Headlines: June 19th, 2000

Social exclusion is as acute in many countryside areas as in inner cities, according to a new report by the Countryside Agency.To low income and the lack of a secure home can be added the difficulties of travelling long distances to access health care and services, and social isolation.

The difference between rural social exclusion and its urban counterpart, the report says, is that the rural variety is often obscured behind a picture of pretty villages and within a population that, as a whole, can seem affluent.

Ewen Cameron, chairman of the agency said he was not launching anurban/rural competition – but trying to ensure the voices of those struggling in rural communities did not go unheard because policies and funding were aimed at the more visible problems in urban areas.

‘Not seen, not heard’ calls for rural solutions to rural problems, and criticises the recent consultation paper on a national strategy for neighbourhood renewal for containing ideas designed to solve the problems of urban areas – only some of which might be workable in rural areas.

Mr Cameron has called for a rural strand in the future work of the Government’s social exclusion unit, a rural dimension in all future social exclusion activity and investment in building community capacity in rural areas.

For a copy of the report call the Countryside Agency on 020 7340 2906.