As part of the Countryside Agency’s commitment to the Diversity Review, set out in the Rural White Paper (2000), research was commissioned to examine how the policies, strategies and initiatives of countryside service providers addressed the needs of under-represented1 groups. These typically include the elderly and people with disabilities, people from black and minority ethnic communities, people with low incomes and from inner cities, women and young people.
Many service providers take what they regard as an even-handed approach and promote ‘Countryside for All’: nobody is excluded, but equally nobody is specifically encouraged. However, the research revealed a lack of understanding and confidence in communicating with under-represented groups. Because diversity frequently falls within the remit of many different departments within an organisation, there is no clear lead or effective monitoring and evaluation. As a result, the needs of specific groups are often insufficiently understood and potential opportunities that inclusion would bring to both the user and provider are lost.