A greater understanding of social isolation in rural communities is needed following cuts to public transport, according to The Dean of Ripon.
The Very Rev John Dobson chaired a discussion to explore issues hindering progress in rural parts of Yorkshire at Ripon Cathedral last Thursday (June 11).
Many who attended the discussion raised the issue about elderly people facing isolation after North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) announced fresh cuts to bus services.
Dean John Dobson said there needed to be a greater understanding of how these cuts could affect people in the rural communities and how this could be tackled.
He said: “We know that there is a big problem of people at risk of being isolated in their rural communities because there is now a lack of public transport services.
“That issue came through quite clearly at the discussion and it is a subject that is very close to people’s heart. There needs to be a greater understanding of the issue.
“There will be a few people shaping policies who have got a grasp of that issue but people are coming from right across the district to say they need a fuller grasp of it.
“We have got a big part to play in this and people now need to start looking out for and helping each other. A lack of public transport could be solved by car sharing or other creative ideas.”
Dean John Dobson stressed the needs of the rural communities needed to be represented more adequately after many people raised concerns to experts on the panel.
James Bell, Bishop of Ripon in the Diocese of Leeds, former MP Anne McIntosh, chief officer of Rural Action Yorkshire, Leah Swain and the Dean of the faculty of education at Cumbria University, Dr Sheila Hunter, were all panellists at the discussion.
While Mrs Macintosh agreed that community-run transport schemes, run by volunteers, were ‘attractive’ she warned that they could be tricky to establish.
The Mayor of Ripon, Pauline McHardy, has called on NYCC to step in and establish ways to communicate with elderly people at risk of being ‘stranded’ without public transport.
She said: “We are not just talking about the impact on a little village because there is more to the rural area than this, it could be someone that lives miles from everyone else.
“These people may not have a car anymore and it raises the question of how do we connect with these people if their transport is taking away from them.
“There needs to be some form of link, somebody at the council needs to take control of this area, get a map, and say ‘these are the people at risk of isolation’.
“This is making people extremely self reliant. People obviously have to help themselves but there are others paying for services that they are no longer getting.”