Newcastle University

Financial hardship in rural areas






July 2019 – December 2020

Grant Awarded



Project summary

Developing an evidence base for action to address financial hardship in rural Britain, with a particular focus on Scotland.


Addressing financial hardship amongst the 11.3 million inhabitants of rural Britain is hampered by an inadequate evidence base. FCA analysis reveals that 54% of rural dwellers are financially vulnerable (compared with urban dwellers at 48%) but not how or why.

These issues are important now because poverty and vulnerability are increasing again. Alongside falling real incomes, rising debt, welfare reform, Universal Credit and Brexit uncertainties, new research reveals a marked acceleration in the loss of services and population decline in sparse areas.

Project overview

This study will address a gap in knowledge about experiences and impacts of, and processes underlying, low income and financial vulnerability in rural Britain through primary research, knowledge exchange and partnership. It will generate an evidence base to directly inform policy and practice through pursuing this research question: Why and how do people in rural areas experience (and negotiate) financial hardship? How do external processes and individual circumstances contribute to this and how might these be addressed?

The project will focus on three study areas (Northumberland, Perthshire and Harris), deploying complementary quantitative and qualitative methods.

Secondary data from a range of sources will be analysed to reveal changes in the incidence and composition of low incomes in rural areas across Scotland and England, and within the study areas. Where possible, time series of secondary data will be analysed in order to explore changes in the incidence and composition of low incomes and hardship over time.

A deeper understanding of people’s experiences and circumstances will be gained through in-depth qualitative interviews with people experiencing financial hardship, and with relevant local organisations (e.g. social landlords, churches, welfare and debt advice, food banks), as well as focus groups and documentary analysis.

The data analysis will contextualise the changing nature and extent of financial hardship, with the qualitative research giving a deeper understanding of how these impact on people’s everyday lives and how they adapt to the experience of such hardship. From this dual approach, the team will inform and develop possible policy responses.