Role of Parents in Our Society needs greater recognition - McGuinness
Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP MLA today called for greater recognition of the work and role of parents in our society.
He also highlighted the need to develop high quality programmes to support families in the creation of a better society.
Speaking at a special ceremony to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Orana Respite Centre in Newry, Mr McGuinness said: "As has been said many times, there is no guide book given to you on becoming a parent and yet it's the most important job many of us ever have the privilege to do.
"Supporting parents to help their children realise their full potential is key if we are to meet our objectives in the Programme of Government to reduce poverty and tackle underachievement.
"We want to see the all-round development of our children to ensure they flourish at home, in school and in society. We want to give those children, who need it most, the best possible start in life and to support their parents and carers in that vital role."
To help achieve this the Minister said: "There must be greater recognition of the valuable role of parents and the development of high quality programmes to support children and families as we try to create a better society for all children.
"We need to harness the expertise that exists and build on established programmes, improving the services and indeed in many cases, the access to those services."
The deputy First Minister praised the work of Orana saying it offered an example of what can be achieved with joined-up working and that such centres could be used as models when considering future plans.
"The excellent work and commitment of the centre demonstrates very clearly the help and support families need. The services it provides are designed to support both disadvantaged children and those disadvantaged children with disabilities.
"They remind us of the importance of addressing the particular and sustained needs of those caring for children with disabilities and highlight the real sense here of reaching out to those who need that support most," added Mr McGuinness.
As well as offering short-term respite care to children and young people with learning and an associated physical disability, the Orana centre also provides a wide range of children and family support including a Sure Start project, a day nursery, after school club and nursery for children, aged one to four, with special needs and their siblings.
Mr McGuinness also unveiled a plaque to commemorate his visit to the centre.