Children in remote areas ‘face insecurity due to lack of transport and internet’

Lack of access to public transport and the internet is leaving children in remote, rural communities facing “prolonged isolation, exclusion and insecurity”, a report warns.

Children in remote rural and coastal communities “have been overlooked for too long”, according to the Centre for Mental Health.

Its report, funded by BBC Children in Need, found that eight to 13-year-olds are struggling to get mental health support because of poor transport, digital connectivity and a lack of safe spaces to meet.

Rural areas often appear to be “poorly served” by specialist services, the report entitled The Space Between Us found.

It is calling for more funding for local councils to invest in digital infrastructure for places with limited connectivity, to develop peer support services and invest in parks, schools and community centres.

Centre for Mental Health deputy chief executive Andy Bell said: “Children in remote rural and coastal communities have been overlooked for too long.

“While rural life can be good for mental health, children growing up in poverty, with disability or in a marginalised or oppressed community face a high risk of poor mental health with little support close to home.

“Without access to public transport or digital connection, children face prolonged isolation, exclusion and insecurity.

“We need to take action now to ensure no child’s mental health is put at risk because of where they live.”

The research took place before the coronavirus outbreak but the report said the issues are still as relevant, while others have become even more prominent.

It said rural families on low incomes may be especially vulnerable to the economic downturn, public services are increasingly stretched and charities have suffered drops to their income.

As the Government plans for society’s long-term recovery, the needs of children in remote areas “must not be forgotten”, the report warns.