Caroline Owen has been appointed to the Support Worker role at Belfast Central Mission, which will see her assist vulnerable young people in developing the skills needed to live independently.

We have donated £75,000 to Belfast Central Mission (BCM) across a three-year period has enabled the charity to recruit a new Support Worker.

BCM has appointed Caroline Owen to the east Belfast based role following a career in the UK Prison Service (HMPS).

Ms Owen brings a wealth of experience to the position including trauma-informed training and supporting those in the justice system to reintegrate into society upon their release.

As a former Care Leavers Champion with HMPS, she is also well versed in assisting young people with daily activities including shopping, job applications, developing their interview skills, and encouraging them to attend other support services.

In her new position, Ms Owen has already been providing support and assistance to young people between the ages of 16-21 to build confidence and help them to prepare to live independently when they leave BCM’s Supported Housing Project.

She will guide them with practical support in all aspects of daily life including domestic assistance, cooking, decorating, shopping, and financial budgeting.

An invaluable asset to the charity which has faced many challenges in recent years, including the rise in drug usage here and a shortage of appropriate housing stock to accommodate its users, Ms Owen will provide what she calls a holistic person-centred approach.

Speaking about her new role, Caroline Owen said: “I am delighted to be a Support Worker with BCM to continue the amazing work it has been doing in this Supported Housing Project since 1992. To be part of supporting those who have experienced care, not only practically such as assisting with shopping, and attending job fairs, but taking them to counselling services and encouraging them to stick with anger management classes can feel very enriching. 

“A young person can have anxiety surrounding these types of situations, therefore being with them to do such activities really does make the difference.”

Ms Owen, who worked in the prison service for 22 years, added: “However, I also enjoy doing fun activities such as bowling, walks, going for lunch and a chat away from the project, even kicking a football around Victoria Park! This has really helped me build up a sound rapport with the young people and allows them to get away from the mundane of everyday life. We are planning a trip to Newcastle. We just need to pick a day with good weather!”

The funding has been spread over a three-year period and contribute to the salary of a full-time support worker.

Jim Burke, Director of Sales and Acquisitions, Hagan Homes, said: “They say ‘home is where the heart is’ and for us, this expression is embedded in our culture. We do all we can to put the heart into local communities and support charities with a similar drive, and Belfast Central Mission is one organisation that resonates with that principle.

“Being able to fund a care worker for the Supported Housing project in east Belfast for a third year running is not only humbling but it’s a charitable partnership that allows us to see the true impact of the commitment. We wish Caroline every success in carrying out the admirable work that BCM does and know that her wealth of experience will be an asset to the charity and its users.”

Nathan Catterson, BCM Project Manager, said: “We are delighted to have Hagan Homes support us with the funds needed for a Support Worker’s salary. This will make a tangible difference to our services and will, again, enable us to work more creatively and flexibly with our residents, the benefits of which will be felt by some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged young people in our society.

“During the current climate, more than ever, support from third parties is integral for the survival of any charity and this partnership continuing into the third year is very much welcomed.

“We welcome Caroline to the team and already her input is evident. We look forward to supporting many more young people through our Supported Housing Project.”

Founded in 1889, Belfast Central Mission (BCM) was originally a local Christian response to social problems in inner-city Belfast. Today it has evolved to offer its invaluable support to disadvantaged and vulnerable young people, children, families and older people throughout Northern Ireland.