So I will begin by providing a bit of context in terms of the research area while acknowledging the difficulties and innovation required in providing services of high quality and wide geographic dispersion at low unit costs. I will then explain how our surveys of rural services in Wales have been conducted in order to provide an evidence base for policy and decision making. I will present findings from our most recent survey to highlight changes to the level of service and explore how they are perceived. Also by combining evidence from this our research into deep rural, there will be a discussion on how communities have become resilient through the incorporation of a variety of coping strategies.
The sparse and dispersed settlement structure of rural Wales means that service provision is always going to be difficult for these rural places compared to urban areas. A dimension of complexity is added to this situation because there are no clear demarcations where particular types of rural services begin or end and with many service facilities functioning for multiple purposes. Given the complexity of the problem and current funding difficulties resulting from the recent economic recession it is perhaps unsurprising that service provision has become topical in the media and in political debates Within policy discourse the necessity of service provision to shift towards a citizen centred and collaborative approach has emerged. At the same time the media has mainly been mainly concerned about dramatizing the negative effects that service closures have on communities. The Beecham report published in 2006 that outlines a strategy for Wales in the context of the Spatial plan for improving local services. In a direct response to this document LSB were developed to enable service providers to work in collaboration to solve local problems relating to service delivery and provision. Alongside this work conducted by the Wales Rural Observatory has also explored service provision at a household level within communities in deep rural Wales. Communities with low levels of key services. This work revealed another layer of complexity to service provision through the accounts of residents. Residents were aware that their choice of where to live meant that they knowingly accepted service levels that contrasted with urban but also thought that their situations needed to be viewed in relation to equity issues and a minimum standard of service delivery. So service provision in rural Wales is not just about the physical distribution and location of services, the story told through a mixture of qualitative and quantitative evidence is something more, it shifts concerns to the resilience of communities through their coping strategies, to community relations, trust mechanisms and the institutions of public life that constitute these areas.
It is important to consider what this means and how it can best be understood in light of findings from the 2010/11 Wales Rural Observatory rural services surveys. This survey explores many of these issues (as shown in the slide) and uses the community council as the unit of analysis. The survey covers a number of essential, key and auxiliary services in a number of areas that are listed here… The services survey was a postal survey with questionnaires sent in English and Welsh to community clerks taken to represent each community. The list was provided to us from One Voice Wales, the representative body for all town and community councils in Wales. They were also helpful in piloting the questionnaire. Responses were received either via post or through our online questionnaire available on the WRO website. Responses were then linked to our GIS system, enabling us to cut the data according to population size of the community.
For this research Rural Wales was defined as set out in the rural development plan 2007-2013. We managed to receive a response rate of 61%. The geographic coverage achieved is shown here.
So now to some of the results, I will start off with transport as this is important in terms of being able to access service particularly in more remote areas. Public transport was one of several means of accessing services however as can be seen from these statistics its availability and operating schedule were mixed. There was a low level of peak time bus services compared to those running at other times of day. Respondents often reported poor connectivity in relation to transport nodes in relation to arrival and departure times and how services were not always appropriate to their communities needs. With public transport not meeting specific needs, demand and use decrease and consequently the perceived need diminishes. It can be seen that public transport has decreased in 27% of communities since 2007 Community transport schemes (shown) were also in operation in 37% of communities with initiatives such as Bwcabws available within certain rural communities providing a more on demand service for some (Ceredigion and parts of Carmarthenshire). Aside from these forms of shared transport many respondents reported that most residents had to rely on private transport to access services. A consequence of this is that those who are less mobile are left dependant on others, for example the elderly, the young, those who were less affluent, and those who were physically unable to drive. This situation is becoming increasingly unsustainable with volatile fuel prices and other expenses of running a vehicle.
So as you can see there were low levels of retail provision in rural Wales. This is especially the case for shops that sell non-food items with only 26% of communities with this service. Residents were noted to have to travel much further distances to access this type of service. It is also important here to point out that many service facilities have multiple functions in one facility, for example a petrol station may well sell groceries and certain household products. Public houses also have many secondary roles as highlighted in the Pub is the hub scheme (e.g. provide milk, groceries, postal services), although showing signs of decline since 2004 this facility was available in 82% of communities. 77% of pubs also provided meals so they served as a place to eat out, important due to the low levels of other forms of eating establishments. Few communities with a bank – closure of banks were an issue recently highlighted in the media with many of their functions now provided via online banking and cash machines. Concerns were raised about the viability of business to locate in a rural area without sufficient banking facilities. Post offices have also been quite widely discussed within the media and policy circles, in terms of their rationalization within the network change programme. Post offices can often provide many of the functions of a bank and offer many other government services. Aside from providing alternative services Post offices and shops often act as a focal point of the community not just in terms of location but also in terms of social function, a place of convergence, often being described as ‘the heart of the community’. Often survival of certain services are contingent on their continued use with some services making the difference between some residents remaining in an area or moving elsewhere. Closures to these types of service can have a greater affect on smaller communities and can be linked to a loss of a particular way of rural life. (Ghost towns, dormant villages)
An ageing population will put increasing stress on existing medical services. Currently these services tend to be concentrated in communities contain over 1,000 people. This trend was in fact found for many services throughout the survey. Qualitative responses revealed difficulties for residents in terms of accessing the service within limited opening hours and the difficulty of more vulnerable members of the community travelling long distances to obtain the appropriate treatment.“Good doctors, but a VERY POOR ambulance service.”“Poor bus service if travelling to surgery. No local taxi.”“A part time GP surgery is held for two hours on three days of the week. These are appointment only.” “Access is a problem, appointment system in GP surgery causes some problems.” “Poor bus service if travelling to surgery. No local taxi.” Certain accessibility problems were related to communities that bordered England: “Hospital services are often only available from England.” “We live in Wales but our only GP is in England thus patients have to pay prescription charges.” The threat of service closure was a concern for some communities: “A&E provision used to be at adjacent council area now seven miles away and concern about threat to Community Hospital as nearest General is 40 miles away.” “Community objecting to a pharmacy application as it will result in the closure of pharmacy supplied by community health centre.” The long distances needed to travel to obtain the correct treatment were emphasised by this community clerk: “... If you need hospital treatment you have to travel 55 miles to Shrewsbury. Recently a person travelled to Bronglais, Aberystwyth and ended up in Moriston, South Wales, for a minor operation. His wife had to drive and collect him, nearly 150 mile round trip. We also need to have our own local hospital provide more beds for recuperation of patients. It is very, very poor! This situation, we are told is going to get worse, are we in a third world country?” Respondents also explained that accessibility was even more difficult for certain social groups: “Hard for: 1)The old. 2) People with no cars. 3)The very sick, to get to the town five miles away.” “Services seem to be moving further away from town which has quite a high elderly population.” “Private Dentists very expensive.” Despite not being specifically explored within the survey, the Ambulance service arose as a problematic service in rural Wales: “Ambulance response times are notoriously bad, and have been subject to continued protest.” “Good doctors, but a VERY POOR ambulance service.” There was some evidence of initiatives to counteract some of the difficulties faced by communities: “Local pharmacy also runs prescription box into village once a week for those who cannot get to surgery.” “Currently less than adequate, but new major hospital coming on line later this year in adjacent council area will improve access considerably.”
Permanent libraries were available in few communities and these tended to be the more populated rural communities, however service was provided to many smaller communities by bringing the library to the community via a mobile service. There were just under a third of communities with a community internet facility (this could possibly be because a lack of appropriate venue in some communities)Community internet facilities reliant on having access and a place to put the facility(tended to be available in communities containing permanent libraries, community centres, village halls, hotels, pubs, post offices or shops)(e.g. poor with slow transfer speeds, and an erratic and patchy service,
In terms of Welfare services, these were only available in a minority of communities, with increasingly difficult social and economic conditions putting stress on these few limited resources available. Community support mechanism were in place in some communities but were reliant on kindness of neighbours and their continued ability to help or were available through voluntary organisations.
As the survey methodology has remained relatively consistent between the 2004 and 2010/11 survey we are able to assess change through looking at the key findings from both surveys. The table on the left shows services that have decreased in coverage over time, the table on the right shows those that have increased. The table highlights services showing the greatest percentage point change, many services were noted to continue with low levels of provision.
In addition we were able to analyse communities that responded in both survey years to reveal how change has occurred within different population groups. So for this selected service you can see there is more reduction from the least populated communities
In terms of perceptions of services, 46% perceived the general level to be satisfactory, with slightly more suggesting it was poor or very poor than good or very good. Perceptions varied between services and also according to population size of community. So in the graph you can sees that perception become more positive towards general service provision when community sizes exceed 1,000. Also education and recycling services are rated preferentially compared with retail, welfare and public transport.
This resonates with findings from our research that investigated deep rural areas, communities were selected based on their distance from and lack of services, within this work it was not until researchers pointed out how isolated in relation to people in other areas that residents started to discuss their problems. Residents would often have unique coping strategies in place, however these systems could often be fragile and break down in times of crisis. It seems that expectations of services can vary according to use and dependence and determine if responses are based on perception or experiences. A number of coping strategies were eluded to fro example the necessity to own private transport, but also how cars could be shared or vehicles borrowed, and how some would rely on lifts. Other strategies including planning journeys in advance in order to make multipurpose trips. Some would accept longer journeys and buy in bulk whilst others would simply chose to make do without certain services or incur the higher costs. Other strategies noted were facilities performing multiple functions and the use of mobile services, also the use of non face-to-face facilities such as catalogues, telephone and internet services were used.
So understanding service availability, accountability, accommodation, affordability and acceptability in relation to barriers of culture, complexity and capacity enables us to engage with the various issues with rural service provision. It helps us understand how residents can respond to the changing provision (as noted here) and engage in alternative scenarios and adapt expectations accordingly. The natural peace and quiet slower pace of life afforded by not living in the midst of things were qualities that could be valued by those mobile individuals who considered the inconvenience of driving and expense as a fair tradeoff, a culture they had accepted, a component of the lifestyle they had chosen. However as some people lifestyles changed living in these isolated environments could swiftly become a disadvantage and a barrier to remain living where they wished. For those with little choice, this triggers the employment of coping mechanisms. QUESTIONS?general store, post office, pub (that had games), petrol station, playgroup, primary school, place of worship, village/church hall, formal play area, playing field, football or rugby club, club for retired people, off-peak bus service, crime prevention advice, or recycling serviceespecially when population thresholds were less the 1,000Exceptions - For example, although the provision of some medical services and schools had reduced in some communities, perceptions of the level of provision that remained were generally good.recycling facilities and broadband; both now available to some degree in the majority of communities
Places of Worship5487341562%Petrol Station48225854%Post Office109358153%Day Care Groups74437050%Pub2352116850%Restaurant102349148%Cafe60728347%Educational Establishments193389947%Banks and Building Society81136845%Non Food Only Shop7946353244%Food Only Shop130156844%Nursery School96435437%Permanent Library30210735%Dental Surgeries44915935%General Store187666135%GP75026235%Village Hall/ Community Centre61921635%Pharmacies & Chemists79226934%Take Away160351332%Health Centre45813129%
Jon Radcliffe: Changing services in rural Wales
Changing services in rural WalesJonathan Radcliffe
Outline• Background to research• Rural Services Survey 2010/11• Selected key findings from Rural Services Survey2010/11• Changing Rural Service Provision• Perception of Rural Service Provision• Resilience and coping strategies• Concluding remarks
Background• Policy discourse in Wales highlighted need to shift towards citizencentred approaches to service provision based on collaboration• Recent economic recession Welsh public services face changeand tough choices as a result of budget cuts need for efficientand accountable services• Media highlights the effect of service closures on communities• Service provision is more complex than simply the physicaldistribution of services across the country, it is about communityrelations, trust mechanisms, coping strategies and the institutions ofpublic life that constitute these areas
Rural Services Survey 2010/11• A study by the Wales Rural Observatory of ‘service provision’ acrossWales. Explores the level of provision, perceptions of service levels, qualityand accessibility of services, and the problems experienced by particulargroups• For data collection the Community or Town Council is the spatial level ofanalysis (termed ‘community’ onwards)• Focus on several areas of activity: shops, financial, food and drinkservices; medical services; education and day-care; places of worship,information and welfare; recreation facilities and community activities;transport; and community recycling• Questionnaire sent to each community clerk (in both English and Welsh) inWales from a database provided by One Voice Wales.• Questionnaires returned by post or online and entered into database linkedto Geographical Information System (GIS)
Transport• A bus service was operated in 39% of communities on every day of the week,whereas 29% operated six days a week and 15% operated on fewer days– Peak Bus Service (0700-0900 and 1500-1800) – 48% had this service in their community– Off-peak Bus Service (Between 0900 and 1500)- 70% had this service in their community– Evening Bus Service (After 1800) -71% had this service in their community• 27% of respondents observed that public transport had decreased in theircommunity since 2007.“Those services just outside our area, that do run, suit the operators and not potential customers.They always arrive just after the trains at both potential connection points!”“Community bus is good in local area but not bus service, the frequency is very poor, hence withoutprivate transport travel is difficult and inconvenient.”• Dial a ride or Community bus/taxi available operate in 37% of communities– Evidence of recent innovative initiatives to supplement public transport such as Bwcabws• Residents were reported to rely heavily on private transport to access services
Retail, financial, Food and Drink• Shops:– Food only: 38% of rural communities with service– Non-food: 26% of rural communities with service– General Stores: 54% of rural communities with service• Public house: 82% of rural communities with service (92% in 2004)• Banks and building societies: Few communities with these services (14% and9% respectively)• Post Office: 57% of rural communities with service (31% of respondentsreported a decrease since 2007)“The services provided by the Post Office and the local shop are vital.Life without these would be extremely difficult.”
Medical Services• Provision concentrated in the most populated communities“Services seem to be moving further away from town which has quite a high elderly population.”• A number of respondents noted problems experienced related to openinghours, accessibility and the problems experienced by particular social groups“Hard for: 1)The old. 2) People with no cars. 3)The very sick, to get to the town five miles away.”“Private Dentists very expensive.”CommunityPopulation Size0-1000 1000 + Total% % %GP 8 53 30Dentist 5 34 19Health centre 5 23 14Pharmacy 8 49 28Hospital 8 21 14
Places of learning and information• Libraries (less populated communities serviced by mobile service)– Permanent: 22% of rural communities with service– Mobile: 64% of rural communities with service• Community internet facilities: 32% of rural communities with service• Broadband reported to be available in 85% of communities, althoughthere were issues concerning the quality and extent of service provided
Welfare and community activities• Support Services (proportion of communities with support for groups)“No level of welfarein our area.” “There is none....we look afterour old/infirm with voluntary/neighbour support.”“A rising age profile in local areas with no additional resources to support the additional demands.”“an elderly person without a carer and/or transport is facing real problems in this part of rural Wales.”• Community activities– 52% had a football/rugby club, similarly 52% had pub games, 47% held arts ormusic events, a quarter had Eisteddfodau, 42% held agricultural or horticulturalshows.“There is not a community heart or spirit here, something could be done to encourage this but volunteerswould be required.”“Despite being isolated there is a community spirit and many activities take place involving most of thecommunity.”Elderly 20%Young 21%Mental Health or Physicaldisbailities 8%Unemployed 5%Homeless 4%Drug/Alchohol problems 5%Domestic violence 4%
Longitudinal Change in Post Offices01020304050607080901000-500 500-1000 1000-1500 1500+%Population bands20042010
Longitudinal Change in Libraries01020304050607080901000-500 500-1000 1000-1500 1500+%Population bands20042010
Perceptions of Service Provision• 25% perceived general service provision to be good or very good,46% considered it satisfactory and 29% considered it poor or verypoor0102030405060%Population bandsVG/GSatisfactoryP/VPGood Adequate BadEducation 65% 31% 4%CommunityRecycling53% 34% 13%CommunityActivities29% 45% 26%Medical 28% 51% 21%Recreation 18% 44% 38%Day Care 15% 45% 40%PublicTransport13% 48% 40%WelfareProvision7% 53% 40%Retail 16% 38% 46%
Resilience and Coping Strategies• Despite the low provision of many services and ageneral decline in many facilities over time perceptionsremain relatively positive rural resilience and lowlevels of expectation• Coping Strategies developed e.g. reliance on privatetransport, car sharing, support fromfamily/friends/volunteers, multi purpose trips, bulk buying• Fragile mechanisms contingent on volunteers, peopleskindness and continued ability to help
Concluding Remarks• Over time for many rural communities, services appeared to have reducedor continued with low levels of provision.• Certain services more commonplace than others in rural Wales. Provisionof even these typical services tended to fall as community population sizedecreased.• Particular groups, such as the young, elderly, less affluent, and those withcertain disabilities, are more susceptible to changes in service provision.• Cuts to public sector services and tightening family budgets will placefurther strain on existing service provision in rural Wales at a time whenthese services are potentially most needed.• Some communities had developed their own unique coping strategies inresponse to the service level available to them within their communities.
Rural compared to Wales (Totals: Point X)Wales RuralPlaces of Worship 5487 3415Petrol Station 482 258Post Office 1093 581Day Care Groups 744 370Pub 2352 1168Restaurant 1023 491Cafe 607 283Educational Establishments 1933 899Banks and Building Society 811 368Non Food Only Shop 7946 3532Food Only Shop 1301 568Nursery School 964 354Permanent Library 302 107Dental Surgeries 449 159General Store 1876 661GP 750 262Village Hall/ Community Centre 619 216Pharmacies & Chemists 792 269Take Away 1603 513Health Centre 458 131• Not straightforward• Need to considerdensity• Totals tend to behigher in non rural formost services