Brain Injury Matters (NI) – Member in Focus #27

Interview with Treasa Rice from Brain Injury Matters (NI)

Tell us a bit about yourself and/or your organisation.

Brain Injury Matters (NI) is an independent regional Charity established in 2013 to support, promote and empower those living with acquired brain injury (ABI). This can be a life-altering condition that can have significant physical, psychological, and emotional consequences.
We deliver therapeutic services at home and in community settings led by a diverse team of clinicians and specialist staff. Through our work, we have developed a range of programmes and initiatives working with children, young people and adults.
Our objectives include:
  1. Empowering children, young people, adults and their families to live beyond ABI;
  2. Create a greater awareness of the role of Brain Injury Matters (NI) and the services and support offered;
  3. To provide a stable and effective organisation.
The Wellbeing Programme offers a wide variety of group activities including sports/exercise, creative arts, health promotion and seasonal events. All of our activities are adapted to ensure each service user has the opportunity to participate on a physical and social level.
Children and Youth Service is designed and dedicated to empower families to support children and young people who have sustained an acquired brain injury (ABI) throughout Northern Ireland. We recognise that the whole family system is affected when a child or young person sustains an ABI. Our service works with the whole family unit to enable everyone to better manage the impact of ABI in daily life. Evidence-based practice forms the foundation of all our work.
Counselling Service is confidential one to one support for anyone affected by ABI, with an accredited counsellor who has proficient knowledge and understanding relating to brain injury. Counselling is available face to face or by telephone.
Youth Matters is community based programme providing one to one and group based support services to young people (13 – 25 years) who are affected by ABI.
Sports 4 U encourages participants to engage in a range of tailored programmes
including walking football, cross fit, yoga, Pilates, gymsticks and led to participation in European projects promoting sports for those living with ABI sharing best practice. Furthermore the Sports 4 U programme partners with Sustrans to deliver the Pedal Power project – a side by side cycling initiative.

How well have you/your organisation adapted to the pandemic?

Coronavirus has had a devastating effect on the lives of brain injury survivors and as a result, it is understandable that people have been feeling anxious, uncertain about what to do and many have had to shield and/or isolate themselves.
Due to current Government social distancing guidelines, we are unable to provide face to face services/groups. Subsequently, these individuals are even more profoundly socially isolated leading to severe loneliness.  To address these challenges we have adapted our delivery methods to create as many interactive ways to engage with service users as frequently as possible providing a sense of community cohesion under very changed circumstances.
We have been providing our services via telephone for our counselling service and used online platforms such as Skype/Zoom for group and family sessions/workshops. This allows us to engage frequently with our service users across all projects and subsequently helps to reduce feelings of isolation, anxiety and stress brought on by their brain injury and made worse by the current situation.
By adapting the delivery of our services we are ensuring that our service users are maintaining their access to rehabilitation in the form of psychology/neurophysio/health promotion/creative/play therapy/social work and counselling input.
How well have people/organisations in your area collaborated throughout the pandemic?
I think that organisations need to collaborate more throughout the pandemic. Particularly in relation to mental health. Brain injury is very isolating and under these current circumstances, it is even harder for our service users as they are missing their weekly face to face interactions with each other which is having a negative impact on their mental health.
What key needs are becoming apparent and/or are likely to arise this year?
I think the challenge moving forward is the need for core funding for charities. The majority of funding is project-based but charities are struggling with core funds to make their organisations more sustainable and resilient.
Furthermore, due to the pandemic, I believe that mental health services will be under more strain than ever and there is a need for collaborative work within the sector to help combat this.
ASK: What do you need, right now, that the members of Community Network NI and/or the wider community may be able to help you with?
We are currently in the process of building a network of BIM supporters or local Teams across Northern Ireland. We would hope that such Teams will shape and promote our work and lead our local fundraising efforts supporting the sustainability of services.
The Teams would be supported by BIM staff and volunteers, be constituted and have their own targets and priorities focusing on actions such as hosting events and developing annual fundraising plans. The Teams would help to lay the foundations for future community fundraising networks within BIM.
We, therefore, encourage individuals to be part of a BIM ‘Team’ in their local region.
We would love help in the development of regional BIM networks and teams – to spread the word for the recruitment of members.

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