Rural charities facing demand hike ‘due to welfare system failures’, claims report

Rural communities are increasingly relying on the voluntary sector as the government’s benefits system is “poorly adapted to meet” their needs, academics have suggested.

According to latest research the welfare benefits system is not effectively taking into account the volatility and irregularity of rural incomes.

Too often poverty is seen as an urban issue, with the benefits system failing to take into account the vulnerability of those living in the countryside, the research says.

However, the research warns that many charities are facing cuts to their own funding, which is impacting on their ability to reach rural areas.

Digital and social exclusion, through poor broadband, mobile coverage and public transport challenges are other concerns.

The research by Newcastle University, Scotland’s Rural College and the Impact Hub Inverness found that “greater importance is now placed on the voluntary sector in providing support and advice”.

But the charity sector is “finding its own resources and ability to reach into rural areas increasingly limited as a result of cuts in funding”.

Professor Mark Shucksmith from Newcastle University added: “There is poverty in rural as well as urban Britain that national policymakers are not addressing adequately.

“This research highlighted that the support and advice offered by voluntary and community organisations is valued by, and invaluable to, those in rural areas experiencing or at risk of financial hardship and are most people’s first port of call - and sometimes their sole source of support. We found many examples of innovative practices involving voluntary and community organisations and local partnership working.

“Policies could be improved with the benefit of local place-based knowledge that exists among these organisations. There is a real opportunity for rural proofing of policy but it’s crucial that this involves rural stakeholders who have this local understanding.”

A Pro Bono Economics report released earlier this month raised charity sector concerns around long term debt problems impacting on young people amid Covid-19 recovery.

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