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Voluntary and community organisations have an essential role to play in ...
Voluntary and community organisations have an essential role to play in

improving services for rural communities, but need greater support from

national and local government and other bodies if they are to make a real

difference, according to Countryside Agency board member Philip

Lowe, speaking at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)

rural conference today.

Mr Lowe underlined the important role that rural voluntary

organisations play for people living in the English countryside: 'With

their local knowledge they are uniquely placed to advise government and

other bodies, about the services that rural communities really need and the

best ways to provide them. Working with these communities, they help local

people to identify their own needs and design the projects to meet them.

They are an important source of advice and information, especially on how

to get funding, for example from the Countryside Agency's Vital Villages

grant scheme or from lottery funding.

'Rural voluntary and community organisations face a variety of unique

challenges and often operate in isolated and remote areas. The rural

voluntary sector rose magnificently to the challenge of foot and mouth

disease last year and demonstrated its flexibility and resourcefulness in

offering advice, counselling and practical support to communities and

individuals affected. Yet the income of many voluntary groups was hit hard

by reduced opportunities for fund-raising.'

New research from the NCVO 'Supporting Rural Voluntary Action', funded by

the Countryside Agency, confirms that voluntary action is vital in

underpinning England's rural communities but they are more reliant on the

work of unpaid volunteers than their urban counterparts and need more

support to enable them to improve networks and build capacity. Professor

Lowe said: 'It is essential that government, at all levels, and other

stakeholder groups take notice of this research and reinforce their

commitment to providing the necessary support and funding for the rural

voluntary sector.'

Copies of Supporting Rural Voluntary Action are available from NCVO on 020

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