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