The BELONG Programme is a cross-sectoral, inter-agency family support programme. Its primary aim is to promote a sense of belonging for black & minority ethnic (BME) children in Northern Ireland communities, schools and society.
The BELONG Programme originated from the BME Working Group of Children’s Services Planning in the Southern Area of Northern Ireland, an area with a high population of settled ethnic communities, migrant workers and indigenous Irish Traveller families. The collective insights of this Working Group, into the gap in outcomes for BME children in comparison to those of their peers,along with the findings of a commissioned epidemiological study, ‘A Need to Belong’, (Biggart et al, 2009), formed the basis of BELONG’s Service Plan.
With financial support from the Atlantic Philanthropies, the BELONG Programme became operational in April 2009 and is supported by the BELONG Partnership made up of representatives from the statutory, voluntary and community sectors: NI Health & Social Care Board, Southern Health & Social Care Trust, Southern Education & Library Board, Inclusion & Diversity Service, Wah Hep and South Tyrone Empowerment Programme (STEP). STEP is the anchor organisation, holding management and administrative responsibility for the BELONG Programme. An Expert Advisory Group provides quality assurance for the programme and the evaluation.
The overarching aim of BELONG is to promote a sense of belonging in the wider community among BME children, aged 7-12.
In order to achieve this aim, BELONG has focused on the following outcomes:
- To increase cultural confidence and competence
- To increase participation in clubs and schools
- To increase educational attainment of the Traveller community
- To reduce bullying and racial bullying
- To increase levels of resilience