Alliance party politician and Member of the Legislative Assembly of Northern Ireland (MLA) John Blair has said that while poverty and social isolation exist in both urban and rural areas, those in rural areas will be hit harder by the cost-of-living crisis.

Blair said that those living in rural areas face issues that those in urban areas do not, for example geographical isolation; lower population density; reduced public services; and the “dispersed nature” of many rural settlements he said.

“Living in a rural area can also exacerbate the effects of poverty and social isolation for certain groups,” Blair added.

In rural areas, he said, there are other factors that contribute to the cost of living, such as higher fuel or transport costs, and this could impact those on lower incomes.

Blair said that this may lead to some groups, like young people or people with disabilities, to experience greater difficulty when accessing transport services in rural areas.

Household costs

“Rural homes are also much more likely to be reliant on costly oil for their heating – another cost that has rocked – and they also tend to be less well-insulated,” the Alliance MLA said.

“The cost of living has been increasing across the UK since early 2021.”

Blair added that prior to the rise in inflation and energy hikes, rural households across Northern Ireland were already experiencing poverty and financial vulnerability.

Because of this, he believes that “these households will be hardest hit and leave many more rural dwellers in poverty”.

“Insecure employment, lack of access to services and higher transport costs in travelling to access both services and employment, often with no public transport available, are top their issues which the incoming Rural Affairs Minister must address,” said Blair.

“Rural issues seem to be much less visible than in the past, but I am determined to keep these key challenges on the agenda to address the acute hardship being faced by Northern Ireland’s rural communities.”