PSE team members from Queens University Belfast and the Open University have teamed up with the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland (CFNI) to support their Communities in Action programme working with disadvantaged communities in Northern Ireland, to research the issues affecting them and provide a collective voice for their findings.
You can download the latest PSE impact report on this collaboration, "We are sitting with the big people now" at the end of the page.
The participating communities
Participating communities are: Ardoyne, Cregagh and Donegall Pass in Belfast, Doury Road in Ballymena, Fountain Street and Springhill Park in Strabane, Lettershandoney, Bready and The Villages Together in Co. Derry/Londonderry and Taghnevan in Co. Armagh.
Community groups report that the combined effect of the recession and the austerity measures are devastating, placing immense pressures on both family and community relationships.
In Northern Ireland, eight community groups (representing a number of communities) have joined forces to track the impact of the economic recession, changes to the benefits system and cuts to public services on the lives of local people, as part of CFNI’s Communities in Action programme.
These communities are located in areas of social and economic deprivation across Northern Ireland including rural housing estates, urban high rises, small villages, and city centre streets and include segregated Catholic and Protestant communities as well as mixed communities. Between 60 and 80 people across the communities are participating in this three-year project. Young people, parents in low paid or insecure work, pensioners and people with disabilities are all taking part in community conversations (focus groups) to systematically gather information on what is happening in their communities.
The PSE research team in collaboration with CFNI is providing training and support to help the participating groups document what is happening locally in a way that is both systematic and uses a variety of media, including video and photographs, to make an impact. By working with the PSE team, the project can make links to the PSE research findings for both Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole, enabling the findings to be placed in a wider context and the PSE research results to be explored at a local level. To achieve this, the PSE surveys on basic necessities and living standards were provided as a starting point for the initial focus group discussions. As the results are gathered, each community is being given a space on the PSE website to document their findings and share their experiences with others.
This community research has enabled local communities to assess local needs and thereby help community practitioners offer targeted support. CiA community groups have set up welfare benefits newsletters and healthy cookery classes. Complementary therapies have been introduced to reduce stress and budgeting strategies and advice on more affordable credit have been provided.
Working together the community groups have also been able to begin to make an impact across Northern Ireland. They’ve lobbied their local politicians and decision makers and submitted evidence to the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Social Development on the Welfare Reform Bill. In February 2013 the communities launched their first community evidence report at an event in Stormont, alongside a screening of a community-made film on debt to politicians, representatives of the voluntary and community sector, charities and other third sector organisations. Read the CiA report Scraping by from week to week presented at the Long Gallery in Stormont.
About this project
This collaboration is between the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland (CFNI) and members of the PSE team led by Mike Tomlinson and Grace Kelly from Queen's University and Gabi Kent from the Open University. Please feel free to contact us.
For background information on this innovative community engagement project and how it was developed, contact Gabi Kent. The final report on this project is also available to download as a PDF below.
CFNI works with local communities and marginalised groups in Northern Ireland across a range of development and grant programmes. Communities in Action (CiA) is a three year project running from 2012 to 2014 working with groups to track the impact of the recession and austerity measures in their neighbourhood and to develop local initiatives to build resilience. Communities in Action is part of the CFNI’s Social Justice Programme, and receives support from The Atlantic Philanthropies and Children in Need.
For further information on Communities in Action visit the CFNI website.
To find out more community findings, download CFNI’s full report on the first round of focus groups below.