Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Joseph Garcia joined Minister for Health, Care and Justice Neil Costa, Housing Minister Samantha Sacramento and Youth Minister Steven Linares at the inauguration of the new Family and Community Centre in the Mid Harbour Estate, yesterday.
The Mid Harbour Centre aims to provide a multi-agency service that will offer the different organisations working directly with children, young people and families the opportunity to engage with them in different ways.
The ministers unveiled a plaque at the opening.
Also present was the Chief Executive of the Care Agency, Natalie Tavares, Head of Children Services Nicole Viagas and Clare Lockwood who will be the co-ordinator of the centre.
“The aim of the Family and Community Centre will be to meet the needs and enhance the strengths of our community. The Care Agency will ensure that it is a community-led initiative whereby the programmes and early support offered will be tailor-made to meet the needs experienced by those in the community,” said Ms Viagas.
“Our mission is to provide an empowering, community-focused service, which enables families to thrive. I am extremely grateful at the opportunity to work with the different staff teams who will run this service and to those persons who have worked relentlessly to make this possible,” she added.
Mr Costa thanked his fellow ministers: Dr Garcia for allocating the premises and Ms Sacramento for developing the concept.
“The service provided by the Family and Community Centre will be a multi-disciplinary one. The Care Agency, together with other departments and organisations working with children and their families, have explored different options and services so as to ensure that the Centre’s use is maximised to meet the varied needs of our community,” said Mr Costa.
“This means, for example, that the Youth Service will also have an allocated time slot. We fully embrace the opportunities which this centre will offer and support the vision for this service,” he added.
Ms Sacramento stated that upon the advice of the professionals the primary function of social services is “early intervention”.
“It is something we have transformed over the years because early intervention is absolutely paramount to prevent matters from escalating and this [the centre] provides an absolutely perfect venue to enable the professionals to be able to discharge their services,” she said.
She called the opening of the centre a dream being made into reality, as it was something she had desired to see prior to being in Government and had worked at achieving since she was voted into office.
During the inauguration, Mr Costa also noted that there is compelling evidence to show that the provision of early help and support to families avoids difficulties for children and their parents at later stages in their lives.
“We are increasingly working on prevention rather than reactive measures, I think it is a fundamental part of our philosophy that we try to step in before we see problems that may arise and even before there is a germ of a problem and we think we may be able to assist families, young persons and children,” he said.
“In effect, the philosophy is that you have families who may for example have difficulties in parenting or you may have children who are on the cusp of perhaps entering into a world of not necessarily serious but petty criminality. But again there will be serious cases in the extreme. What we want to achieve is an atmosphere that is relaxed and informal but also full of the expertise that is required to be able to identify these emerging issues before they become problems,” he added.
The Family and Community Centre will run structured programmes such as the Incredible Years parenting programme and will also offer informal drop-in sessions. The latter will provide parents the opportunity to meet other parents and make friends, or seek advice from the professionals at hand.
Supporting the centre are the Gibraltar Health Authority, Drug and Rehabilitation Services, the Youth Service, Department of Education, Citizen’s Advice Bureau and other voluntary organisations and support groups.