Family Resource Centres in Longford witnessing ‘unprecedented’ demand for food parcels as a result of Covid-19
The vast majority of Family Resource Centres (FRCs) have experienced a sharp increase in demand for their services since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, with particularly high demand for parent and family supports, food parcels, and counselling and mental health services.
At the same time, the income generated by FRCs has fallen steeply. That’s according to the results of a survey released today (Thursday, June 11) by the Family Resource Centre National Forum (FRCNF), the national representative body for FRCs.
The Family Resource Centre programme is the largest community-based family support programme in Ireland. Through a network of 121 FRCs, it supports families in communities experiencing poverty and disadvantage. There are two FRCs in Longford – Bridgeways and Lus na Gréine.
The FRCNF survey shows that 83% of FRCs have experienced an increase in demand for their services over the past three months, with a significant majority of those (62%) witnessing an increase in demand of more than 25%.
To supplement their core funding from government, FRCs typically generate additional income through activities such as room hire of facilities for local community groups and fees to cover the delivery of education and training courses.
In responding to the FRCNF survey, almost all FRCs (93%) said they had experienced a decrease in income as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, with 74% of those experiencing a decrease of more than 25%.
New Measures in Response to Emerging Needs
In their survey responses, FRCs described the new measures and work processes they have put in place in response to the Covid-19 crisis. The top three trends in this regard were:
- FRCs are playing a key role in collecting, preparing and providing food for families and individuals in need. Almost all FRCs are now providing food packages, food vouchers or cooked meals to families in their local area, with some providing food for hundreds of families on a weekly basis.
- FRCs are providing activity packs for families – with a focus on home-schooling and entertainment for children.
- FRCs are undertaking regular check-in calls with vulnerable members of their local communities, with many FRCs contacting hundreds of people each week.
When asked how Covid-19 restrictions have been impacting on their local community, FRCs identified a number of key trends, as follows:
- A negative impact on poverty, unemployment and social exclusion.
- Increased demand for support, including from new service-users.
- Serious concerns about the current increase – and anticipated ongoing increases into the future – in demand for mental health supports.
- Greater collaboration between diverse agencies and support groups; and a strong community spirit evident in response to Covid-19.
In relation to re-opening, the survey shows that FRCs are concerned about the suitability of their existing premises to ensure staff and service-users can attend safely; ICT capacity and access amongst their staff and service-users; and the increased costs and reduced income arising from the changed circumstances brought about by Covid-19.