Toybox: Working with Traveller families in Northern Ireland

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by Shirley Gillespie, REYN member from the Early Years organization.

Travellers are a distinct ethnic group within Irish society (recognised through such legislative provision as the Race Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 and Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998). Their lifestyle and culture, based on a nomadic tradition, set them apart from the settled community. They are widely acknowledged as one of the most marginalised and disadvantaged groups in Irish society, facing social exclusion, widespread disadvantage and discrimination.

All Traveller parents face challenges when caring for their children and young families, some families face additional burdens such as poverty, isolation and depression. Home visiting programmes like Toybox have been shown to be effective at working with families and supporting them develop the skills, knowledge and confidence to deal with issues such as these.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Toybox aims at enhancing the social, educational, emotional, physical, language and cognitive development of children as well as strengthening the capacity of Traveller parents to support their children’s well-being and eagerness to learn.

Particularly, the Toybox uses a rights-based service development model to significantly reduce the social and education inequalities experienced by young Traveller children through an outreach play-based early intervention service provided in partnership with children and parents.

Toybox conceptual framework of the child in the context of their family and community has been informed and influenced by Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory. This explains how social and environment impacts on the child’s growth and development.
Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory

Without family involvement, intervention is likely to be unsuccessful, and what few effects are achieved are likely to disappear once intervention is discontinued”. Urie Bronfenbrenner (1974)

If you want to learn more about Toybox, please download Shirley Gillespie’s presentation.