THE beauty of our countryside and the idyllic images of market towns or picture-postcard villages can mask the uncomfortable truth that rural deprivation is a serious and growing problem.
Just how grave the difficulties besetting the countryside are is illustrated by the report from the Campaign to Protect Rural England that finds the number of households classified as homeless has risen by 85 per cent, a staggering figure that demands to be addressed.
To many people not acquainted with the realities of rural life, this will seem to be an incredible statistic.
Society’s widely-held view of homelessness is of it being an urban problem, but the fact is the Government’s own figures demonstrate the surge in the countryside is more than twice the national average.
This grim and growing tally of people in the most desperate of circumstances should be seen as part of a whole series of interlinked hardships being suffered by rural communities.
A shortage of affordable homes, low wages, a lack of opportunities and thinly-spread public services are all contributing to the tragedy of people not having a roof over their heads.
The CPRE is right to call on the Government to do more in boosting the supply of social housing in the countryside.
But action to help towns and villages needs to be on a much broader front if it is to address the problems that blight them.
Rural communities cannot just be left to fend for themselves, nor their people allowed to sink into homelessness.