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Supporting families in a different way

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A DIFFERENT YEAR Mary Jackson, Project Co-Ordinator of the Tacú Family Resource Centre (left, pictured with Maureen Doherty), has seen the nature of the support they provide shift dramatically in 2020. Pic: Trish Forde

Ballinrobe
Edwin McGreal

This time last year the nature of support Mary Jackson and her team at the Tacú Family Resource Centre in Ballinrobe were providing to the local community is vastly different to how they have operate in December 2020.
Gone is the use of their centres on Main Street and Bowgate Street as a hub for older people, parent and toddler groups, youth groups and everything in between.
Gone is the social element where people can call in for a chat and a cup of tea.
Gone too is the drop-in nature of things where people with issues or problems can come in and talk to the staff and get the support and help they need.
But don’t think for one minute that means Mary, the Project Co-Ordinator, and her team have more time on their hands.
The likes of Tacú and all the other family resource centres in the country have noticed a ‘huge shift in the way we work’.
“We’ve been really flexible in responding to that shift and reach the needs of the people but in a different way,” Mary Jackson told The Mayo News this week.
The demand for Meals on Wheels has increased by 200 percent. A ‘natural poverty’ has been one of the consequences of lockdown with more people being out of work.
Prior to lockdown, Tacú’s EU subsidised food programme saw them handing out 20 packs a week but that figure has swelled to 50 per week now.
Such trends are consistent across all family resource centres and another rise is the need for support for domestic violence, with victims left under the same roof as their attacker for longer periods because of lockdown.
All told, there is the correct belief that family resource centres are busier than ever but one of the worrying trends Mary Jackson has noticed is that this has often led to people in need of support afraid to trouble them.
“One of the things we did recently was launch a video across FRCs in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon just to remind people that our doors are open. Sometimes the impression goes out that these organisations are so busy and ‘I didn’t want to get onto ye’.
“We don’t want that impression to go out. That is impression about going to the doctor at the moment – people not wanting to go to the doctor because they are so busy. We want to change that around because nobody is so busy they cannot help you and get support for you,” said Mary.

Festive cheer
With the festive season coming up, last Friday Tacú sent out family packs for some kids in the area ahead of The Late, Late Toy Show for families who may have needed support.
“We did family packs up just so people could enjoy it. Kids need something to look forward to. Even a simple think like them wondering is Santa going to come this year. Just to make it normal again. That’s why we would do up the packs and send them out to families, just to keep some normal fun in people’s lives,” explained Mary.
Tacú have noticed that ‘grief has really impacted’ this year and they set up bereavement and grief telephone support in the absence of face to face meetings.
Addiction meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous were unavailable during the first lockdown but have returned in a limited capacity since.
They’ve had a huge take-up in people playing their online bingo and online fitness classes.
Family resource centres rely on considerable local funding to augment their state supports but that, too, has been reduced greatly by the inability to host normal fundraisers.
But one thing Mary Jackson has noticed is the meitheál has not been found wanting in Ballinrobe to support them in whatever way they can.
“People are tired and fatigued but there still is that feeling that we are in this together, we can get through this and we will,” she said.