The latest Communities in Action Hard Times reports, provide evidence gathered by communities themselves on the impact of austerity and cuts on families and young people across Northern Ireland between July 2012 and February 2014. Many of these findings are supported by PSE national statistics. The four Hard Times reports also highlight examples of community resilience and set out recommendations for action.
Hard Times 1: The high cost of living
With increases in the cost of living, a lack of job opportunities and the insecurity many who are in work are experiencing, families are facing tough choices. Some people are losing their homes and many people feel that any security they had built up in recent years is slipping away. Changes to the Social Security system are already hitting some people hard and there is huge concern at community level that the expected Welfare Reform legislation will lead to further downward pressures on incomes and further contribute to the demonisation of those who are already amongst the most vulnerable in society.
You can watch a film by the Lettershandoney community group on the growing issue of housing repossession. Download the report The high cost of living below
Hard Times 2: Feeling the strain
The recession, cost of living increases and expected changes to the Social Security system are all putting pressure on people's financial situation, their family life and their physical and mental health. Few people are able to save and some people are becoming trapped in a cycle of debt just to pay basic household bills. As a result anxiety and stress are impacting on people's everyday health and on family relationships and leading to an increased sense of isolation.
You can watch a film about the spiral of debt many people face on the Ardoyne webpage. Download the report, Feeling the strain below.
Hard Times 3: Youth perspectives
The impact on young people growing up in families and areas hit by financial hardship are described by young people themselves in this report. These young people have clear ideas about how they would like to see their community improved as well as dreams and plans for their own lives. But they also talk about the barriers they face. These include the high cost of education, transport costs, lack of access to computers and the internet for school work, as well as the lack of full time jobs and career opportunities. Young people are also aware of money worries their parents are facing, and some of them feel tied to the family home because they cannot afford to move out or are fearful of the financial impact on their parents if they leave. Some also talk of the debt they face already in their young lives.
You can watch short films on youth issue on the Ardoyne and Fountain Street webpages. Download the report on Youth perspectives below.
Hard Times 4: Action-research as a Community tool
Charting how the Communities in Action Programme works, this report describes how this community-led research project brings together eight communities in a unique partnership with Community Foundation Northern Ireland and PSE.
Over the past two years between 60 and 80 people have taken part in community conversations to share experiences of living in hard times and to develop local initiatives that build resilience. The process has proved to be a powerful tool, introducing new communication and advocacy skills and building trust within the community.