Devon Churches Rural Forum

Meeting 14th July 2021

Our next meeting will be on 14th July 2021 10 am to 12 noon - by zoom

Download the Agenda here

Item 4 - Meeting notes from 8th February 2021 can be found here

Item 6 Main Item

We are very pleased that Graham Biggs, chief executive of the RSN, will be joining us to introduce the campain, Nora Corkery, CEO of Devon Communities Together and DCRF member will speak about health inequalities in Devon and Mark Betson, the national rural officer for the Church of England will speak about the levelling up agenda from the national church perspective.

Graham Biggs presentation on the "Revitalising Rural" campaign can be found here

For further preparation, you can find the introductory document for the Revitalising Rural campaign here

Nora Corkery's presentation on Health Inequalities in Devon can be found here

Item 7 - The farming update can be found here

Our next farm visit will be to Danny Semorad's farm on 4th August from 12 noon to 4 pm. There are 11 places left. Please let Penny know if you would like to come.

The Lammas Day service will be available on youtube on 25th August - details to follow

Item 8 Feedback from meetings attended

Chris Keppie, Dave Watson and Simon Leigh all attended the meeting hosted by the Clewer Initiative regarding the Farm Welfare App and Modern Slavery in a rural context. Chris writes:

In addition to the existing particular challenges of rural slavery compared to urban (reduced passing footfall, and fewer public visits to farms compared to nailbars/car washes etc - so less visibility for both reasons), there’s also a new Brexit issue of a need for c.80k additional agricultural workers from overseas (based on previous years), but the govt has stipulated quota limits of 30k from Europe post-Brexit (from 4 main agencies) – hence 50k shortfall, very likely to be met by criminal gangs… Obviously a need for employers to question agents as to how good reliability of labour, to be aware of signs, including by getting to know their workers. Another key point stressed was the continuing increase of county lines exploitation of vulnerable homeless people – with cars/vans appearing in evenings (mainly in urban areas) to offer accommodation & drugs in exchange for ‘work’, and  taking groups off there and then: something to look out for. Similarly in and around food banks.

A summary of resources provided by the Clewer Initiative on this subject can be found on our website here

Penny Body attended seminars hosted by the Rural Services Network on Rural Health and Social Care and Rural Housing.

Links to the outcomes and presentations of the Health and Social Care seminar can be found here A link to the rural housing seminar notes will be circulated when available.


Further thoughts about our main item ...

The basic premise of the Revitalising Rural campaign is that “rural areas should not be left behind in the government drive to level up different areas and regions of our country”. There are fourteen policy areas which are listed in the introductory document, and the RSN points out the interconnectedness of the themes looking at the relationship between economic, social and environmental agendas. It says that for people in rural areas to thrive, action across the full range of issues is needed. Areas covered include rural connectivity, rural schools, transport, fair funding, community action and facilities, education and skills and more. We might particularly want to pick up on the rural schools section.

From a theological perspective we might speak about this agenda being about life – and to be able to live life in all its fullness and abundance, and also about God’s justice, working to reduce poverty, increase flourishing, and helping to build strong communities.

When we think about such issues, our perspective is “how can the church respond? What can we do?”.

  • The first thing seems to be about Awareness Raising – by gaining an insight into some of the issues raised, we are helping to develop the conversation and bring the church’s voice to the table
  • Through a raised awareness we open possibilities for church members and others to have conversations with MPs and others in positions of influence when possible – all of which will help to keep the focus on rural areas and rural needs high in parliament
  • Through members of the Forum sharing their personal insights and experiences relating to these issues we are able to offer a perspective from the ground up, and one that can be nuanced through theological reflection, as part of the church’s wider voice. This experience can be fed back in consultations etc.

The RSN is a membership organisation comprising local authorities, the NFU, large charities and other community organisations, groups and individual academics. It exists to collect information from partners and represent and campaign on rural issues. The DCRF is now a member of the Rural Services Partnership (part of the RSN) which means that we can be consulted in the information gathering phase of any future campaigns and representations, which would be an excellent way of picking up and feeding back from the third bullet point above. Forum members can also attend seminars and other events on many areas of rural interest.

In the meantime if you have insights and experiences in your patches in any of the policy areas listed in the report (or others) please could you let me know so we can share these as part of the item. If you are involved already in the “levelling up” agenda in any way already please could you also let me know if you would be able to speak at the meeting – as you know, one of the great things about the Forum is that we have such a breadth of experience and ideas and it is really good to be able to share that.

From the above, we hope we may be able to discuss what we conclude are the main issues affecting our rural communities in Devon? What points of theological reflection might we make? How do we think the church can respond?

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