Inequality in rural communities

Councillor Phil Twiss is in charge of rolling out broadband to areas in East Devon that have low or no broadband speeds. EDDC opted out of a Devon-wide project, preferring to choose its own way of doing things. Contact Councillor Twiss if you are unhappy about broadband provision in your area:

Telephone: 01404 891327
Address: Swallowcliff, Beacon, Honiton, EX14 4TT

“Almost 10 million people in the UK live in areas of England defined as rural. They are – on average – 5.3 years older than their counterparts in urban areas, with settlements in sparse areas tending to have the highest proportion of their populations amongst the older age groups, the report said.

The outward migration of young people and inward migration of older people, who tend to have greater health and social care needs, as well as poorer public transport links, are having a “significant impact” on people’s daily lives and access to services, it concluded.

Eighty per cent of rural residents live within four kilometres of a GP surgery, compared with 98 per cent of the urban population, while only 55 per cent of rural households compared to 97 per cent of urban households are within eight kilometres of a hospital, the study found.

Crucially, a combination of the older demographic and the unavailability of high-speed broadband has led to a growing digital gap between urban and rural areas, which is enhancing loneliness among the elderly and preventing people from benefiting from important developments and innovations in access to health-related services, the report went on.

There is a growing social and economic gap between those who are connected and those who are not – the ‘digitally excluded’ — with 13 per cent of the adult UK population (6.4 million) never having used the Internet, and 18 per cent saying that they do not have Internet access at home.

“Rural social networks are breaking down with a consequent increase in social isolation and loneliness, especially among older people,” the report states.

“The fact that social isolation influences health outcomes in its own right suggests that this and the emotional and mental wellbeing of people in rural areas is an important and hitherto neglected area in the promotion of public health.” …

… We need to be more observant of how dependent that older population in rural areas is, and the pockets of isolation and deprivation that you get are there, and they’re very often hidden because it all looks like a nice rural ideal.”

The report also states that the level of poverty in certain rural areas was also a serious problem that was frequently overlooked, with almost one in seven (15 per cent) rural households living in relative poverty after housing costs are taken into account.”

A lack of affordable housing in some areas is now extending to those on average incomes, not just people on lower incomes, leading to people — generally of the younger generation — moving out to urban areas and increasing concerns about the sustainability of rural communities.”