With the closing date for registrations looming (30 August 2019) book now to attend our National Rural Conference, (in association with the CCRI), in Cheltenham on 3rd & 4th September) here. The keynote speaker for the conference is the Rt Hon Lord Foster of Bath, Chair of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Rural Economy.

Hinterland - 19 November 2018

In Hinterland this week - This week the spiders are emerging into the light! From their dark recesses they will find an edition of Hinterland with stories of hardship, gypsies and travellers, children’s services, social prescribing and poor connectivity. Read on.....

*         *          *

UK austerity has inflicted 'great misery' on citizens, UN says

This astounding report explains so much about why we have the growing phenomenon of the visible destitute across swathes of rural towns and even large villages in England. It tells us:

The UK government has inflicted “great misery” on its people with “punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous” austerity policies driven by a political desire to undertake social re-engineering rather than economic necessity, the United Nations poverty envoy has found.

Philip Alston, the UN’s rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, ended a two-week fact-finding mission to the UK with a stinging declaration that levels of child poverty were “not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster”, even though the UK is the world’s fifth largest economy,

About 14 million people, a fifth of the population, live in poverty and 1.5 million are destitute, being unable to afford basic essentials, he said, citing figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. He highlighted predictions that child poverty could rise by 7% between 2015 and 2022, possibly up to a rate of 40%.

“It is patently unjust and contrary to British values that so many people are living in poverty,” he said, adding that compassion had been abandoned during almost a decade of austerity policies that had been so profound that key elements of the postwar social contract, devised by William Beveridge more than 70 years ago, had been swept away.

In an excoriating 24-page report, which will be presented to the UN human rights council in Geneva next year, the eminent human rights lawyer said that in the UK “poverty is a political choice”.

Children's services: why spending now will pay off in the future

We tend to focus on the challenges arising to local authority budgets in relation to the cost of adult social care. This article helps substantiate the case that children’s services are coming up on the rails very quickly. The situation is quite different however from adult social care, where in many rural settings there are few or no provider choices. Some private sector providers of chlidren’s services run hugely profitable businesses. It would be interesting to research the reasons for this disparity in more detail.

In her Vulnerability Report [pdf], published in July, England’s children’s commissioner, Anne Longfield, estimated the cost of late intervention to acute and statutory services alone at £17bn a year, while pointing out that the wider social and economic costs were far greater. Yet public spending on early intervention and youth services had fallen by 60% since 2010 and 1.6 million “potentially highly vulnerable” children had no professional support.

As the number of children in care reaches record levels, councils face unprecedented pressure to divert their dwindling budgets into statutory services. “You can’t lose almost 50% of funding for children’s services nationally without making cuts,” says Alison Michalska, director for children and adults at Nottingham council, pointing to the closure of 600 youth services and 1,200 children’s centres across England[pdf, p10-12]. A recent Guardian exclusive on the use of computer algorithms to identify families at risk of child abuse is just one example of the methods some councils are adopting to target scarce resources.

Gypsy and traveller families ‘hounded out’ of areas in act of ‘social cleansing’ as councils impose sweeping bans

Im not sure I agree with the language used here but there is no doubt that we are witnessing an increasing intolerance of gypsies and travellers, with much of the direct action being led by local authorities. I wonder why?

Gypsies and travellers are being “hounded out” of parts of England as a growing number of local authorities impose sweeping bans to prevent them from settling on their land, in what has been described as a form of social cleansing.

Families are being constantly ordered to move on, leading to mental health issues and disruption to children’s development, as a string of councils obtain wide high court injunction orders ban unauthorised encampments across entire towns.

Lawyers, MPs and charities accused ministers of “ratcheting up” action against travellers on unauthorised sites without ensuring there was enough supply to address the “chronic shortage” of authorised encampments across the country

Cuts to local authority funding, as well as an “increasingly hostile” attitude towards travelling communities, have led to an increasing number of councils seeking injunction orders over the past year, campaigners said.

Injunctions have been obtained by 22 councils since the first one was granted by Harlow Council in Essex in 2015, with several other local authorities currently pursuing them in the courts.

The latest government figures show there were 22,946 traveller caravans in England in January 2018, of which 87 per cent were on authorised land and 13 per cent on unauthorised land.

The number of caravans on unauthorised land increased by 2 per cent in the year to January 2018, but the proportion of these that are “not tolerated”, meaning either a planning enforcement notice has been served or an injunction has been sought, rose more sharply, by 20 per cent, from 1,402 to 1,679.

GPs could prescribe bingo and dancing after English trial's success

Im a great fan of social prescribing – some people lampoon it but it makes a real difference in terms of health and well-being. This story is about Croydon but Ive seen it working very effectively in rural Lincolnshire.

Boxing, bingo and Bollywood dancing are being prescribed on the NHS in a pilot project that GPs claim is reducing their workload by cutting the number of non-medical issues they deal with.

“Community prescribing” sees patients sent to exercise classes and sessions on debt and housing advice in church halls and pubs for issues that GPs are not qualified to address.

Thirty-seven GP practices in the London borough of Croydon are now operating the scheme, which is part-funded with almost £800,000 in NHS money but also relies on community volunteering. Eighteen months into the pilot, it appears to be lifting a load from doctors who have said that until recently every third appointment they handled involved an issue they were not qualified to help with, including accessing welfare or tackling loneliness and housing problems.

Rural mobile phone coverage so poor that only a sixth of farmers can rely on it

I like Minette Batters – here’s her latest useful stat on “digital”:

The National Farmers' Union says rural Britain is being "massively held back" by poor broadband and digital connectivity.

Its president Minette Batters has been giving evidence to a parliamentary committee.

She said 98% of farmers own a mobile phone, but only 16% get a reliable mobile signal.

Although it feels like one part of the industry is moving at a pace to embrace the new technologies, digitisation, we still feel very, very held back I think, right across rural Britain, in our lack of connectivity. And you wonder, with these new tools coming in, that farmers in particular are going to be held back.”

And finally…..

Urban spiders are losing their fear of the light, German scientists find

Well here’s at least one reason to be pleased you in a rural rather than an urban setting! This story tells us:

Arachnophobes beware - urban-dwelling spiders are becoming less fearful of light, scientists have found.  

Most spiders prefer to build webs in dingy nooks and crannies while householders will have seen the creatures freeze mid-scuttle across the floor when a room light is turned on.  

But scientists at the University of Regensburg, Germany, gathered spiders from urban and rural locations across Europe to test whether their fear of the light is changing.

They found that while spiders from the countryside still have a healthy dislike of light, those from cities are happy to build their webs in illuminated areas.

About the author:
Hinterland is written for the Rural Services Network by Ivan Annibal, of rural economic practitioners Rose Regeneration.


Sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates.