Hinterland - 27 August 2019

In Hinterland this week, some reflections on the impact of work environments on mental health, our poor record on wildlife, the impact of criminals who prey on the countryside, time to buy into apprenticeships, the onset of a no-deal Brexit and some diverting scarecrows. Read on...

*         *          *

Why do so many construction workers kill themselves?

This article is interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly it gives me the opportunity to draw attention to Farming (all farm workers not just land owners) and Fishing, which have equally high levels of suicide. Secondly it is a good opportunity to flag up the need to understand the particular challenges of mental health brought on by living in rural areas, often stimulated by isolation. Thirdly it helps us reflect that rural areas tend to have a higher proportion of construction workers than the national average. The story itself tells us:

Construction knows it has a problem. Working on a building site has become the deadliest profession in the UK, but the dangers have nothing to do with cranes or ladders.

More than 1,400 construction workers took their own lives between 2011 and 2015, according to national statistics. In 2016, the figure was put at 450. The rate is more than three times the national average for men.

Labourers, plasterers and crane operators are more likely than ever to be off sick, but it won’t be bad backs or broken bones that get them signed off, but anxiety, stress and depression.


UK ‘is failing to protect wildlife habitats’, new EU report shows

Looks like we’re not the wonderful exemplar some people would have you believe when it comes to issues such as habitats and animal welfare! This article (and don’t forget many rural local authorities have significant land holdings) tells us:

With the environment high on the agenda at the G7 summit in Biarritz this weekend, the data will be an embarrassment to ministers who have repeatedly pledged to protect the environment – despite imposing savage cuts on England’s statutory nature conservation agency, Natural England.

Under the EU’s habitats and birds directive, member states commit to improve the physical protection of individual specimens and the conservation of core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species. The EU also sets rules regarding animal welfare and works with the international community to fight illegal wildlife trade.

Member states have to report every six years on progress. But the draft figures for the UK for 2013-2018 show it faring worse than many other member states and making no progress on key measures.

During the period, the draft data show 82% of the UK’s designated habitats to be in “bad” or “poor” condition, unchanged from the last reporting period of 2007-12. The percentage in a “bad” state was 71%, compared with 36% in Germany and 32% in France.


Criminal gangs strike at almost half of churches in rural Britain

This might seem a bit of a laugh until it happens to you. In many rural settings the Church, irrespective of your personal religious inclination, is the only community building. The people who prey on these buildings are doing a gross disservice to the whole community. I think like fly-tippers this particular breed of opportunistic criminals who have no respect for our rural milieu deserve firm sanctions. Put to a rural community service programme they could be forced to do the jobs we all find difficult to resource including amenity grass cutting and playground maintenance. Instead of a few hours however if they were given 25 years, working from 10 until 10 every Saturday, they may over time come to love the places they so casually desecrate.

Almost half of listed churches have been targeted by criminals, new figures show, as police warn of professional gangs using the latest technology find easy targets and map out escape routes.

The epidemic of crime is dominated by metal thefts with entire roofs being removed from historic places of worship.

The crisis threatening the heritage of rural Britain is now so great that the heritage body Historic England estimates 40 per cent of listed churches have been targeted.

Evidence points to the thefts being highly organized by criminals who use modern technology, including drones, Google Earth and sat nav to first spot their targets through aerial footage and then plot their routes.


The apprenticeships that are a better bet for your financial future than a degree

The ratio of all health workers in rural England to the whole of England is 1:1.45 – and this against a background of a crisis in NHS staffing across the Board. In January 2019 The Kings Fund Reported that there were more than 100,000 whole-time equivalent staff vacancies in hospitals, including more than 40,000 nurse vacancies alone. In view of this the apprenticeship route is something which needs to be heavily engaged with. This article tells us:

Today, apprenticeships are very different to those that were available to previous generations of young people who had just got their GCSE or A Level results.

Fantastic opportunities are now available for talented and ambitious young people from all backgrounds to train and establish themselves for a huge variety of high-paying and prestigious professions.

In the medical profession, apprenticeships are available for the nation’s future nursesmidwivesparamedicsradiographers, and advanced medical practitioners.


No-deal Brexit: quarter of UK voters now stockpiling or delaying big purchases

Its 29 in the shade at my getaway in Norfolk. My niece has taken the crying baby out in the car to cool her down. I’m writing Hinterland. This story has hit me like a boxing glove amidst the balmy bankholidayness that surrounds us making me realise that in just over 60 days we could be revisited by a food and consumables challenge akin to 1939. Perhaps that’s why nearby Holt has a 1940s festival! I really do worry however about what a no deal will mean for those of limited means, particularly the vulnerable, in rural England. I heard a man on the radio yesterday struggling to explain which of the freedoms “stolen” from us by the EU most aggrieved him. I do some work in Northern Ireland and I am sadden by the 95% of the rest of population who don’t seem to care about what the return of a hard border will mean there – I think it puts the Good Friday Agreement under real threat. Some people might venture to say these problems are all self inflicted. We’ll only really know when the “rubber hits the road”. This will be sooner than most of us living through this last few days of the “phoney war” but in many cases beginning to fill up our ration cupboards think. This story tells us….

A quarter of UK voters have started taking precautions against the adverse consequences of a no-deal Brexit, including stockpiling food, toiletries and medicines, according to a new Opinium/Observer poll.

While 75% of those questioned said they had taken no special action, the remaining 25% said they had taken one or more of a series of measures listed by Opinium, which also included altering travel plans and delaying major purchases.

The survey was taken after leaks of official documents showed concerns within Whitehall about the effects of no deal on the supply of food, medicines and other items.

Among those who had taken action, 9% said they had begun stockpiling goods, 8% said that they had delayed major purchases and 7% said they had altered travel plans. Among people who said they had begun stockpiling 57% said they bought extra tinned food, 45% extra medicines, 38% more toiletries and 30% additional toilet paper.


And Finally
Scarecrows take over Northumberland village

We have a scarecrow competition. It really brings out the bah humbug in me and I suspect a number of other middle aged men in the village but the village activists seem to like it. I wonder how many villages across our green and pleasant land have descended into this particular diversion? More than one or two I suspect!! This article tells us:

Scarecrows of Poldark and Demelza, Peter Rabbit and a whisky-drinking businessman have appeared in a rural village in the north of England.

They are among about 50 created for the 20th annual scarecrow festival in Rennington, Northumberland.

Church warden Paul Weston said the money raised from visitors was needed to keep the village hall and the church open, and it was "very grateful".

With no rules "we just don't know what's coming out each year", he said.

"You may find that there are some very political scarecrows around - it wouldn't surprise me if you don't find the odd politician with a rope around his neck," Mr Weston said.


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


Sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates.