To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what recent assessment his Department has made of (a) how widespread social exclusion is in rural areas and (b) the effect of his Department’s policies on social exclusion in rural areas.
Through the evidence gathered in the 2017-18 Community Life Survey in England, indicators linked to social exclusion do not show a significant difference between urban and rural areas. Adults living in rural areas are less likely to say that they often/always feel lonely than people living in urban areas (3% compared with 6%). In addition, adults living in rural areas are more likely to say they feel they belong to their immediate neighbourhood (68%) than those living in urban areas (61%).
The cross-government loneliness team, based in DCMS, is overseeing the implementation of England’s first Loneliness Strategy, with policies for both rural and urban areas. Government has also unlocked £20 million to tackle loneliness across England including the £11.5m Building Connections Fund, from which evidence will be gathered on what interventions work in different places, including rural areas. Guidance has also been published with the Office for National Statistics to establish a consistent way of measuring loneliness.
In its response to a House of Lords’ report on the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act in May 2018, the government reiterated its commitment to rural proofing all policies. DCMS supports this through engagement with rural stakeholders and utilising Defra guidance and statistical information.