Strike at Lakewood care home now into second month
Staff at one of Northern Ireland's main care homes for children and young people are striking for a second month over proposed changes to their shifts.
The 13 employees at Lakewood Regional Secure Centre in Bangor, who work as night shift supervisors, have been picketing unpaid over a new rota.
They claim it requires staff to work fewer hours per shift but they have to come in an extra 36 days per year.
The South Eastern Health Trust said its proposed compromise had been rejected.Vulnerable
In a statement, the trust said it had put forward a revised proposal on 11 July which would mean that staff would be required to work "16 additional shorter shifts" per year, but their trade union did not accept the offer.
Lakewood is made up of four units including Ashgrove care home in Newtownards. About 30 vulnerable young people live in these facilities.
Staff have said the changes would also require them to work more weekends, but their main concern was that the children in the home would have less continuity in staff care.
The Voice of Young People in Care (VOYPIC) represents the children at the centre.
Its chief executive Vivian McConvey said she wants to see the strike resolved between NIPSA and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust.
"My priority is the health and well-being of the children and young people being cared for away from home and in the care of the trust," she said.'Concern'
"This picket is taking place at a children's home which should not be the focus of any industrial dispute.
"This is a children's home and the young people living there should enjoy the same privacy and sense of security as any of us in our own homes.
"We hope that there will be an immediate end to the picket and a swift resolution to the dispute for the benefit of young people in the care of the trust," Ms McConvey added.
The trust said: "Our first and paramount concern remains the safety and the well being of the young people in our care".
They added that they remained "hopeful" of a resolution to the dispute and would continue to meet staff and their trade union representatives to find a way forward.
"In the interim, we have arranged for appropriate measures to be put in place to cover those working arrangements previously undertaken by this staff group and firmly believe that continuation of this dispute is futile," the trust's statement said.
NIPSA Philip Boomer said he appreciated and understood VOYPIC's role in ensuring the health and wellbeing of young people in care but did not consider its intervention "helpful at this time".
"NIPSA's rejects any suggestion and the inference that the strike pickets at the facilities in Bangor and Newtownards have adversely affected the privacy, sense of security or wellbeing of the young people within these units," he said.
"All the pickets that have taken place have been carried out lawfully, peacefully and responsibly and there is no evidence that the picketing has caused any detriment or harm to any of the young people in the trust's care."
He added that pickets had been arranged at times when the young people were least likely to be disturbed.
"NIPSA is committed to securing an early resolution to this dispute and will continue to build upon progress," he added.