Farm charities ready to help despite coronavirus challenges

Farming charities say they are ready to help despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Government guidelines on social distancing and avoiding large gatherings have affected fundraising plans and the types of support that can be offered on the ground to farmers and rural communities, but phone lines remain open.

The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (Rabi) said its confidential helpline is operating as usual to help individuals or families in need.

See also: Farmers, farmworkers and vets on key workers list

The charity said visits could still be made in “exceptional circumstances” but from speaking to callers, most people would prefer to access help over the phone, given the current circumstances.

Rabi added it would reschedule fundraising activity, wherever possible, that had had to be cancelled because of the virus outbreak.

It said: “In line with government advice, our hard-working committees and volunteers have been advised that all fundraising events, awareness-raising events and committee meetings have been cancelled until further notice.”

Help available

In Wales, the DPJ Foundation said its 24/7 helpline was still running, along with the counselling sessions it provides to farmers. These are now mostly operating via telephone, Skype or text message.

Founder Emma Picton-Jones told Farmers Weekly: “We have added an additional befriending service for those who are isolated and will have little interaction. Our volunteers can then call these people every few days just for a chat.”

She added: “We have had to cancel many fundraising events and also mental health training, which is a vital tool in our community.”

In Scotland, the Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RSABI) said it was stepping up calls to the most vulnerable and isolated, to offer support.

Welfare manager Mags Granger told Farmers Weekly: “We have also reached out to organisations such as Farming Help, NFUS as well as Scottish government to see how we can support farmers who are isolated and those who are unable to work because of the virus.

“We want to help them put plans in place if this is the case, so that they can get help on their farm.”

She added that the charity was assessing whether fundraising events could go ahead.

Elsewhere, the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC) urged members to support their rural and farming communities during the health crisis.

It suggested organising leaflet drops to reach the most vulnerable, who may not be online, to offer support with shopping or picking up prescriptions.

NFYFC chairman Dewi Parry said: “YFCs are already launching amazing initiatives to support the older and more vulnerable people in their rural communities. We want more YFCs to do this and to ensure that our farming sector gets the support it needs during this crisis too.”