Tracey Holt, Co-ordinator of Dunmanway FRC, and Michael McCarthy TD at the launch of the Family Resource Centre National Forum annual report in Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel. Pic: Conor O’Mearain

THE impact of the economic downturn has resulted in a significant increase in both the number and range of responses that Family Resource Centres (FRCs) are delivering in communities across West Cork.

That’s according to the 2011 annual report on the work of FRCs, which was launched recently by the Family Resource Centres National Forum and the Family Support Agency.

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD, officiated at the launch.

There are 106 Family Resource Centres located throughout Ireland with three, Adrigole, Bandon and Dunmanway located in West Cork.

The Family Resource Centre programme is funded primarily by the Family Support Agency, which operates under the aegis of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

Under the programme, strong emphasis is placed on child and family supports.

FRCs work to promote enhanced health; active learning; safety (both from accidental and intentional harm); economic security; and greater participation in society.

According to the Chairperson of the Family Resource Centres National Forum, Claire Dineen, the services and supports for which people are coming to their local FRC are changing.  “At the outset of the recession in 2008, Family Resource Centres were heavily involved in supporting jobseekers with CV preparation and information about welfare entitlements,” she said.

“However, the nature of people’s engagement with us has shifted.  While there is still a demand for jobseeker support, many people are now looking to us for ways to connect with their community.

“In particular, people are seeking to be involved in initiatives such as men’s sheds and support groups for people in long-term unemployment or with mental health issues.

“There’s a growing recognition that there’s no quick-fix solution to the problems that have been presented by the recession.  People know that finding a job is not easy and – in some cases – may no longer be possible.  Yet, they want to stay connected – especially where they no longer have a job to go to.”

According to the annual report, Family Resource Centres have experienced a significant demand for education and training courses from unemployed people.

“In a very testing environment, FRCs have responded to increased demands by providing a greater level and range of interventions to the communities in which we serve.

“Last year, we delivered 24 per cent more training and development courses than in 2010 and, collectively, we helped to form over 300 new community groups.

“These interventions are ensuring that individuals and families don’t become isolated and unsupported as the impact of the recession deepens,” said Ms Dineen.

The majority of the new community groups established with assistance from FRCs last year were focused on young people and on men.

Two Family Resource Centres established community-banking schemes over the past year, and these are now being used by more than 1,500 people.

“Over the decades, we have noticed that groups such as women, lone parents and older people are quicker to engage with their local Family Resource Centre,” said Claire Dineen.

“Our objective is to support families. So, as more men fall into long-term unemployment, more young people are affected by the stresses of recession on their family, and more families struggle with limited finances, we adapt by ensuing that targeted interventions are in place.”

In 2011, Family Resource Centres continued to have a strong demand for their childcare programmes, after school and homework programmes, as well as parenting courses, courses on healthy eating and the delivery of responses to anti-social activities within communities.

In the past year, Family Resource Centres responded to a record number of advice and information queries.

In total, 223,077 people attended their local FRC to access advice or information (this compared with192,705 in 2010).

The main areas on which advice and information were sought were enterprise and employment issues; social welfare entitlements; and family support and counselling services.

Of the total number of queries received by FRCs, 157,402 were dealt with directly by FRCs, while a further 65,675 were referred on to services such as Citizens’ Information Centres, the Money Advice and Budgeting Service and VECs.