Threefold increase in farmers seeking help

Sheep feeding near Ashkirk.
Sheep feeding near Ashkirk.

A SPECIALIST rural helpline is experiencing an upsurge in callers seeking assistance following the poor weather and knock-on effects of 2012.

The confidential telephone service, GATEPOST saw a threefold increase in the number of people ringing in November.

Parent organisation, rural charity RSABI’s Tessa Rouse said: “GATEPOST calls tripled in November because of farmers in difficulties, most likely caused by the weather and waiting for single farm payments.

“With any one caller there might be many things going on at once. Our experience is that a person will call for one reason but through talking realises there are underlying problems. If these are financial and it is possible that RSABI can help, we will look at providing assistance.

“In this way, GATEPOST can act as a gateway to receiving help from the charity, as well as talking through problems. RSABI and GATEPOST run in tandem in that a person receiving help from the charity may be referred to GATEPOST for continued support.”

The rise in calls for help has not yet translated into an increase in financial assistance being requested from RSABI.

But the latest figures available from the organisation cover 2011-12 financial year when the charity gave £380,000 to 566 people in 479 homes across Scotland. And of that, £25,804 was distributed in the Borders to 30 people in need.

Donations amounted to £190,000 “and part of my job is to increase this,” said Miss Rouse, the charity’s development officer.

Gatepost has trained officers keen to help people talk through issues before they escalate, she said.

She said: “We would really like people to pick up the phone and speak to somebody who can appreciate their problems before it becomes a huge stress. They are trained staff. It’s completely confidential. People don’t even need to say their names when they call.”

NFU Scotland livestock committee chairman and the union’s incoming vice president, Lilliesleaf farmer Rob Livesey told TheSouthern last week all areas of the Borders and all farming sectors had been affected by last year’s bad weather.

“Sadly tales of Borders farmers struggling with the wet weather of 2012 are all too familiar and we are all looking forward to what we hope will be a better year. What would really help is an early spring. Many livestock farmers have had to buy in extra bedding and feed and will be anxious about the health of their stock. Equally, cereal producers struggled to harvest and continue to face difficulties in getting their next crop in the ground.”

And he had urged farmers struggling to cope to seek help from GATEPOST.

Former events co-ordinator Miss Rouse, who was brought up on an Orkney sheep farm, has been in post for five months and said: “Clearly we want to be raising awareness, fundraise and publicise what we do to people who might be in need of support.”

The charity can assist people in several ways she said: “We have annual beneficiaries, for example those on low incomes who have minimal savings, who are helped on a regular basis, and we provide grants for washing machines or TV licences, for example.”

She continued: “GATEPOST was launched in 2010 in response to a growing number of individuals approaching RSABI for help of a non-financial nature. The service is there for anyone who is experiencing stress or distress for any reason – not only for problems directly related to farming or work. We can also help signpost on issues such as debt, health, relationships, family and housing matters. Whatever the problem, it always helps to share it.”

Miss Rouse added: “I would be delighted to hear from anybody who would like more information or who is organising an event and would like to raise funds.”

Contact Tessa Rouse by emailing or by phone on 0131 472 4166. The Gatepost helpline is 0300 111 4166.