AI Homecare expanding to meet increased demand for domiciliary support

By | Business, General, Health

A Northern Ireland domiciliary care business has recently taken on 21 new staff with plans to employ another 40 as soon as possible to meet growing demand within the sector.

AI Homecare Group has opened a new administration office at Innovation Factory in order to provide care workers to people in Belfast, particularly in the North and West of the city.

Gemma McWilliams, Support Manager with AI Homecare explained: “There are approximately 5,000 hours of Domiciliary care needing to be filled currently in the Belfast area. We plan to continually recruit over the coming months in order to help fill those packages of care and ensure that people get the high-quality service they require to remain at home.”

The company, which is contracted by the Belfast and South Eastern Trusts, works exclusively with the National Health Service recruiting and training home care workers for a range of services, including personal care, preparation of meals, domestic and household duties, support with medication and respite care.

AI Homecare chose to take an office within the Innovation Factory on the Springfield Road for its convenient location, the support they receive from the centre’s team and the facilities they say are ideal for interviewing and training new employees.

“Every person is entitled to support in their home and a care package will be determined by the trust. But it’s imperative that we employ the right people with not only the skills and ability but a warm, professional way of interacting with service users,” she explained.

Finding new staff has been difficult in the current employment market and while the company provides excellent terms and conditions, they are continually discussing how they can attract new people with the various health trusts.

“This is such an important job and without great carers, many service users stay in hospital much longer as they are unable to come home without support. Services such as ours are vital to the NHS particularly in these challenging times to help alleviate current pressures, on an already overwhelmed health service. Even in these difficult times we continue to deliver the best standard of care to our service users and much needed support to our amazing team of care staff,” she said.

Innovation Factory Centre Director Majella Barkley said: “AI Homecare provides a very important service, helping people to remain in their homes by giving them the best possible care. There is a huge demand for domiciliary care for vulnerable people in West and North Belfast and we are delighted that the company chose Innovation Factory as its base to reach out to the community.”

To find out more about AI Homecare go to

Stormont Executive must provide more support for isolated rural women

By | News, Newsroom, Women's Issues

Northern Ireland’s rural women have met at Stormont to demand more support from the Executive to tackle social isolation and improve access to support services.

Louise Coyle, Director of Northern Ireland Rural Women’s Network (NIRWN) said that Government funding for services for women in rural areas was desperately low and this needed to change.

She said: “Rural women make up a fifth of the Northern Ireland population, yet they receive just 1.3% of government funding distributed to women in this region.  NIRWN does receive some core funding from government and have always been grateful for that support but that investment is 13% of what it was in 2006.   We deserve better than this.”

NIRWN, which is celebrating its 15th birthday, has launched a new four-year Strategic Plan that looks at how the participation of women in rural areas can be improved and supported.

The event was taking place ahead of the United Nations International Day of Rural Women on October 15.  The UN states that achieving gender equality and empowerment for women is not only the right thing to do but critical in the fight against extreme poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

Attending the event were members of the Northern Ireland Assembly Women’s Caucus, who took part in a Q&A event looking at the challenges for women in rural areas. They discussed poverty, isolation, the lack of broadband coverage and the challenges to the rural environment caused by climate change, as well as the effect of the pandemic on the lives of women in rural areas.

Ms Coyle said the recent challenges of Covid-19 had shone a light on the challenges faced by women in rural areas.

“Rural isolation is a daily reality for many, and I think each of us got a taste of what feeling socially isolated is like during the pandemic. Lack of access to services is a very common feature of rural life and lockdown illustrated that Broadband is now an essential utility and not an optional luxury; we knew this in rural areas and as much as there are active moves to address this barrier, too many are still being left behind.”

While the Covid-19 pandemic presented many challenges to people in rural areas it also helped to strengthen the power of community and collective action. During lockdown NIRWN launched a number of new initiatives including a ‘Rural Reach’ tablet loan scheme for women with access to technological devices and a private ‘Fed Up To Fabulous’ Facebook for people to chat and offer peer support.

Among those who accessed these services was NIRWN member Maura Colgan from Mid Ulster who said: “We cannot underestimate the impact Covid 19 has had on our wellbeing and community but there are hopes of better days to come.  We all have had to adapt to a new way of connecting and engaging. NIRWN delivered lots of courses and support to help us through a very difficult and challenging period for which I am very grateful.

“There is a growing need in our community for additional mental health and wellbeing support.  We need a safe place that offers welcome to everyone, provides fun and support.  Women have so many gifts and skills to make a difference to our own family lives and then that will have ripple effect throughout our communities.”

For more information about the Northern Ireland Rural Women’s Network visit:


By | Business, General

A high-tech Craigavon company is celebrating a decade of year-on-year growth in advanced security solutions that are now used around the world.

Philip Murdock, who founded Envision Intelligent Solutions ten years ago, attributes its success to its ethos of continually developing innovative new products.

Envision MD Mr Murdock said: “My aim from the beginning was to use ‘tomorrow’s security solutions today’ and this philosophy has driven everything we do. All of our innovative products and services pair netcentric technology solutions with personal service from a highly skilled team.”

“Our philosophy has always been to listen to our customers and react to their needs. For us, the most exciting thing is being able to solve a problem for our clients, to make their businesses more competitive or to improve safety for their workers,” he explained.

Envision has now grown to a workforce of 50 spread across offices in Northern Ireland, England and the US and includes two additional directors – Operations Director Graeme McCandless and Commercial Director Amanda Campbell.

“Our people are the key to our success and are continually offered training and development so that we can evolve as a company. By focusing on our very clear mission, we plan continued growth for the next decade with the launch of several new, innovative products in the coming months,” Commercial Director Amanda Campbell said.

The business was founded in 2011 to provide remote security to its first client, Silverwood Property Developments. Envision removed the static guarding system on site and installed cameras and remote barriers to manage security from a control room built at Envision’s current premises on location in Craigavon.

The company quickly grew and now provides remote security to major car dealerships across the UK, including Bells of Crossgar, Charles Hurst, Lookers and Isaac Agnew.

One of the key moments of growth was the development of its super high-tech Alarm Receiving Centre designed and built in Craigavon.

Phillip Murdock explained: “By constantly upgrading our infrastructure, we were poised to move into the construction sector in 2018 and that lead to huge growth for us. By really understanding and listening to our customers, we were able to develop a contactless facial-recognition turnstile for building site staff during the pandemic.”

The company has also expanded into open-source intelligence services, Security FM services, drones as well as developing its own aircraft to provide aerial surveillance.

Operations Director Graeme McCandless added: “As a company we started our journey by offering remote monitoring and CCTV installation to a single client ten years ago. Now we are in multiple sectors, providing on site and cyber security, with a large staff team in three locations.”

“We’ve worked hard to make sure that we are one step ahead through our knowledge and capability delivered by our dedicated staff teams. By doing this we’ve retained many of our original clients while also developing in new markets. Our dream of providing tomorrow’s security solutions today continues to be the driving force behind everything we do,” he said.

£120,000 ‘financial lifeline’ for d/Deaf and Disabled Artists

By | Creative Industries, Dance, General, Music, News, Theatre

Disabled artists are being offered a “financial lifeline” through a £120,000 grant package to fund new work as the arts sector begins to fully reopen.

The University of Atypical will be awarding a minimum of 60 grants of £2,000 through the D/deaf and Disabled Artists Support Fund 3, which is funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Department for Communities, to support D/deaf, disabled and Neurodiverse artists.

Many artists struggled financially and emotionally during the lockdown and this funding will be vital in helping them rebuild their careers, Damien Coyle, CEO of University of Atypical explained.

This jointly funded scheme aims to provide much needed financial support to D/deaf, Disabled and Neurodiverse creative practitioners at a time when their potential to generate income has been seriously impacted by the closure of art galleries, theatres, music venues and other creative outlets due to Covid-19.

Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts and Education, Arts Council Northern Ireland said: “The re-opening of the D/deaf and Disabled Artists Support Fund is welcome news. This funding programme has been designed to support those D/deaf, Disabled and Neurodiverse artists who were left struggling a result of the pandemic. As the arts sector now safely reopens, this fund provides critically-needed support to individual artists, enabling them to create new work.”

Damien Coyle, CEO of the University of Atypical, commented: “The importance of this funding scheme should not be underestimated.  The outcome of our survey of grant recipients showed there was continuing challenges faced by creative practitioners.  The responses clearly indicated that artists were experiencing wellbeing issues and there is a concern about the risk for their future involvement in the sector.  This lifeline will help those artists restore their creative practice. We thank the Minister, Deirdre Hargey, the Department for Communities, and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for their continued support for D/deaf, disabled and Neurodiverse.”

Deirdre Hargey, Minister for Communities, said: “I am delighted to formally launch the D/deaf and Disabled Artists Support Fund. This is the third round of funding my Department has made available to support D/deaf, Disabled and Neurodiverse artists during the Covid -19 pandemic. As we emerge from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the fund is designed to support those D/deaf, Disabled and Neurodiverse artists restore their creative practice and rebuild livelihoods.”

She added: “The fund provides critically-needed support to D/deaf, Disabled and Neurodiverse artists to continue with their creative practice and offers practical help to meet costs such as materials, mentoring, studio rent, recording studio hire or simply time to produce new work.”

The University of Atypical has designed the D/deaf and Disabled Artists Support Fund to be adaptable and accessible and various options are available to meet the access requirements of applicants.

D/deaf, Disabled and Neurodiverse artists play an essential role in the culture, arts and heritage sector and is a reflective of the diversity and inclusiveness of our society. This funding will assist artists in continuing with this important contribution.

Information, application packs, and advice clinic registration forms are available from the following link: