The Family Learning Centre has became the first social service agency in Bermuda to achieve international accreditation.

And Executive Director Martha Dismont hopes other agencies will follow suit to give clients confidence they will get professional help.

She said: “The bottom line is families struggle, and in order for them to do better helping agencies have got to be up to standard.

“There are lots of people helping and lots of resources going into the agencies and charity dollars, but are they effective?

“Do families know how to get to you?”

She said accreditation also guaranteed agencies were properly evaluated.

Ms Dismont said some agencies such as the Reading Clinic and the Women’s Resource Centre were operating to very, very high standards.

“Accreditation isn’t for everyone but everyone should have some form of evaluation.”

She said agencies in the sensitive areas such as drugs should be looking towards accreditation.

The Family Learning Centre will be increasing its PR to make sure families knew about their services said Ms Dismont who said the organisation was already getting out into the community more.

“We are helping the National Drug Commission with the St. Monica’s Mission Project to see what the youth need.”

The Family Learning Centre is a clinically-based programme which helps families difficulties such divorce, drug abuse, parenting, and emotional and behaviour instability.

Ms Dismont said: “It works with the whole family to overcome these issues that unless addressed, eventually become problems for our youth.”

Services provided are case management, clinical counselling, parent and child groups, academic help, and community development.

The Family Learning Centre got their accreditation on December 12 and Ms Dismont hopes this will prompt Government to give it more support.

It is the first organisation outside of the US and Canada to be accredited by the Council on Accreditation, based in New York City.

She said the accreditation ensured standards of confidentiality. She said: “Families are concerned about confidentiality in a small community.”

Accreditation also gave families confidence they would get better when they came for help, said Ms Dismont.

Around 75 families have been helped by the Reid Street based organisation this year. Ms Dismont said: “Last year it was 90. Families are more intense and stay with us slightly longer. Most of them were single parent families. Last year it was 50/50.

“The issues were neglect, abuse, divorce and serious behavioural issues.”

Referrals often come from schools said Ms Dismont: “Then we find out there is a problem with the family.

“Accreditation is essentially the result of an extensive `audit’ of all of our programme and organisational practices.

“It is a measurement tool – to identify an agency’s strengths and weaknesses.”

Ms Dismont said: “The benefits of accreditation to an agency, and therefore the community it serves, are enormous.”

She said accreditation stimulates improvement, protects against pressure to lower standards, enables organisations to meet requirements of donors and investors; demonstrates accountability in the management of resources; builds morale among personnel, increases programme effectiveness and gives consumers confidence.

Ms Dismont said: “The community will benefit greatly from our accreditation because by meeting the required international standards for accreditation it provides a model of excellence for the community that others can choose to emulate in their pursuit of higher standards of service delivery.

“Quality service, accountability, and professional treatment and care – these are our standard of service for the community.

“We are eager to share the benefits of meeting standards such as these with others because we know that the entire community of service providers and their clients will ultimately be more productive because of it.”

She congratulated the staff and Board for their persistence and hard work for the past year and a half during this application process and for putting Bermuda on the international map for charities in achieving accreditation.