Community Engagement Will be Key to Community Plan Success
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council launched its first Community Plan, ‘Living Well Together’, at a major event on Thursday 12 October 2017 held in the Great Hall, Downshire Estate, Downpatrick.
The outcomes-based plan is designed to develop and improve the delivery of public services in the district between now and 2030, by providing a common framework for all statutory, community and voluntary organisations working together.
‘Living Well Together’ sets out a vision of Newry, Mourne and Down as a place with strong, safe and vibrant communities where everyone has a good quality of life and access to opportunities, choices and high quality services which are sustainable, accessible and meet people’s needs. It identifies five key outcomes whereby all people in Newry, Mourne and Down get a good start in life and fulfil their lifelong potential; enjoy good health and wellbeing; benefit from a clean, quality and sustainable environment; live in respectful, safe and vibrant communities and benefit from prosperous communities.
Speaking at the launch event, Newry, Mourne and Down Community Planning Partnership Chairperson, Councillor Roisin Mulgrew said, “Under the programme of reform in 2015 when the two councils amalgamated, the Council was given a new responsibility to develop and implement Community Planning. Since then we have been working hard, together with statutory, community and voluntary partners to identify the outcomes we want to see for all in the district, and we have begun to establish how we will get there.”
“Community Planning depends upon the active involvement of all of us, and that involvement must extend to everyone in our community irrespective of age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious or community background. I recognise the value of extending and deepening the local democratic process to develop engagement with communities, particularly with those communities that are hard to reach and whose voice is not always heard. We need our communities to help identify and where possible, to help deliver solutions to these difficult issues.”
“This year I will be focusing on raising the profile and supporting the work of a number of charitable organisations: Women's Aid, Davina's Ark and the Mental Health Forum, which undertake phenomenal work in our district and beyond, which cut across many of the themes of our Community Plan. I am looking forward to working with these charities during my year in Office and hope my support will help raise the profile of their invaluable services, which certainly do support life’s journey”.
The timing of the launch of ‘Living Well Together’ was significant as it was held during European Local Democracy Week which promotes democratic participation at local level across the 47 states of the Council of Europe. Guest speakers, Dr. Claire Bynner from What Works Scotland, and Mary Capplis from Louth Public Participation Network provided insights into Scottish, Irish and international approaches to community engagement.
Councillor Mulgrew continued, “In this, European Local Democracy Week, focusing on citizen participation and extending engagement, we are launching ‘Living Well Together’, our Community Plan for Newry, Mourne and Down. This is just the start of developing a wider community involvement to achieve our Community Plan outcomes and I would like to thank all those that have worked together to bring us to this stage in the process and to this launch event”.
Work to develop the ‘Living Well Together’ Community Plan has already involved many local organisations and individuals including Councillors, Community Planning team members, representatives from statutory, voluntary and community sectors, and members of the District Electoral Area (DEA) Fora. Newry, Mourne and Down District Council wishes to acknowledge their valued contribution and input to date. Without their commitment, vision and meaningful contribution and feedback it would not have been able to achieve such an insightful, relevant and progressive Community Plan.
Councillor Mulgrew also drew attention to involving and promoting the area’s local food businesses as part of the ‘Living Well Together’ Community Plan. The excellent catering for the event was provided by local artisan food companies Oakley Fayre supplied by Castlescreen Farm Dexter Beef, Downpatrick, Lick Gelato of Newcastle, The Fancy Fox of Castlewellan and Neary Nogs of Newry.