References to figures appear in italic type; those in bold type refer to tables.
Rural Poverty Today investigates why and how people in rural Britain experience (and negotiate) poverty and social exclusion. It examines the roles of societal processes, individual circumstances and diverse sources of support (markets, state, voluntary and community organisations, family and friends) while also examining the role of place. This is the first major study of rural poverty in Britain since the financial crisis and subsequent austerity policies, the Brexit referendum and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This book presents evidence that, while poverty is perceived as a predominantly urban problem, many people living in rural areas also face hardship. A 2018 FCA report revealed that 54 per cent of rural households are financially vulnerable, and other recent studies show rural citizens are harder hit by the cost of living crisis. Much rural employment is insecure and poorly paid, leading to volatile and irregular incomes. It is difficult to find affordable housing, connectivity is poor and fuel poverty is widespread. Yet the UK’s welfare system is poorly adapted to rural areas, with increasing conditionality and delays leading growing numbers into debt, hardship and recourse to foodbanks. Voluntary organisations have provided crucial support to many, despite challenges of reach into rural areas and funding pressures, while services are increasingly centralised or digitalised. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated many of these pressures, while also raising awareness of rural poverty and suggesting solutions. The study distils these findings into a series of policy challenges and suggests actions to help address these.
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