GUIDELINES to ensure government policies don't discriminate against rural communities have been published online.
The national rural proofing guidelines were published by DEFRA on Thursday (16 May).
Rural proofing is not optional, not complicated and not a significant burden, says the document.
"For people living and working in rural areas there can be challenges and barriers for their businesses, the services they receive and their quality of life," it warns.
"The Rural Proofing Guidelines help policy makers to minimise these challenges."
Policy-makers are encouraged adopt a simple three-stage process to ensure rural proofing, which is outlined in the document.
They should allow for higher rural unit delivery costs in funding formulae or allocations
They could also look at alternative means of providing and accessing the services in rural areas, such as through the use of volunteers or social enterprise.
Outreach, mobile services or localised delivery can reduce the need for rural people to travel to receive certain services, says the advice.
Alternatively, policy-makers could consider better integration or improvement of transport links
They could also allow local delivery bodies the flexibility to find the best local solutions and avoid a "one-size-fits-all" approach.
"Use the rural networks and meeting points that do exist, for example post offices, village halls, parish notice boards," say the guidelines.
In seeking to rural-proof, policy-makers should use small area based data to identify social, economic and environmental differences that need to be accounted for in the policy.
They should also engage with rural stakeholders and their networks to gather evidence and test proposals prior to implementation.
The guidelines can be downloaded here.
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