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Some of the best examples of imaginative and innovative ways to improve services in rural areas are highlighted in ...
Some of the best examples of imaginative and innovative ways to improve services in rural areas are highlighted in Defra's Rural Services Review, published today.

The review gives real life examples of how communities, businesses and local government are working in partnership to bring benefits to young people, public services, housing and older people.

Rural Services Review

Rural affairs minister Barry Gardiner said:

'This publication is intended for everyone in rural areas, especially those who are working towards improving services in their communities. People have come up with many creative and imaginative ways to overcome barriers and deliver services to our national standards.

'By showcasing these success stories, we want to give everyone a better idea of how to engage with their service providers and achieve benefits for the community as a whole.'

Mr Gardiner continued:

'The standards set out in the review cut across a range of government departments and demonstrate our commitment to putting the needs of rural people at the heart of all policy making. We want to ensure access to good quality services for all rural people.

'In the Rural Services Review we do more than just describe the

standards: we show what they actually mean for people living in the countryside and what can be done locally to ensure fair access for all, particularly the disadvantaged.'

Among many admirable local projects highlighted in the Review are:

Day care in Northumberland

When a council-owned home for elderly people in the small rural village of Belford was closed in 1997, determined villagers successfully campaigned to retain as many local health and welfare services. Now the community-run Bell View Project is providing a range of services from cardiac rehabilitation, to social activities, such as rugmaking. The centre supports older people to live independently in their own homes, and ensure that just because they live in a rural area they are not isolated.

Derbyshire co-operation saves village nursery

The Earlybirds Carter Lane Neighbourhood Nursery, in the former mining village of Shirebrook, was saved from closure. When county council funding ended, staff formed a co-operative. This resulted in the survival of the 17-year-old nursery and the creation up of a brand-new nursery in the neighbouring village of Cresswell.

Affordable, environmentally friendly homes in Norfolk

Residents in Honingham, Norfolk are benefiting from affordable homes that are also good for the environment. The two-bedroom bungalows allow local people to remain in their village in the face of escalating house prices. They have also been designed to cut household energy bills to around£2 per-week.

The four new homes have been built by Peddars Way Housing Association in partnership with The Housing Corporation and Broadland District Council.


1. If you would like a copy of the Rural Services Review or the accompanying postcards which are being used to publicise the Review; contact Defra publications on 08459 556000 (quoting ref:PB11929). Alternatively you can find further information on the Defra website:

2. The Government set out a number of national standards to underpin this aim in the 2000 Rural White Paper, emphasising that people can make a difference, and that policies would be based on engaging local people. The Rural Services Standard was first published in the Rural White Paper Our Countryside: the future in 2000. It links with the Government's commitment to rural proof its policies by ensuring rural needs are at the heart of policy making. It gives people in rural areas a better understanding of the access to services they can expect.

But, following a review last year, it was clear that the Rural Services Standard was not delivering all its objectives. The new style Rural Services Review, first published in 2004, incorporates the ideals of the rural services standards but shows how national standards are being taken forward at the level of the individual or local area. The report on the 2004 Rural Services Review was published in the Commission's annual Rural Proofing Report 2004/05.

This can be found at

3) The Review sets out eleven core rural services standards that cover some of the most important services for the rural public

1) By 2010, all schools in rural local authorities to be providing access to a 'core offer' of extended services and activities, including high quality wraparound childcare available from 8.00am to 6.00pm all year round; a varied menu of activities including a range of study support activities and other opportunities; parenting support; swift and easy referral to a wide range of specialist support services; and wider community access to ICT, sports and arts facilities, including adult learning. Half of all primary schools and a third of all secondary schools will be providing access to this range of services by 2008. (Department for Education and Skills, Tel:

0870 000 2288)

2) By March 2006, 836 Sure Start Children's Centres were offering good quality childcare and early learning, family and health services and advice on training and employment to over 650,000 children and their families in the most disadvantaged areas of the country. The target for 2008 is to have 2,500 Sure Start Children's Centres, covering all of the 30% most disadvantaged areas in England, increasing to 3,500 by 2010, one for every community. (Department for Education and Skills, Tel: 0870 000 2288)

3) Presumption against closure of rural schools: published guidance requires that the need to preserve access to a local school for rural communities is taken into account in considering closure proposals.

(Department for Education and Skills, Tel: 0870 000 2288)

4) Improve the quality of life and independence of vulnerable older people by supporting them tolive in their own homes, where possible,

by: * increasing the proportion of older people being supported to live in their own homes by 1% annually in 2007 and 2008 * increasing by 2008 the proportion of those supported intensively to live at home to 34% of those being supported at home or in residential care.

(Department of Health, Tel: 020 7210 4850)

5) All schools will have broadband connectivity by 2006. As of the end of March 2006, 90% of schools had Broadband connections.

(Department for Education and Skills, Tel: 0870 000 2288)

6) Formal requirement on the Post Office to maintain the rural network of post offices and to prevent any avoidable closures of rural post offices until autumn 2006. (Department of Trade and Industry, Tel: 020 7215 5000)

7) From December 2005, all hospital appointments will be booked for the convenience of the patient, making it easier for patients and their GPs to choose the hospital and consultant that best meets their needs. From December 2005, patients will be able to choose from at least four to five different health care providers for planned hospital care, paid for by the NHS. (Department of Health, Tel: 020 7210 4850)

8) All patients, including those living in rural areas, can expect to be offered an appointment to see a primary care professional within

24 hours or a GP within 48 hours. The recent White Paper - Our Health Our Care Our Say - broadens the scope of the 24/48 hours access target to include advance booking, improvements to the current reporting system and taking more account of what patients say in monitoring NHS performance. All patients will have the ability to get fast access when they need it and to book a GP appointment in advance. (Department of Health, Tel: 020 7210 4850)

9) To ensure that everyone who wants it has access to the internet by 2005. - Achieved. (Department of Trade and Industry, Tel: 020 7215


10 a) NHS ambulance trusts are required to respond to:

* Presenting conditions which may be immediately life-threatening (Category A) within eight minutes irrespective of location, in 75% of cases. A fully equipped ambulance should attend incidents classified as Category A within 19 minutes of the request for transport 95% of the time, unless the control room decides that an ambulance is not required.

* Other emergency calls, which though serious are not immediately life-threatening (category B) should be responded to 95% of the time within 19 minutes. * From 1st October 2004, ambulance services together with PCTs and Strategic Health Authorities have been free to set local standards for managing non-urgent (Category C) calls.

* Ambulance services are required to take patients to hospital where the need is identified by a doctor as urgent. A response should arrive at the scene within 15 minutes of the time specified by the doctor in 95% of cases.

Clarification of the underlying definitions for these standards and the elimination of the split between rural and urban services, were introduced from 1st April 2006 in response to the recommendations set out in the ambulance review 'Taking Healthcare to the Patient:

Transforming NHS Ambulance Services.' (Department of Health, Tel: 020 7210 4850)

10 b) With the introduction of integrated Risk Management plans, each fire authority is now responsible for determining:

* The number of appliances sent to an incident; and

* Target times for attendance

This applies to the whole range of calls to which the Fire and Rescue Service is called and is not limited to their response to fires.

Contact your local fire authority to find out more about the targets in your area. (Department for Communities and Local Government, Tel:

020 7944 4400)

10 c) Each police force sets response times locally and has targets that they deem appropriate to reflect the circumstances of their area. Contact your local police force to find out more about the targets for your area. (Home Office, Tel: 020 7035 4848)

11) We have set a target for the proportion of the rural population living within about 10 minutes' walk of an hourly or better bus service to increase from 37% to 50% by 2010. (Department for Transport, Tel: 020 7944 8300)

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