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From Norfolk RCC
A major part of our work is advocating on behalf of rural communities.
59% of the counties population lives outside the major urban areas yet it is often the case that issues within urban environments dominate.
Our aim isn’t to see this situation reversed but that people in rural areas get a fair deal or in the words of the UK sustainability strategy that ‘no one is discriminated against because of where they live’
We include this under our work stream ‘empowering voice’ as the thrust of activity is making organisations and people aware of the issues in rural areas and getting the voices of rural people heard.
Much of this work is done through our partnership activities which include:
- The County Strategic partnership board and management group
- Voluntary and Community Sector LAA Reference group
- Voluntary sector infrastructure consortium
- Investing in Communities Project Board
- And a number of local strategic partnership boards and officer groups
The other elements to this role are research, campaigning and rural proofing
Rural Proofing is about examining policies, strategies and projects in the light of rural specific issues to see if any aspect has a disproportionate effect on rural communities.
Current governmnet policy is a committment to making rural proofing a reality at national and regional levels.
Norfolk RCC's expertise on rural issues means they can advise on how to identify issues and work constructively to come up with practical solution.
The process of rural proofing varies depending on context however there are some issues that are particularly common.
- Is it possible to disaggregate data to determine whether or not a particular service is biased towards urban or rural clients?
- Is delivery focused on ‘hot spots’? By definition rural communities are sparsely populated this can mean that indicators that focus on concentrations of those in need miss smaller pockets spread out over a larger area in rural areas but are no less significant in total numbers.
- Tyranny of averages. Measurements that focus of geographical areas of a certain population size, such as super output areas can cover a number of different communities in rural areas. If one of these communities is prosperous whilst the other is in greater need the results can show a reasonable overall value hiding pockets of deprivation.
Access is often the most highlighted issue for rural communities. Rural areas are poorly served by public transport and fewer and fewer services are delivered locally as usage is often unsustainable however for those without a car access to key service can be a key issue. Where services can be reached the distance travelled, the duration of this journey or the times of connections or return option can all present barriers to accessing services.
Smaller Communities and reduced infrastructure
This may seem obvious but rural communities have fewer people, so if you are relying on large numbers of volunteers to serve on groups or committee’s it may not be feasible.
Other assumptions such as access to broadband, meeting venues, publicity points, road networks and safe walking routes may not be correct. This is often not a barrier to delivery but requires a reworking to ensure is can be done in a rural area.