Rural youth hardest hit in struggle for jobs or training
Young people in rural areas like the Westcountry have been hardest hit by the recession with a more rapid increase in those out of work or education.
Since the financial crisis in 2007, the number of 16-25 year olds not in education, training or employment (Neets) in the countryside has risen by more than a third, compared to one-fifth in urban areas, according to the report by the Commission for Rural Communities.
It highlighted high fuel costs and a lack of public transport in rural areas for limiting opportunities for young people but also questioned the capacity of voluntary groups and the private sector to provide services previously provided by the public sector.
Dr Stuart Burgess, chairman of the Commission for Rural Communities, said the report "shone a light on one of the most important issues facing England's rural areas – the future of its young people".
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
"The high number of young people not in education, employment and training across the country is clearly a matter of considerable concern for young people, communities and policy makers," he said.
"There needs to be a national dialogue over how this affects rural areas and I hope this report will act as a catalyst for addressing the range of uniquely intractable barriers that young people in rural areas face."
The commission's report said there was "no clear, overarching responsibility across Government" for the development and employment of young people in rural areas.
As a result, little consideration was being given to addressing the problems. It called for a Government minister for young people who would act as "a focal point and representative for rural youth affairs within and across central government".
The report warned that youngsters in areas like Devon and Cornwall "face a number of uniquely rural barriers".
They frequently had to travel long distances to work, training and education, while the high cost and low availability of public and private transport had a "negative impact on opportunities".
It added: "There are also concerns that the additional cost of delivering employment and training services in rural areas is leading providers to focus on more highly populated parts of the country.
"The commission recognises that changes to Government policy are, in some instances, having a positive effect. For example, widening the market for the provision of public services is resulting in opportunities for providers to tailor their services to more remote parts of the country.
"But the commission questions the capacity of private and voluntary providers to fill the gap left by the removal or scaling back of services previously delivered by the public sector, particularly in more remote areas where it can cost more to deliver a service."
As a consequence, it warned that could lead to "considerable disparities in the level of services and support available to young people living in these areas" while some were "streamlining their services, and becoming less rural focussed" in order to remain viable.