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Tuesday, 30 January 17
In what is intended to be an annual event, a range of organisations came together to share experiences and highlight the impacts of rural vulnerability on rural communities and many rural people.
Issues such as healthcare, low wages, lack of affordable housing, lack of suitable housing and loneliness are prevalent all over the country but in rural areas, for many they can be compounded by isolation and poor access to ever more centralised services leaving residents at risk.
Many people are having to cope with multiple impacts of these vulnerabilities.
The day saw the launch of a report into the ‘Issues Facing Providers of Social Care at Home to Older Residents in Rural England.’ This research was carried out by Rural England, a community interest company which aims to provide independent research for policy makers.
The report found that as rural populations are more dispersed than urban ones it is significantly more expensive to provide them with the necessary social care services to meet their needs. The lower population density in rural areas prevents economies of scale and the rural population is older than urban and is ageing much faster.
‘This report highlights worrying evidence about the poor provision of, and access to, home-based social care services for elderly individuals in rural England, which have severe consequences for the health and wellbeing of an increasing number of people in rural communities,’ said Margaret Clark CBE, Chair of Rural England’s Stakeholder Group.
Describing the day as “an important new date in the parliamentary calendar that helps to shine a light on the challenges facing rural areas,” Rebecca Pow took the opportunity to ask the Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, to find time for a debate by MPs in Parliament on rural vulnerability to highlight the issue further.
Mrs Leadsom replied that “access to transport and other services can be difficult for many people living in rural areas, and of course the issue of loneliness can be more acute.”
She agreed that “it is right we look specifically at these issues and I am happy to support her in her campaign”
Graham Biggs MBE
RSN chief executive
T: 01588 674 922
M: 07966 790197
 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 www.rsnonline.org.uk.
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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