The national charity, Redeeming Our Communities (ROC), launched a Northern Ireland branch at the Waterfront arena in Belfast. The event was also to celebrate ‘how partnership working is paving the way forward’ in local community relations.
ROC was founded in 2004 with over 50 projects throughout the UK. Its aim is to lower crime and disorder and ‘to bring together community groups, churches, the police, the fire service, local authorities and voluntary agencies to encourage them to work together in positive partnership for practical change’. As Ms. Jan Simmons (Executive PA to the ROC Director) explained, ROC’s aim is to provide groups the tools to realise better communities. Another aim is to run community projects in partnership with different cities in the UK, as well as with different actors such as the police within those cities.
The event started with a resource exhibition held at the entrance of the Waterfront Hall, highlighting work of community organisations. Afterwards, there was a pre-show event that included an Irish dancing performance by some girls from the Revie School of Dance.
The showcase event featured Jim Eastwood, one of the final four contestants in the reality series The Apprentice, and Debra Green, the ROC Director. There was a list of speakers, with performances breaking up any monotony. Public speakers included: Dale Ashford (Assistant Chief Fire Officer); David Ford MLA (Northern Ireland Minister of Justice); Martina Anderson MLA (Junior Minister, OFMDFM); and Matt Baggott (Chief Constable, PSNI). PSNI Superintendent Stephen Cargin and Chief Superintendent Mark Hamilton also spoke to the audience.
In words of Minister David Ford: “Supporting safer communities is a key tenet of the new Northern Ireland community safety strategy, Building Safer, Shared and Confident Communities. The newly established Policing and Community Safety Partnerships will be central to the delivery of this Strategy.”
The policing dimension was evident throughout the event, with its working relationship appreciated by ROC. For example, Matt Baggott told to UTV: “We want to see our officers being able to go to different churches and encourage them to work together, where there is a need. So whether that’s in providing places for young people to go, whether it’s in creating street warden schemes, whether it is supporting the elderly, you know we have a fear of crime amongst the elderly at the moment, there are so many things that can be done.”
Representation from community groups and voluntary agencies included: Youth for Christ NI; Blue Houses; East Belfast Mission (Mark Houston, Mission Director); Street Pastors; and Girls Brigade NI (Chloe Hemphill, Director). It is interesting to stress what Ms Hemphill said regarding ROC: “Girls’ Brigade Northern Ireland are delighted to be working with ROC as they launch into Northern Ireland … ROC has a fantastic vision to bring communities together and promote a better, safer world for everyone.”
At the end of the event, ROC invited assistants to donate a small amount of money in order to start 20 new projects in Northern Ireland.
It was an entertaining while informative evening, and all these guests showed how ROC is currently helping communities reduce crime and anti-social behaviour, highlighting that there is still a lot of work to do.