Centre for Rural Research Annual Review 2004 - College of Social ...

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Centre for Rural Research Annual Review 2004 - College of Social ...

compares with 24% in Wiltshire, 40% in Cornwall and 44% in Devon. A varietyof problems were highlighted (the significance of which tended to vary betweenthe study areas), including: availability of suitably located, good quality andaffordable childcare; childcare during the school holidays; lack of flexibility inchildcare provision; dealing with childcare when a child is ill (and thereforeunable to attend nursery or school) or when their family carer is ill; a lack offamily support locally; and lack of suitable care for slightly older children. Therelatively favourable situation with regard to childcare observed in Somerset mayreflect a situation observed by one respondent: “With more emphasis on womenworking, pre-school facilities have improved locally over the last few years” (52year old woman, in part time paid work, living with husband and 16 year oldson). It is certainly the case that in the Blackdown Hills childcare provision hasbeen improving in recent years, and in other rural parts of the county, with theEarly Years Department in the local authority and Sure Start ‘increasinglystrong’. However, in spite of this relatively more optimistic picture of provision,one Somerset service provider was clear about the situation:‘While the biggest barrier to getting women back to work in this typeof rural area with a dispersed population is childcare (at least forthose with children of primary school age and younger), it’s difficultto know how more can be done’.The shifting relationship between community / voluntary and paid workAlthough often unrecognised, the voluntary work undertaken by women for theircommunities has been shown to play (at least in the past) a vital role in theoperation of rural communities and the households which comprise thesecommunities. As one questionnaire respondent in Somerset remarked, “I thinkthere’s a lot of volunteering to be done in rural communities – and women get todo a good share” (47 year old woman, working part-time in family business,living with partner and two young children). The proportion of surveyrespondents undertaking community work did not vary greatly across the fourcase study areas, with the figures for Cornwall, Wiltshire, Somerset and Devonbeing, respectively: 26%, 39%, 36%, and 33%. Children oriented activities suchas helping out at the school or at toddler groups appeared to be the most commonform of community work.Most significant perhaps for rural communities, 20% of women surveyed inSomerset indicated that the amount of voluntary work they were doing haddecreased in recent years (whereas only 10% said they were doing more). Thesituations of, and comments made by, the following women on theirquestionnaire returns begin to reveal the inter-play between paid and unpaidcommunity work and how this might be changing. One respondent indicated thatshe have given up a role in another voluntary organisation (she is currentlytrustee of a small voluntary organisation) because of increased workload in her12

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