ACCORDING to the statistics, they live in the most deprived area in the country.

But mothers in Paisley’s Ferguslie Park are working to smash the stigma and stereotypes surrounding their community.

Members of the Swift group – Stronger Women In Ferguslie Together – say their actions will rewrite the area’s story following years of negative headlines.

Ferguslie Park has been named the worst-off area two years in a row by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), which rates income, health, education, employment, crime and other factors to determine the quality of life.

Meanwhile, leafy Lower Whitecraigs in East Renfrewshire, which lies just eight miles away, came top.

But Swift members, all parents with kids of primary school age or younger, say stories portraying their area as a dead end “hurt” and are working to improve local pride, change ideas about the place and better their children’s chances.

The group came together through a conversation with Teresa Pieraccini of Renfrewshire Council’s Adult Learning and Literacies team.

Now it meets every Thursday as the women embark on short courses to improve their life skills. All credit it with helping them overcome isolation and attain confidence, which they are now passing on to their children, and some are planning to move on to college.

Praising the area’s community spirit and cohesion, they say Ferguslie Park’s overall fortunes are as important as their individual successes.

This includes Louise Ireland, whose home was shown on TV news when the last SIMD report was released to show audiences the area’s problems. She said: “They always use my road. There was a fire in the house next to mine and it was knocked down, so there’s just a gap left where people walk to the shops.

“My son saw it and said ‘that’s our house’. It didn’t feel good.”

Friend Melissa Kelly said: “All the bad stories hurt me. I’ve been here all my life and it’s not how they say it is. There’s support here like you get nowhere else. Everyone helps each other and cares about each other.

“People think this is a dump and there’s nothing here, but that’s lies. A lot of people from Ferguslie have gone quite far with their lives.”

This includes artist and playwright John Byrne and Jean Cameron, who is heading Paisley’s City of Culture bid, while the area was immortalised in the Stealers Wheel album named after it.

Mother-of-three Charlene Mullan said: “It’s a great place to live, but on the news they miss all the good things out. We’re here improving our skills and our confidence, but it’s all about the weans. Their generation is next and they need to know it’s not as bad as people say, so that they don’t have to put up with the same rubbish we have.

“I want it to be better for them when the are older. It can change and it will be from us women.”

Pieraccini, who was born in Ferguslie Park, said: “We are breaking down barriers. Where do we get our messages? Why do we think we are not good enough? Who told us that and is it true?

“This is personal and social development. I always say, if you take the genie out of the bottle it won’t want to go back in.”