Rural charities feel the coronavirus pinch in Wales

Farm support charities in Wales are stepping up their activity amid rising demand for their services during the coronavirus pandemic.

West Wales-based Tir Dewi is extending its reach into Powys, Anglesey, Gwynedd and Conwy, while the DPJ Foundation is handling a record number of calls from its base in Pembrokeshire.

See also: Rural charities face funding crisis

Since early March, the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (Rabi) has received more than 100 calls relating to the pandemic, with 89% of these coming from working farmers.

Economic stress is nothing new in agriculture, but a global pandemic has added a new dimension, said Rob Harris of Rabi.

Of the pandemic-related calls the charity is receiving, many are prompted by the loss of diversified income and income from off-farm work.

Other callers have challenges with rent and housing, such as losing tied accommodation due to furloughing or redundancy.

Milk prices and payments are also a major issue, said Mr Harris, adding that Rabi has paid out £1.3m this year, supporting 1,053 families.

Effects of isolation

Although farmers often work in isolation, the loss of opportunities for social engagement, including shows and other events, is also affecting their mental health.

Emma Picton-Jones, of the DPJ Foundation, said many callers were younger people who are struggling with the lack of social contact.

“We underestimate the importance of the YFC and the ability to meet up with friends, and how this can be a saving grace for any youngster on a farm,” she said.

The absence of summer events is putting pressure on funding for the charities, as these generate important income.

Gareth Davies, chief executive of Tir Dewi, said the charity was plugging the gap with generous support from NFU Mutual and from the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society’s campaign to raise £20,000 for Tir Dewi, the DPJ Foundation and Rabi in the run-up to the virtual Royal Welsh Show.

Funding gap

But the gap would be felt going forward, he feared, as the charity had in the past benefited from collections at events such as harvest services and YFC pantomimes.

The charity is in the process of setting up a Just Giving page to encourage donations.

“The lack of events and shows is going to be a financial worry,’’ Mr Davies admitted.

But with more farmers needing support and despite the pressure on finances, Tir Dewi is expanding geographically.

A survey of farmers indicated a need to increase its reach beyond west Wales, so to facilitate its expansion, it is looking for volunteers to join its team in Powys and north Wales. 

“Volunteers can offer as much or as little time as they like. Training and support will be provided,” said Mr Davies.

If you feel that you can help or want to know more, please contact volunteering@tirdewi.co.uk.

Mental health webinar

The Farmers’ Union of Wales is hosting a seminar on mental health at this month’s virtual Royal Welsh Show.

The union made a commitment at the Royal Welsh Show in 2017 to keep the spotlight on mental health issues for as long as it remained a problem in rural communities. 

Its deputy president, Ian Rickman, said the seminar would explore what has changed and what issues remain.

Titled “Mental Health – how are you doing?”, the event will be held online on Thursday 23 July at 7.00pm.

The seminar will be held virtually and those wishing to attend must register with the FUW online to receive joining information.


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