On Wednesday 1 March South Eastern Regional College (SERC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (SEHSCT). The MoU will allow the two organisations to work in partnership and alongside other community-based partners to operate the Youth Heath Advice Service. The Youth Health Advice Service offers free, tailored, impartial advice on a range of health and wellbeing topics to anyone under the age of 25 at the SERC Campuses.
SERC, though their partnership with the SEHSCT, opened the on-campus service back in 2012 which focus on raising awareness and giving advice on general health issues as well as issues such as drugs, alcohol, smoking cessation, sexual health, and emotional health and wellbeing. The service is available from 9:30am-12:30pm once a week at each of the college's campuses at Bangor, Downpatrick, Lisburn and Newtownards with support from the County Down Rural Community Network, YMCA and The Link (Newtownards).
The signing ceremony, held at the College's Downpatrick Campus was witnessed by college students, SERC staff and Trust representatives and was a unique opportunity to raise awareness of the service across the community.
Brendan Whittle Director of Children's Services & Executive Director of Social Work said "The South Eastern Trust is delighted to be working in partnership with the South Eastern Regional College and to be entering into a Memorandum of Understanding to further develop the Youth Health Advice Service. In today's society we are only too aware of the pressures on our young people with the increasing usage of social media, hazardous drinking, smoking, unsafe sexual behaviour and mental health issues. This is a great opportunity for our young people to attend a unique, personal, confidential and local facility suited to meet their ongoing medical needs and concerns. With the availability of a qualified youth health Nurse the young people can be assured of a professional and caring service with the ability of onward signposting and referral to other agencies. I would like to wish them the assurance of our support."
SERC principal and chief executive Ken Webb explains: "This exciting milestone recognises our continuing focus on looking after the welfare of all of our learners and I have great pleasure in signing the Memorandum of Understanding. The Youth Health Advisory Service offers students the opportunity to access one-to-one confidential support and free, impartial advice on a range of health issues, without having to wait to get an appointment with their GP. Working with health trust nurses and the community health practitioners, students have access to resources which focus on all aspects of health and wellbeing to help them make informed choices about their health."
"Our pastoral care programmme encourages all our students to take responsibility for their health and well-being and the Youth Health Advice Service plays an important part in this."
Gabrielle O'Neil from SEHSCT who is responsible for coordinating the service across all of the SERC campuses explains,
"We have been operating the service since 2012 and have seen many young people every week, so there is clearly a need for this type of support for the under 25s. This innovative partnership is a great way of reaching out to young people in their own environment."
"My experience is that young people have many health related worries and concerns around their health and in particular around smoking, alcohol and drug use, sexual health and pregnancy, and emotional health issues such as anxiety and depression. Rather than worry about these issues we would urge them to avail of the service to discuss their concerns with us so that we can give them personalised advice and help."
In addition to the organisations mentioned above SERC works with a wide range of partners to ensure that the health needs of their students are met. These include Carecall, PIPS, Policing Community and Safety Partnership, MYMY, ASCERT, Samaritans and others.
It operates as a drop-in service and is available to all 16 – 25 year olds across the South East trust area regardless of age, gender, study type or country of origin. To book a slot, please visit SERC's reception from 9:30-12:30pm where appointment will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. If you would prefer to book an appointment by email or telephone please contact the Ruth Ewing, Youth Health Nurse from SEHSCT on 07753310352 or email firstname.lastname@example.org