Hinterland - 13 January 2020

Hinterland this week some hard hitting stories about children in care and domestic abuse. A trio of “gentler” stories about rural economy and the environment and finally – the therapeutic value of shared GP appointments...

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Councils under huge pressure as number of children in care soars

I’m sorry so early into the new year to be running another story about services local authorities cant fund – but stories like this and their implications for rural families can’t be ignored. This story tells us:

The number of children in care has gone up by 28% in the past decade with council leaders warning of unsustainable pressure being placed on support services for young people.

Official figures show there are now 78,150 children in care in England, up from 75,370 in 2018 and almost 20,000 more than in 2009 when 60,900 children were looked after.

The Local Government Association (LGA) warned the huge increase in demand, combined with funding shortages, is putting immense pressure on the ability of councils to support vulnerable young people who need help.

Judith Blake, the chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said the demands being placed on councils were “unsustainable”. “These figures show the sheer scale of the unprecedented demand pressures on children’s services and the care system this decade,” she said.

Councils were forced to overspend on their children’s social care budgets by almost £800m last year in order to try and keep children safe, the LGA said. This happened despite them allocating more money than in the previous year to try to keep up with demand.

Data shows councils have experienced a 53% increase in children on child protection plans – an additional 18,160 children – in the past decade.

There has been a 139% increase in serious cases where the local authority believes a child may be suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm, to 201,170 cases.


Domestic abuse ‘hell’ much worse for those in rural areas

Whilst I’m getting all the difficult stories this week out in one go we need to go from children in care to domestic abuse. This story links rurality with low levels of declaration of domestic abuse. It tells us:

A report into domestic abuse in rural areas has found that abuse lasts on average 25 per cent longer in rural areas.

The UK-wide report compiled by the National Rural Crime Network (NRCN), which had been a year in the making, has for the first time given a comprehensive examination of the impact of rurality on domestic abuse victims and services, the commonalities and differences between rural and urban experiences.

The report also finds rural victims are half as likely to report their abuse to others, there is a lack of readily accessible support services, victims live in a society that defacto protects the perpetrators and rural victims are isolated, unsupported and unprotected in a “rural hell” which is purposefully “normalised”.

The Domestic Abuse in Rural Areas report said exiting abuse is harder, takes longer and is more complex as there are significant additional in rural communities compared to urban areas such as the difficulties with starting a new life and the accessibility of service are much harder to obtain which make reporting abuse half as likely.


How huge untapped potential of UK's rural economy could drive growth

A more optimistic story focusing on the potential of the rural economy. This is something I have banged on about in different settings for a long time. This article confirms many of my thoughts. It tells us:

The new landowners' leader for the East of England believes the untapped potential of the rural economy is a "huge opportunity" for the UK as we move into a new era.

Cath Crowther - who grew up on a Welsh sheep farm - was a chartered surveyor at Bidwells when she was chosen as the new director at the eastern regional offices of landowners' lobby group the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) in September 2019, taking over the reins from Ben Underwood.

She believes strongly that there is much more to the UK rural economy than meets the eye - and that policy needs to favour it more heavily in order for it to thrive as it should. 

"The untapped potential of the rural economy is a huge opportunity for the UK. Historically, landowners and farmers have always provided local facilities, provided jobs, but could be doing more and providing more local homes, if there was a system that supported it," she says.

Smaller village housing schemes would have less of an impact than massive ones, she points out, and villagers need housing to support local facilities and services, which are being lost in rural areas.

"We need to have rural areas that are attractive for people to either move into or stay in," she says

All these issues are close to Cath's heart, having grown up on a mainly arable family farm on the cliff tops of south Wales, which keeps 850 ewes. Her father is "obsessed" with soil health, she says, using digestate from a local anaerobic digestion (AD) plant. Her brother is developing a holiday cottages business with his wife.

"It's something I'm very passionate about is farmers, landowners and rural businesses and trying to ensure their needs are recognised," she says. 

Such businesses are often very innovative, she points out, and as a surveyor she has spent time looking at lots of different diversification opportunities on farms.

Climate 'must be top agricultural priority'

Is it time for rural policy groups to declare a climate emergency? This article makes you think!!!! It tells us:

Ministers must support farmers to become "net zero heroes" and make tackling the climate and nature crises a top agricultural priority, it has been urged.

The call, timed to coincide with farming conferences taking place in Oxford this week, comes as polling suggests nine out of 10 people (92%) think it is important that farmers focus on climate change and wildlife losses.

A survey of 2,140 UK adults by YouGov for the nature and animal welfare coalition Wildlife and Countryside Link suggests only a fifth (22%) think the UK farming sector has reduced its climate impact in the last five years.


A quarter believe the sector has had a negative impact on climate change while a further 29% believe there has been no change in the past five years.

Environmentalists, farmers and scientists are calling on the Government to put tackling the climate and nature crises at the top of the agenda, and boost support for landowners to deliver wildlife and carbon friendly farming.

The Government has committed to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, while the National Farmers' Union has outlined ambitions for the sector to become net zero by 2040.


They want to see the Agriculture Bill go swiftly through Parliament to deliver payments for public goods such as environment, animal welfare and public access and start the transition to this new system in 2021.

Ministers must also guarantee a budget of at least £3 billion per year for the next 10 years, to be invested in public goods, to give land managers the certainty they need to invest in improving nature and welfare and tackling climate change.

And future trade deals and legislation must maintain or improve environmental and animal welfare requirements, the groups argue.

Richard Benwell, chief executive of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: "Our climate depends on soil as much as oil."


He said the UK could not get to net zero without farmers, with better land management the key to locking up carbon.

"Nine out of ten members of the public want farmers to play their part. So, Government must put the policies in place to help farmers become net zero heroes," he urged.


Partnership to offer national UK agricultural knowledge service

I really like SRUC and rural champs like Sarah Skerratt and Jane Atterton so although this might not be directly their part of the organisation I still wanted to draw this new service to your attention. This article tells us:

Agri-business across the UK will reportedly enjoy greater access to the latest independent advice backed by research and innovation, through a new partnership between Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and ADAS, the independent agricultural and environmental consultancy.

Through the joint venture, new and existing partners will be able to use research at ADAS and SRUC – which includes SAC Consulting, their specialist consultancy and diagnostic services, as well as education and training courses. The partnership will also reportedly be the vehicle for more collaborative research.

The joint venture will operate in fields such as agriculture and climate change, soil health, synthesis of evidence to support policy development, data, ecological modelling and genomics, sustainable diets and food production systems, animal welfare and sustainable food supply.


And Finally

The GP practice where patients can share appointments

This week a really interesting article about how we can share the pain of key things we might talk to a GP about. I think this is a really interesting approach, which has lots of value added and “group therapy” knitted into it. It’s also a cracking use of time in a hard-pressed service area. This story tells us.

Faced with a wait for a GP appointment, would you choose a group session with the doctor instead? It is an idea some surgeries are investigating.

Demand for appointments increasingly outweighs availability. In recent years, the number of GP appointments has risen by 13%, but GP numbers are up by less than 5%, putting huge pressure on surgeries.

In addition, many of us are living longer and with multiple long-term conditions, which can make consultations extremely complex. 

The traditional one-to-one 10-minute appointment is arguably no longer fit for purpose.

With no promise of increased funding, or a substantially increased GP workforce, primary care teams have to find innovative new ways of delivering routine care in general practice that simultaneously save time and improve quality. 

One such practice is Parchmore Medical Centre in Thornton Heath, Surrey. 

Anthony is a patient there. He says: "I've passed that magical age of 50 and got a call from the GP. I've got some weight issues and some blood pressure issues, so it's time to do something."

He had come in for an appointment - but one with a difference. Instead of the usual 10 minutes, he was going to have an hour-and-a-half with his GP. 

But he would not be seeing the doctor alone; he would be sharing his appointment with six other patients.

They all have weight issues and/or pre-diabetes. There were seven present at this particular consultation, but as many as 15 can attend.


About the author:
Hinterland is written for the Rural Services Network by Ivan Annibal, of rural economic practitioners Rose Regeneration.



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