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The Women’s Support Network (WSN) has just finished a series of focus groups with local women on the issue of Economic Inactivity and women’s barriers to education, training and work. Given that Northern Ireland has consistently had the worst figures for economic inactivity across the UK particularly for women this is important research.

During the course of the research WSN Policy Worker, Siobhán Harding has spoken to 55 women and women reported the following barriers to learning and work:

· Sickness/disability

· Childcare

· Need for education/training

· Unpaid Care responsibilities

· Lack of confidence

· Lack of flexible working

· Fear of losing benefits/being worse off in work

· Transport

· Not enough suitable jobs in the area

The vast majority of the women reported that they preferred to do training/courses at their local Women’s Centre and talked about how the Women’s Centres were more comfortable and relaxed places for them to learn. Women also discussed the need for more funding and opportunities for courses/skills development beyond those offered for 18-24 year olds.

WSN will now begin the process of analysing the results and writing up the background information and recommendations coming from the research. The plan is to launch the research in October/November 2024.