The Social Services Inspectorate is today hosting a conference on social care in the shires aimed at stimulating debate on the issues raised by a programme of inspections of community care services in rural areas, the paper says.
The central conclusion of the inspections was that the challenges faced by care agencies in the countryside are in certain respects greater than those in inner cities.
'If joined-up working and multi-agency working is important in urban areas, it's absolutely critical in rural settings,' said John Fraser, the inspection programme's lead manager.
Some councils have appointed 'transport brokers' to co-ordinate the activities of various agencies, with one having set up a moped scheme for young poeple to get to college and started talks about using social services vehicles and non-emergency ambulances to bus people to and from remote districts.
Mr Fraser believes flexibility is the key. 'If you have all your resources tied up in bricks and motar, you may end up with people travelling 40 miles for day care services. That makes no sense.'
The best authorities, he says, are constructing packages of care that are tailored to the needs and circumstances of the individual - adapting provision as wishes change.
'I'm not saying it's easy,' he admits. 'But we have seen it can be done in the most isolated communities. The efforts being put by many frontline staff into getting care packages to people, into delivering meals on wheels, are quite extraordinary.'