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Abstract

t Family Support Services (FSS) were set up to help families to cope with the stress and strain of modern life. Such services have been considered to be of immense value to people living in designated disadvantaged areas. However, there is little information on the public's perception of family support services in Ireland. Since the provision of efficient and effective services requires knowledge of users' needs, it is essential that these issues be addressed. The purpose of this study therefore is to investigate parents' views and experiences of family support services by a qualitative exploratory study conducted in the North West Sector of Cork City in the late 20th century. This area was selected as it is one of the most socially disadvantaged areas in Ireland. The study consisted of in-depth interviews with 10 mothers and a focus group with another to mothers. Such as small scale study was undertaken as there was a distinct lack of evidence on users' views on Irish FSS to warrant a larger sample. Analysis of mothers' accounts suggested that use of FSS was affected by the perceived stigmatising effect of using the services, disillusionment at the quality of the service provision, the invasion of domestic privacy and lack of users' input into the services being provided. There was also a lack of knowledge amongst the respondents about the services and it emerged that more effective advertising about the available FSS in the area was needed. Family Support Services are targeted at families coping with normal parenting stresses but can also be effective when working with vulnerable families who are affected by domestic violence, child abuse, racism, prejudice and mental health difficu lties. As a result, FSS have much to offer the public but the absence of studies on users' perspectives needs to be addressed if efficient and effective service provision is to be provided. Little has been published since the study was conducted and given the importance placed on FSS, it is crucial that some research be done in the near future.

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