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.
Further information and booking details can be found here

Rural Britain's Hidden Struggles: Insights from North Cotswolds

The "Hidden Hardship" report, conducted by Dr. Stephanie Denning at Coventry University and vividly illustrated by Beth Waters, provides an in-depth and emotive portrayal of the challenges faced by rural communities in the North Cotswolds. The report unveils a side of rural life often overshadowed by the region's prosperity and tourism, bringing to light the unique hardships faced by its residents.

Julie, a local resident, shares a heart-wrenching account: "It’s embarrassing… in the area that we live in, I think to put your hands up and say I’m really struggling here… you feel judged." This sentiment echoes across the community, where asking for help, such as visiting a foodbank, is often seen as a last resort due to the stigma associated with poverty.

Claire, another resident and a volunteer, observes the subtle signs of struggle, noting those who "just [buy] the yellow stickers or [walk] around with a calculator." Reverend Canon Dana Delap, a local vicar, adds that poverty among the elderly is particularly hard to detect, as they often wear big coats and woolly jumpers, masking their physical condition.

David, facing the reality of a low income, simply states, "We don’t have disposable income but it’s how it is." His words reflect the daily sacrifices made by many, such as turning off heating in winter or skipping meals. Kate, another resident, shares her struggles with food choices: "I often found it cheaper to just buy powdered milk and cereal for myself," highlighting the harsh choices faced in managing a tight budget.

Holly's story is particularly moving. As a young mother, she saves an "emergency tin of bacon grill" for the worst times, underscoring the constant battle with food insecurity and the importance of local support groups in providing essential aid.

The community's strength shines through in Claire's story of mutual aid: "One of my friends works at Aldi so when she does a late shift any of the meat that is going out she grabs at 75% off and then she just fills the freezer." This act of community support illustrates how residents’ band together to cope with their shared challenges.

“This research has identified people’s experiences of rural hidden hardship, their coping strategies, and barriers to wellbeing with the resulting report and briefing making recommendations for local and national policymakers and community leaders to take action to tackle hardship.”

Dr Stephanie Denning

This report is a powerful call to action for policymakers and community leaders, emphasising the need for targeted solutions that address the unique nature of rural hardship. It advocates for more inclusive and accessible resources for rural residents, urging a re-evaluation of common perceptions and a deeper understanding of the diverse and complex issues faced by rural communities.

- You can visit the projects website here.
- A copy of the report can be downloaded here.


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