POVERTY has increased in isolated rural parts of Yorkshire over the last two years and biting funding cuts have made isolation and deprivation worse.
Austerity measures mean that while people in rural areas are struggling more and more to make ends meet, the organisations they would turn to for help are seeing their budgets slashed and are cutting staff and services, a new report says.
The document, called Rural Lifelines: Revisited, is the second to be published by three voluntary organisations in the region and looks back to warnings issues about the hardships facing rural communities made in 2011.
In North Yorkshire, 7.5 per cent of rural dwellers are classed as “income deprived”; 5.4 per cent – almost four times the national average – live more than 6km from a GP; and 13 per cent have no private transport, despite the recent cuts in public bus services.
Leah Swain is chief officer at Rural Action Yorkshire, which wrote the report alongside Involve Yorkshire and Humber and the Humber and Wolds Rural Community Council.
She said: “Public spending funding cuts are impacting on everyone, but at Rural Action Yorkshire we see a greater impact in rural areas.
“This is due to the high cost of service delivery in rural villages making those services vulnerable when money needs to be saved.
“Then there is the expense of having to travel further to reach remaining services and facilities – and the fact that many vulnerable and elderly rural residents cannot travel and are at increasing risk of isolation and loneliness.
“Heating costs are exacerbating the problem, with some people having to choose between food or fuel – nobody should have to make that decision.
“Many farmers are also still feeling the effects of the bad weather in 2012, meaning they are particularly vulnerable to hardship.”
But in spite of the obvious need that exists in rural areas the report says they often get a raw deal, partly because the illusion of prosperous countryside idylls hides the difficult reality.
Among the growing problems is rising fuel poverty, which hits country dwellers who rely on expensive oil to heat their homes more than city homes, the need for food banks being set up in rural area, and transport cuts, like the decision by North Yorkshire County Council to take £2 million from its bus subsidy budget.