September member visits

Each month we plan to meet some of our members to find out more about what they do, what challenges they are facing and how NICVA can support them.

In September we met with Robert McQuiston from Newtownabbey Senior Citizens Forum, Aileen Ui Dhonnghaile from Eating Disorders NI and George Newell from Lagan Village Community Group.

Lagan Village Community Group

This group is the lifeblood of their local community and through their work have made so many positive changes to their community and environment. They have very strong links with The Orchardville Society who hold lots of activities in the centre and are currently planning a Christmas Extravaganza. They also have counselling services in the centre as well as youth provision and health promotion.


They depend very heavily on volunteers and are finding it more difficult to get people to commit to help. The centre itself poses its own challenges in terms of the upkeep and providing the necessary resources such as heating. George told us about the many challenges they face from acute housing issues to unemployment. One of their main issues is one-year contracts and not being able to effectively plan ahead because of this. There is a lot of pressure on one person to keep everything going and find funding to provide all the vital services.

Benefits of NICVA membership

They have benefited from NICVA training, use CommunityNI to advertise posts and value the updates from Seamus.

Newtownabey Senior Citizens Forum 

The Forum is a hub of activity of older people in the Antrim and Newtownabbey Council area, providing a place for people to come and make new friends, learn new skills and have fun.

They have been successful in securing People in Communities Programme funding from The Big Lottery Fund meaning that they can continue to provide vital services for the older people and making a real difference in their lives.


Robert raised some of the issues he faced such as some funders always wanting something “new” when what is being delivered is working well and making an impact. He also mentioned the short-term funding issue which means support workers can only be offered fixed term contracts and results in difficulties with rebuilding relationships and re-training after the life of each project. He highlighted concerns over asset transfer and the possible costs that could be incurred.

Benefits of NICVA membership

In terms of NICVA membership Robert really benefits from attending the members events and NICVA training, not only for the learning but also for the networking and connecting with others that he has things in common with. He also mentioned the importance of having NICVA to provide advice and guidance on legislation and governance issues.

Eating Disorders NI

This organisation provides a range of valuable services to those with eating disorders such as advice, signposting, support groups, one to one support and a 24-hour helpline. They also run early intervention/prevention programmes in schools, youth and community groups. 


The biggest challenge for them is not having enough or indeed secure enough funding to operate to the full potential, so they are extremely stretched, therefore they are not seeing people that need to be seen. This especially worrying as research and NICE guidelines show that early and immediate intervention from specialist services is paramount.  They are left trying to bridge a gap for an extremely under resourced specialist service while they are underfunded and also have undergone cuts.

Benefits of NICVA membership

They have really benefited from NICVA’s advice and guidance on GDPR and governance and have attended the GDPR training. The members’ bulletin is a great way of keeping up to date as well as the emails from Seamus. It’s so important to have a voice and be part of a larger network of organisations and get the support that is needed.

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