Promoting Rural Issues
Providing and supporting a ‘rural voice’ to influence policy, programmes and action
CAN is in a unique position to represent Northumberland’s rural communities, in order to influence local, regional and national policy:
- We have operated in rural Northumberland for 70 years and have built up a wide network of connections with community organisations and activists across the area. This allows us to gather intelligence about the current issues of concern to our local communities, and to share ideas and experiences to inform the development of robust, locally relevant approaches to addressing those issues.
- As a member of the national ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) network, we are able both to influence thinking on rural issues at a national level and to disseminate information on current best practice from across the country to support community action at a local level.
Key areas of rural need
CAN has an ongoing desire to clearly understand and highlight the needs which exist in rural Northumberland. This is both to act as a focus for our own work but also, critically, to influence funders and policymakers who often do not see beneath the apparent superficial gloss of prosperity which is perceived in most rural areas.
The excellent strategic and analysis work of organisations such as Northumberland County Council, the Community Foundation and our national partners, contribute significantly to understanding rural needs. We seek to build on this through our own work, events and by capturing the experiences of local organisations and individuals on the ground.
For example, our 2016 Annual Rural Conference identified key areas of rural need including:
- Hidden and dispersed poverty
- Lack of affordable housing
- Low pay and poverty in work
- Lack of transport, childcare, and other services
- Broadband and mobile signal infrastructure
- Out-migration of young people
- The impacts of an ageing population
- Lower take-up of benefits
- Detachment from labour markets
- Isolation and loneliness
- Lack of a ‘voice’ for young people
- Attitudes and perceptions – belief in ‘rural idyll’ prevents recognition of others’ disadvantage
Our 2017 conference delved more into the issues surrounding transport, in 2018 we looked in detail at health issues and solutions and in 2019 at how to accommodate an increasingly ageing population in a rural area such as Northumberland.
Our ongoing work has identified specific needs including:
- The extent of fuel poverty through our energy work
- The needs of unemployed people through our Rural Employment Hubs
- Local housing needs through community-based Housing Needs Surveys
The Covid-19 pandemic has inevitably placed additional strains on people, communities and businesses, increasing rural needs in many ways. From steep rises in unemployment and poverty to higher levels of loneliness and mental health issues, need has never been more evident.
The challenge laid down for CAN is to work to address the needs which exist. This must be achieved in partnership with other organisations and with communities to ensure that the most appropriate solutions are put in place.