Hinterland - 17 May 2021

In Hinterland this week - a significant focus on lock down and the impact of covid on mental health, pressure on local authority care budgets, dangerous rural roads, pricey broadband and some cheese on toast...

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Country roads a 'significant' risk to young drivers: these are Britain's most dangerous rural roads

Something we probably would have guessed but a depressing read nonetheless! This story tells us:

New research has revealed the most dangerous rural roads for young drivers as data shows they are more likely to crash and be killed on country roads than any other age group.

Motorists aged 17-24 are already known to be involved in a disproportionate number of accidents but the research released by the AA Charitable Trust has found that they are also at greater risk on rural roads compared with other age groups and other road types.

The research, by Agilysis and the Road Safety Foundation, found that 71 per cent of all young driver fatalities take place on rural roads. Department for Transport figures show that across all age groups, 57 per cent of all deaths occur on rural roads.


Rural UK pays 76% more for worse broadband

Here is a bit more grist to the poor rural connectivity mill we all know about. This article tells us:

Broadband Savvy has released the results of a study into the cost and performance of UK broadband in different geographies, conducted by OnePoll. The study compared broadband speeds paid for and received by consumers across the country, and how much people pay for their home broadband.

The survey revealed that rural households pay 76 per cent more for broadband compared to those in urban locations. In towns and city fringes, broadband costs 22 per cent more on average than it does in urban centres.

Rural households are also more likely to receive slower broadband speeds than what they pay for, compared to those in cities. People living in urban areas receive speeds 3 per cent slower than what they pay for on average, while the figure is 19 per cent in suburban neighbourhoods. Those living in the rural UK receive speeds 28 per cent slower on average than the advertised typical download speed.

“We expected rural broadband to cost more than in other parts of the UK, but not by this much,” said Tom Paton, founder of Broadband Savvy. “It’s not just that the quoted prices are higher in rural areas – we also found that ISPs often deliver slower speeds than what they promise consumers who live in the countryside. This reflects decades of infrastructure failings – the ancient copper cabling that many rural households rely on simply isn’t capable of providing a quality, consistent broadband connection.”

By region, the North East, Northern Ireland, and Scotland have the UK’s most expensive broadband, paying £0.58, £0.51, and £0.46 respectively per megabit of download speed received. By contrast, London, Wales, and the South East have the cheapest broadband, at £0.23, £0.28, and £0.35 respectively.


Covid: Indian variant could disrupt 21 June easing, PM says

I think there is no doubt that rural places will be adversely affected if we cant push on with the re-opening of the country. However it also seems to me that we are on a knife edge here. This story tells us:

The Indian virus variant could pose "serious disruption" to lockdown easing in England on 21 June, the PM says.

Boris Johnson said if it was found to be "significantly" more transmissible there could be "some hard choices".

The wait between jabs will be cut from 12 weeks to eight for the over-50s and clinically vulnerable because of concern over the variant, he added.

Cases of the Indian coronavirus variant have nearly tripled in the past week, Public Health England figures show.

Surge testing is already taking place in 15 areas across England, including Bolton, Blackburn, London, Sefton and Nottingham.

According to Friday's government figures, a further 17 people have died in the UK within 28 days of a positive test and another 2,193 coronavirus cases have been recorded.

Speaking at a Downing Street briefing alongside the UK's chief medical adviser, Prof Chris Whitty, Mr Johnson said first Covid vaccine doses will also be prioritised "for anyone eligible who has not yet come forward". Currently, England's vaccination rollout is open to people over the age of 38.

The prime minister said he did not believe that the "present evidence" showed a need to delay the next stage in the easing of lockdown in England on Monday - when pubs and restaurants will be allowed to serve customers indoors and six people or two households can meet in a private home.


Mental Health Poor for 11 Percent of U.K. Adults During COVID-19

We’re starting to get a significant handle on the impact of Covid in relation to mental health and this story is very revealing. Its just a shame it doesn’t apply a rural filter to the analysis.

About 11 percent of U.K. adults experienced deteriorating or consistently poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published online May 6 in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Matthias Pierce, Ph.D., from the University of Manchester and colleagues tracked average mental health during the pandemic, characterized distinct mental health trajectories, and identified predictors of deterioration. The 12-item General Health Questionnaire was used to assess mental health in 19,763 adults.

The researchers observed a deterioration in average population mental health with onset of the pandemic, which did not begin improving until July 2020. Five distinct mental health trajectories were identified up to October 2020. Most participants had consistently good or very good mental health (39.3 and 37.5 percent, respectively).

Twelve percent comprised a recovery group, who initially experienced a decline in mental health followed by improvement to prepandemic levels by October. For 7.0 percent, there was a steady deterioration in mental health during the pandemic, and for 4.1 percent, mental health declined initially and remained very poor throughout.

The likelihood of having pre-existing mental or physical ill health, living in deprived neighborhoods, and being non-White was increased for these two groups. Subsequent deterioration in mental health was predicted by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 infection, local lockdown, and financial difficulties.


Councils in England facing funding gaps plan to cut special needs support

Many of the most significantly affected authorities and therefore communities referenced here are rural. This story tells us:

Councils in England, facing a funding shortfall of more than half a billion pounds for educating children with special needs, are planning spending cuts and service reviews, according to figures compiled by the Observer.

Campaigners fear children could lose some of their support as local authorities try to clear yawning historical deficits, with government rules stopping them using other reserves to help to fund the special educational needs and disabilities (Send) system.

Figures covering 131 of England’s 151 “upper tier” local authorities show the combined forecast “overspend” on high needs budgets comes to £503m for the 2020-21 financial year.

The figures were obtained from freedom of information requests and council documents, and show forecasts made late in the financial year.

Surrey council confirmed it overspent its high needs budget by £35m in 2020-21, and is forecasting a further overspend of £24m in 2021-22. Kent forecast an overspend of £35.8m in 2020-21, and 14 other councils forecast overspends of £10m to £18m.

Cambridgeshire has a forecast deficit of £13.7m in 2020-21. It is planning to reduce top-up funding for Send children in mainstream schools, as well as launching a variety of reviews covering individual support packages. A council spokesperson said: “In addition to the continuing rise in the number of education, health and care plans (EHCPs) being allocated to those in need, we are seeing an increase in the complexity of need among our children and young people. Our funding allocation is not sufficient to adequately match the increase in demand.”


Want to try Jane Austen’s favourite cheese toastie? Now you can

In celebration of a 1799 h’appeny Mrs A found in our flowerbed, which I reflected was old enough to have been in Jane Austen’s purse, I thought in a wet characterless May, that this story of 18th century comfort food might cheer you up. It tells us:

“Grate the Cheese & add to it one egg, & a teaspoonful of Mustard, & a little Butter,” advises Martha Lloyd, a close friend of Jane Austen, in her recipe for one of the author’s favourite meals, “Toasted Cheese”. “Send it up on a toast or in paper Trays.”

This recipe is part of the “household book” written between 1798 and 1830 by Lloyd, who lived with Austen, her sister Cassandra and their mother (also called Cassandra) for years. The four women lived together in a cottage in Chawton, Hampshire, where Jane wrote, revised and had published all of her novels: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

Lloyd’s handwritten book, in all its blotched and crumbling glory, is set to be published in a colour facsimile for the first time, giving readers a new glimpse into Austen’s home life. Bodleian Library Publishing is releasing it in June, under the title Martha Lloyd’s Household Book.


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



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