Spotlight on our troubles Spalding Guardian Article 19th January 2012
Church focus on social issues in Fens
THE vicar of Long Sutton, Father Jonathan Sibley, is one of two Church of England figures taking a fresh look at easing social troubles in the Fens.
Isolation, poverty, health, the elderly, ‘new arrivals’, families and young people are among nine topics in the spotlight – and church leaders are drawing together the wider community so there is a joined-up, strategic approach to solving problems.
Among those contributing are Lincolnshire County Council, South Holland District Council, Lincolnshire Police, the NHS, South Lincolnshire Community and Voluntary Service and Spalding’s Agape Care Foodbank.
Father Jonathan and the Rev Canon Andrew Vaughan, senior chaplain with the Lincolnshire Industrial Chaplaincy Service, have already received responses from the 80 Church of England parishes within South Holland and The Deepings and Boston.
They asked parishes to pinpoint problems and, where possible, say what needs to be done.
Last October they widened the project by inviting statutory and voluntary agencies to the University of Lincoln campus at Holbeach – and will hold a repeat meeting there on March 1.
Father Jonathan said: “It’s not a talking shop and says the scope of the Church project is wider – as it includes Boston – and is an example of ‘the big society’ at work.
Examples of churches helping the wider community include street pastors working in Boston, Spalding and Pinchbeck and churches opening their doors so other agencies can run things like parenting courses or tea afternoons for the elderly.
Father Jonathan says the work began at the suggestion of The Bishop of Grantham, the Rt Rev Tim Ellis, and is supported by South Holland and The Deepings MP John Hayes.
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Reflecting on our changing Rural Communities
Change is part of life we cannot prevent it but we can influence it. Within a period of change there are winners and there are casualties. We should aim to minimise the negative impact of change on our communities and the people within them
A few facts and figures about South Holland
Fast growing population although still considered sparsely populated in terms of people per hectare.
The latest population estimate for South Holland is 84,600 people.
South Holland's population is predicted to increase to 94,000 by 2020 which is a faster rise than that predicted for England and Wales.
20.8% of the population are of pensionable age. This is higher than the average in England and Wales (19.1%). (Source: ONS Mid 2009 population estimates).
More people own cars and therefore travel to work by car (64.3%) than the average in England and Wales (55.2%) There are also more people who cycle to work in South Holland (5.7%) compared with England and Wales (2.8%).
Boston B and South Holland has the smallest proportion of people using public transport to travel to work in the East Midlands.
The average weekly wage in South Holland is £451.80 compared with £501.80 across England and Wales (source: Nomis 2010 )
In 2009, 19.3 % of residents had qualifications at NVQ Level 4 or above compared with 25.7% in the East Midlands and 29.9% nationally.
The Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) 2010 show that 1.1% of the population of South Holland live in deprived areas. This represents an increase of 0.4% since the last indices were released in 2007.
Much of South Holland District sits at or below sea level, with many parts of the district at risk from flooding
South Holland has an increasingly diverse population
Given that the rural population continues to age faster than in urban areas, this will have consequences for the delivery of goods and services, especially in relation to housing and healthcare
Rising costs of living in rural villages’ means that many families cannot afford to live there (domestic fuel and travel costs)
Rural areas are some of the most desirable and, therefore, some of the least affordable places to live in England.
People in rural areas generally need to work and earn well above the minimum wage to make ends meet. But since many rural jobs are poorly paid, many people have substantially less than they need, even if they work.
People in rural areas typically need to spend 10–20 per cent more on everyday requirements than those in urban areas. The more remote the area, the greater these additional costs will be.
Organisations and local authorities serving rural communities currently face the challenge of adjusting to significant reductions in state funding. This could lead to adverse impacts on the services they provide for often vulnerable people and communities.
Challenges include many communities find themselves at greater distances from economic centres and essential services, the lack of affordable housing and often limited basic local amenities such as shops, post offices and pub
Increasing the connections between people and communities, which lies at the heart of the Big Society approach, requires both transport and high speed broadband, both of which are challenges within and between our rural communities
The region is home to many businesses that have grown and developed through primary agriculture, horticulture and associated food processing
Within rural areas, the building blocks of the Big Society are already deeply embedded within the experience of its communities.
Rural communities have a history of filling some of the resulting gaps through their own efforts.
This has meant:
· There are higher numbers of voluntary organisations per head of population in rural as compared to urban England.
· There are higher rates of civic engagement in rural England (with 54% of rural residents participating socially, attending events or helping out) as compared to urban England (where 45% of urban residents participate).
· There are an estimated £3 billion plus worth of community assets in rural England (particularly village and community halls and churches and chapels), including over 10,000 village halls in rural England, 90% of which are charities run by local volunteer trustees.
· Over 4,000 community-led plans (e.g. Parish Plans and Market Town action plans) have been completed over the last few years in rural England. About half of the actions identified in these plans have been funded and delivered by communities themselves, without the need for external assistance.
The asset base of community meeting spaces within many rural communities is considerable. This goes beyond village halls to include church buildings, scout huts and similar and also pubs and clubs. If the Big Society is to be achieved, it is vital that these assets are working together as effectively as they can, to meet the needs of rural communities.
Shops, pubs, bus services, Post Offices and village halls are the lifeblood of thriving rural communities. The government aims to support viable and sustainable rural services through encouraging innovation and alternative service delivery models such as empowering community enterprise.
Janet Clarke Senior Rural Officer Community Lincs