen families’ ability to cope with the challenges they face. We hope they will have a really positive impact on the lives of people who need our help the most.”

 

For more information on Here & NOW, contact Pauline Fitzsimons at NOW Group on 028 9043 6400, or email pauline.fitzsimons@nowproject.co.uk.