Rural Poverty: what can we do?

by Michael Ford last modified 27 Nov, 2019 04:56 PM

The role of the Rural Church, a volunteer bus service, and the issues of food poverty were just 3 of the subjects discussed at a special workshop and discussion on Rural Poverty.

Hosted by St Mary’s Beaminster, the afternoon was attended by clergy, lay people and local council representatives, and featured a panel of contributors including a rough sleeper outreach worker, a rural transport campaigner, a foodbank volunteer, a town councillor, the Dorset Rural Chaplain, and a member of Beaminster Town Council.

The group watched the Rural poverty film made for Channel 4 News in June 2019, and this stimulated an initial discussion and allowed those attending to create a list of things they considered specific about rural poverty in comparison to poverty issues elsewhere.

The Revd Jo Neary, Pioneer Priest and Team Vicar at Beaminster said that the issues discussed were varied and many:

"The discussion and information sharing included the issues of fuel poverty in badly insulated older properties, the lack of affordable rented accommodation, the reduction in transport affecting both young people attending further education, working age people and the elderly, food poverty and food bank use, the hidden poverty associated with farming and the issues of isolation amongst the farming community and others.

But she said theer were opportunities for communties to alleviate some of the issues:

"We discussed local initiatives where volunteer groups had stepped in to provide services affected by local authority cuts. We celebrated the CB3 bus group in Beaminster who now run a volunteer led Saturday bus service, the Beaminster food bank and the Prout Bridge project, which is seeking to continue youth services in the town and become a community hub.

"We considered what role the church has in being a place of welcome, connection and support for all parts of the communities we serve and how we might work alongside community partners to help expose hidden poverty and take steps to alleviate it. We also considered the importance of campaigning and education to help those in power notice the particular challenges of the rural context.

"We had an excellent, stimulating and educating afternoon which led to lots of threads and ideas to be picked up on in the future. A huge thanks to all our guests and experts who gave their time so willingly."

View the Channel 4 film here

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