This is a question and answer piece with some charities from Shropshire, including Citizens Advice Shropshire, Age UK Shropshire Telford & Wrekin, Marches Energy Agency and Shropshire Food Poverty Alliance. This is the second in a series of interviews which further explore the impact of the cost of living crisis on individuals and charities.

We asked these rural charities some questions about how the increase in the cost of living is affecting organisations in their area and their service users in Shropshire. Their collective responses were as follows.

How is the rise in the overall cost of living affecting service users in your area?
The cost of living crisis is a nationwide emergency, but working in a rural county such as Shropshire brings added layers of complexity. For many, rural England conjures images of beautiful, idyllic, prosperous villages—which do not reflect the reality of many of those who live in rural communities. National deprivation indices are dominated by characteristics of urban populations, making them less relevant in rural settings and leading to rural areas often being overlooked by national funding structures. This back drop of hidden inequalities, combined with the unique challenges presented by a rural geography (lack of access to services, public transport, affordable food retailers, a low wage economy), has a number of implications for working in a rural setting.

The rise in energy costs and fuel is having a huge impact in our county. The energy price cap has obvious implications but many rural households are also not on the mains gas grid, instead relying on oil, LPG or solid fuel central heating systems, for which there is currently no government regulation and it is not always possible to spread the cost (1,000 litres of heating oil currently costs over £1,000, an average household will use around 2,000 litres of heating oil a year).

We know that the pandemic has exacerbated health inequalities, the cost of living crisis will do the same. The mental and physical health implications of rising poverty and hardship also cannot be overstated.

Read the full article about rise in energy costs for rural communities at NPC.