Rural residents face social care 'postcode lottery'

For immediate release 

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

The present system of funding social care services is unsustainable and unfair for rural communities, the Rural Services Network [1] has warned.

Service providers operating across rural areas face inequitable costs compared to their urban counterparts for both adult and child social care, said the network.

Rural council taxpayers also faced unfair costs, warned the network in response to an inquiry by MPs who are examining the long-term future of adult social care [2].

RSN chief executive Graham Biggs said: “Social care is a national issue but it is in crisis.”

He added: “Whilst continuing to be delivered locally with flexibility for councils to respond to local circumstances and priorities, it should be 100% funded by central government to provide an adequate core service level for all residents nationally – irrespective of where people live.

“Council tax is an unsuitable taxation vehicle for demand responsive services and means rural residents face a postcode lottery when it comes to social care provision.”

Mr Biggs said council tax should only be used to fund social care if a given local authority decided extra money was needed to boost services above a core level locally.

It should not be used to fund the core, national, service, he added.

Mr Biggs said: “It costs substantially more to provide social care in rural areas than it does in larger towns and cities – and there is higher demand for services in rural areas.

“As a statutory duty, services have to be prioritised and other budgets – such as rural transport support, for example – are being cut significantly as a consequence.”

This was because older people make up a higher proportion of the population in rural areas than they do in urban areas, said Mr Biggs.

At the same time, the twin challenge of isolation and distance made it harder and more expensive to deliver services to dispersed rural populations.

Such costs inevitably and unfairly penalised rural councils – and were compounded by issues such as poor economies of scale and poorer external markets for delivery.

Mr Biggs said: “A future formulae to fund social care services must fully reflect the different costs of delivery imposed by both geography and population.”

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Editors notes:

[1] The Rural Services Network is the only non-governmental organisation representing the interests of rural service providers and the communities that they serve. It involves currently some 154 Local Authorities and over 100 other service providers. It comprises SPARSE Rural, the Rural Assembly, the wider Rural Services Partnership and the RSN Community Group. The organisation works with Rural England, a stand-alone CIC research group. For details, visit

[2] The Long Term Funding of Adult Social Care Inquiry is being undertaken by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee of the House of Commons. See:

Media contact:

Graham Biggs
RSN Chief Executive
T: 01588 674 922
M: 07966 790197

Our Key Messages:

Public Sector Funding
Central Government has historically and systematically underfunded rural areas giving them less grant per head than urban areas – despite the fact that it costs more to provide the services. Rural residents earn less on average than those in urban areas and therefore pay more Council Tax for fewer local government services. Government policy, implicitly, is that council services in rural areas are more reliant on funding through council tax than their urban counterparts. We demand fairer funding for all public services serving rural areas.

Barriers to Access
Rural residents and businesses face multiple barriers in terms of access to key services, including transport and broadband. Yet councils providing services to rural residents receive less money from government, pay disproportionately more for fewer services and typically earn less than people in urban areas. As a result rural residents suffer multiple disadvantages.

Future of Rural Areas
Rural communities contribute a great deal to the national economy but are facing threats to their future. This is due to a combination of chronic underfunding, demographic challenges, diminishing resources, with the needs of rural areas being systematically overlooked. Without action conditions in rural areas will deteriorate further. It is in the national interest that we all work together to revitalise this fundamental national asset.

Health and Wellbeing
Despite its idyllic image, rural communities often experience difficulties in accessing health and support services. This is becoming increasingly difficult as specialist services are centralised to remain resilient and poor transport links reduce access. There are recruitment and retention issues amongst medical staff in rural areas. Rural residents are therefore vulnerable to isolation and poorer health outcomes in the long term. 


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