The National Rural Conference 2024

The Rural Services Network (RSN) is thrilled to announce the National Rural Conference 2024, taking place from 16th to 19th September. This virtual event, accessible via Zoom, is the premier gathering for senior officers, members, policymakers, and rural service professionals.
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Government complacent over rural mental health

The Government this week published its response to the EFRA (Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs) Committee report which was published in May. 

Despite the EFRA Report finding worrying conclusions as a result of its research, the Government has found that the specific mental health needs of rural communities ‘do not require targeted action and consider that existing provisions are sufficient to safeguard rural mental health.’

This is a disappointing blow to rural communities whose needs are yet again being ignored by the Government.

Key findings of the EFRA Inquiry and recommendations are:

  • Rural Communities’ needs are not fully reflected in mental health policy and services and national NHS planning.
  • NHS mental health services are often not fairly accessible for rural communities, with services largely centred in towns and cities creating barriers to access, compounded by the limitations and weaknesses of rural public transport and digital connectivity.
  • Far too much avoidable demand ends up at the door of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in rural areas because of a fundamental lack of social infrastructure and youth services.

Of particular relevance this week following the impact of Storm Ciaran leaving many rural areas and farms flooded, the EFRA Committee made a range of recommendations relating to mental health and crisis events, such as flooding.

Sadly the Government has no plans for upgrading local preparedness for rural populations mental health following crises events, and says that the local mental health care provision currently in place is sufficient.

The BBC has this week reported on how farmers say that the floods have taken a huge toll on their mental health and they have received little support. 

You can read the story here of Lincolnshire grower Henry Moreton who currently has 155 acres of land underwater, having lost around £65,000 worth of oil seed rape, winter wheat and barley to flooding after Storm Babet hit recently.

Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Sir Robert Goodwill, said: 

“Our committee was hopeful that the Government would recognise the distinct needs and circumstances of the rural population and would follow our carefully considered recommendations to support and protect them. While we recognise that the Government has taken measures to support the mental health of the general population, we are disappointed by its rejection of measures to support the specific and identifiable mental health needs of those who live in rural areas.  

“This was an opportunity to make significant changes which could greatly impact our rural communities. With this response the Government demonstrates a worrying degree of complacency on the issue and so will fail to confront the significant problem of improving rural mental health.”

Chief Executive of the Rural Services Network, Kerry Booth says she is disappointed that once again the needs of rural communities are being ignored. 

“This is a situation where the EFRA Committee have been specific that a one size fits all approach will not work for rural areas and they need targeted consideration and action to understand the needs of rural communities.  The current approach leaves those in our rural communities that are most vulnerable, at risk”

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) has stated they are deeply disappointed at the government’s response to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee rural mental health report which called for more targeted mental health provisions for rural workers and communities.  

Martin Bell, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at BACP, said:

“The government’s response to the EFRA Committee report feels like a slap in the face to rural workers and communities, and we believe they are seriously failing our farmers. Faced with a unique set of challenges, every week three people in the UK farming and agricultural industry die by suicide. Male farm workers are also three times more likely to take their own lives than the male national average. The government’s current support package for rural communities is simply not enough – so much more is needed, particularly with regards to making psychological therapies more accessible.

“We know that counselling and therapy can provide an essential lifeline to those in need in rural communities. But often people in these communities face barriers to access mental health support – such as a lack of public transport, poor internet connection, and knowing where to access the support. However, when these barriers are removed, we know that people will access help and can thrive from it.” 

You can read the Government response to the EFRA Report at this link


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