FRCI identified women living on farms within rural Fermanagh as a cohort of individuals who risk health inequalities due to their circumstances. Fermanagh by nature has the population spread out over a large geographical area with limited access to public services. FRCI wanted to support women from rural farming backgrounds to introduce them to the concept of community development to improve their situation. These women’s health and wellbeing is impacted by many social determinants including lack of social connections, access to services, employment opportunities and due to living in a rural, educational attainment and housing are also issues. To compound this some GP services within Fermanagh and bordering counties have closed, causing major concerns for rural communities.
To provide self developing opportunities for 15 women who have become isolated on rural farms since the onslaught of Covid 19 pandemic. The project was a success as those taking part had the opportunity to assess where their lives were at the point of joining the project. This allowed them to assess what they needed to develop to help them re-engage with local communities and society.
Completing the project helped us to identify the contribution we were already making to health inequalities, without realising we were working in that field. This gave us the confidence to develop this project and look at other support mechanisms which would further increase our capability to address health inequalities. The group of rural women felt they had become significantly isolated and had drifted into a rut of staying at home. This obviously began to take a toll on health and wellbeing due to loneliness. In Fermanagh the fears around losing local GPs and many services within the local hospital also impacts negatively on family life. The project opened an avenue for them to engage with society again and begin to take control of their lives again. They had the opportunity to address the health care provision within Fermanagh via consultation sessions and support groups trying to stall removal of vital services from the local hospital. This ensured they were having the opportunity to stop the continuation of health inequalities within their communities.
The mentoring support helped us to build our skills to address health inequalities by learning from the work completed by our mentor and other mentee groups. It increased our understanding of the importance of all staff within FRCI being aware of the role they play in addressing health inequalities, especially as they focus on employability projects. Health inequalities and unemployment have strong links, so it is important to support participants to identify and address the issues. Also, we were reminded of the importance of learning from the lived experiences of the participants who avail of our support and that the experience other providers share is an invaluable asset for FRCI. Building on the experiences gained has opened doors to additional funding opportunities. We are now doing more work with specific groups like Fresh Focus and Positive Futures. A lot of their issues are more complex but our experience with Elevate has supported FRCI to support the groups with activities.
We gained a better understanding of the strong link between Community Development and Health inequalities; the affect health inequalities have on local communities and the work which can be completed at a local level to address health inequalities. The training helped us to recognise the community sector has been working to alleviate health inequalities without realising it all along. We learned it is important FRCI's team are aware of their ability to address health inequalities at a local level and that we have the capabilities to support local communities to address health inequalities. Supporting clients to look at their own situations and issues, and giving those most affected by health inequalities a voice to speak about the challenges they face.
FRCI now realises the role they have in addressing health inequalities through their work on a daily basis. We have the confidence to assess issues with participants in relation to health inequalities. FRCI now has confidence to seek support outside their own activities to address health inequalities. Learning from other groups and support networks within the Elevate programme has significantly increased FRCI's ability to address health inequalities.
"The common-sense approach to support local grass root activities by an approachable and flexible team ensures positive impacts for everyone."
Ciaran Rooney, Manager, FRCI