We can help, charity tells weather-stricken farmers

THE charity which helps farmers and others who have worked the land is appealing for those in need to come forward.

RSABI’s chief executive Dr Maurice Hankey issued a statement last week urging farmers who are struggling financially to apply.

Dr Hankey said: “We have funding available and want to help, but we need people to come forward.

“Our primary focus is on providing support to households in situations where the business is unable to provide cash for food, heating, transport costs, school uniforms etc. With pressure being exerted by banks, this sadly appears to be a frequent occurrence.”

The charity’s confidential listening service, GATEPOST, has seen “a significant acceleration of calls” since October he said.

In the first half of February this year there were as many calls as in any full month since the service began in 2010. There have been four times as many calls as last February.

Dr Hankey said: “These calls are a mixture of farmers with financial difficulties and others who are struggling emotionally to deal with their predicaments.”

RSABI is one of several charities to share emergency funding of £150,000 from the Prince’s Countryside Fund in December, a sum matched by the Duke of Westminster. Earlier this month, First Minister Alex Salmond pledged £50,000 from the Scottish Government.

Dr Hankey said: “We are very aware of farmers’ pride and reluctance to ask for help, the sentiment that ‘things are bad but not that bad’.

“Many will feel they have to struggle on, even if this implies hardship for their family, rather than seeking help.

“In reality and after a year like we have just experienced, there should be no shame in accepting a little help: the problem is so extensive that many are in the same position.

“Moreover, no-one need worry that anyone else will know they have asked. Whether you call us in need of financial assistance or whether you are fed up and want to speak to someone at GATEPOST to relive some strain, confidentiality is our top priority. No one, other than the caller and the small team at RSABI, will ever know someone has been in touch.”

As well as helping households, the charity has other support mechanisms including emergency business support and help to take the business forward, said Dr Hankey.

“We have had a few spring-like days in recent weeks but it will take much more than that for many people to forget or overcome the hardships brought about by 2012 and early 2013 weather patterns. RSABI is here to do what we can to make such events easier to cope with, ” he said.

Over 2011-2012, RSABI gave £380,000 to 566 people in 479 homes across Scotland, of which £25,804 was distributed in the Borders to 30 people.

Application forms for financial assistance can be obtained from RSABI’s website or by calling either RSABI (0131 472 4166) or GATEPOST (0300 111 4166).