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Don't cut rural mental health provision, urges Archbishop

Friday 5th November 2010

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams said today that the provision of mental health services in the countryside must not be cut under the current Government Comprehensive Spending Review. He said this was his greatest concern when looking at the possible shrinkage of services in the rural communities.

He described mental health problems in rural areas as "a huge problem", where the isolation and hidden deprivation are significant problems. Describing the burden placed on voluntary support services as already extreme, he said this provision must remain.

Dr Williams also spoke of the 'opportunity and challenge' for the Church to get across to those driving the Big Society what is already happening in the countryside through the rural church and community groups.

"Conversations earlier this week in Westminster suggested that a number of people driving the Big Society have not really thought through what the implication might be certainly for the rural setting," he said.

He added that it was an opportunity and challenge in getting across to these people what is happening and the specific needs adding that a certain amount of what gets talked about is already going on. It was about capacity building not exultation, he added.

The General Synod will be debating the Big Society and the Church on November 23.

The Archbishop was leading a reflection and responding to questions at Faith and the Future of the Countryside – 2010, at the Swanwick Conference Centre to mark 20 years since the publication of Faith in the Countryside, the seminal report of the Archbishop's Commission on Rural Areas chaired by Lord Prior.

With reference to the Anglican-Methodist Covenant he said that the Church can't afford to be maintaining parallel operations and should work together where possible "trying to show that the church is moving beyond tribalism".

Dr Williams also spoke of the importance of challenging the mindset "not uncommon in those in leadership" of thinking of rural ministry as a problem when it comes to staffing, buildings and so on rather than focusing on its importance on promoting the gospel in rural life.

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