Lettershandoney is a small estate in an otherwise rural area of County Derry. Look beyond the 150 houses and the primary school of Lettershandoney and you see quiet fields but our rural community suffers from lack of access to services and people here feel excluded and socially isolated. Despite being only five miles southeast of Derry City, the area is not on one of the arterial routes linked to the city and as a result we have had little or no inward investment in its 50 years existence.
In recent years physical and mental health projects have proved to be vital in combating rural isolation and associated problems like debt, prescription medicine and alcohol misuse. But the recession and job insecurity has hit this community hard. Watch our film here.
This film is the copyright of Lettershandoney DDG and the CiA collaboration.
Research and findings
Lettershandoney District Development Group (LDDG) runs the Communities in Action
(CiA) project here. We brought together a group of nine women to share and document their experiences of the impact of the economic recession on themselves and their families. The women are mothers and grandmothers and two of the group are working part-time.
Our focus group discussions reveal increasing financial and job insecurity and rising debt as a result.
For some, hopes and aspirations of building up a small business or benefitting from moving up the housing ladder, are now gone. Others are losing their jobs and even their homes.
One of our focus group participants described the personal cost of the economic crash:
I ran my own business for a good few years and had to close up because I wasn’t getting no business, but I still have all the worries of all the debt hanging over my head.
The burden of anxiety on families no longer able to meet mortgage payments alongside rising job insecurity is highlighted in our film called Going Backwards, which we made as part of the CiA collaboration.
Other issues to come out of our focus group conversations are rises in the cost of living; heating, food selections (based on affordability) and the constant juggling that families are going through to afford basic necessities.
Feeding your child is more important than owing a milkman £6 or £7 and then eventually the milkman doesn’t come.
Money worries lead to pressures within the family and parents have to deliver harsh messages to their children: ‘Daddy’s not working and Mammy’s not working, and it’s a big shock to them because a few years ago they were able to go on holidays’. Focus group members found that men often found the loss of the breadwinning role hard to take: 'They feel like failures, they feel they’ve let their families down because they’re not providing for their family’.
The focus group has proved to be a valuable tool, providing a sounding board for local participants who felt they had no voice and therefore no hope.
For more information on the CiA project in Lettershandoney contact Sean Carlin.