Focus Family Resource Centre opened its doors in 2009. Co-ordinator, Noeleen Douglas was employed and began the day to day management of the project. The Resource Centre which is situated in the centre of the town quickly became a widely used resource in Killeshandra with a wide variety of services and supports available. Since then we have moved to our new premises at the Portaliffe Centre, Main St Killeshandra (above Mace shop) where we have numerous meeting rooms, “The Loft” youth cafe and After Schools Service which are available to rent by the general public. We also have a counselling room and a computer suite. We currently have 3 core staff – Our coordinator Angie McKenna, Community Development & Family Support Worker Ann Crowe and our administrator Lisa Brennan.
Background to Killeshandra
Killeshandra is a rural community and is a CLAR area of County Cavan. In recent years this traditionally farming community has suffered from changes in farming practices. Consequently there is a drift of young people from the area to education and employment elsewhere. This has meant a decline in population and also an increasing percentage of older people in the community.
Killeshandra, is also a part of a border county, and while most disadvantaged areas/groups find it a challenge to find the time, energy or enthusiasm to engage in community development activity, studies have shown that in the border communities, this added to the sense of isolation because of ‘an invisible line’ separating the border counties from other southern counties (Emerald Curtain 2005). Also, living in an area that has been marked by 30 years of conflict and/or proximity to the conflict makes the process of community development even more difficult. The experience of peripheral, allied to the proximity to conflict means that the work needs to be done in order for communities to organise themselves in very challenging and in many ways unique to the people who live in these communities in the Border Counties.
Focus Family Resource Centre Steering Group was set up in 2008 to explore provision of supports for the families and disadvantaged members of the community. This group was drawn from community activists, community workers, and community members who had experience, many personal, of the key areas of work identified.
Based on the findings of consultation carried by the Steering Group, FFRC identified the following groups within the community as a priority over the first 3 years : lone parents, older people, young people with poor education levels, isolated rural dwellers, young people who need social outlets and employment in the area, young parents.
The opening of the project brought to the light the demands from the community in the area and within the 1st year of the project was operational 40 hours a week with a constant footfall from the community clients in 9 months in 2010. This had risen in the 1st full twelve months operating with full staff to a figure of 1,139. In 2011 the last year of the forst 3 year plan, Focus FRC had 2,237 service users in the 1st six months of the year.
The prevailing need of the community has meant that at times it has been necessary for the management committee and staff to re-assess priorities in light of need, which at times has led to a re-configuration of some of the targets from original work plan. For example, one of the initial strategic aims was to support Cares in the community. However, after discussions with this target group it was clear that they had no real need of support. With the economic downturn and the recession, Focus saw more and more unemployed people accessing its service and needing support. The 1st annual review of the workplan saw re-alignment of priorities away from work with Carers towards working to meet the needs of local unemployed people.
The services provided by Focus have been vital in addressing the needs of the local community. Focus has facilitated a steady growth of community groups and the numbers of services users from the community continue to rise. Focus will endeavor within this three year plan to fulfill the strategic aims and meet the objectives and actions set out within it.