During the Covid19 pandemic Rural Support have been at the forefront in supporting farming communities in Northern Ireland.
The organisation has seen a surge in the number of calls to its confidential helpline and the additional strain that is being placed on our farm businesses is significant. Many of these businesses were already having difficulties, with some farm families feeling unable to cope whether that be financially, technically, or emotionally. These have then been compounded by the current situation.
To help address these very real concerns, Rural Support have been awarded a donation of £50,000 from NFU Mutual Charitable Trust to design and deliver a project that will support farmers and their families to move through and beyond the crisis. The project which is to be rolled out in the Autumn which will focus on building resilience and sustainability – be that in financial, technical, business, or emotional matters.
Speaking about the donation, John Thompson, Chair of Rural Support said, “Rural Support are very grateful to have received this significant donation from the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust to support farmers in Northern Ireland. It is a time where the community needs practical help to bring it through this crisis and to prepare it for other challenges that are coming down the road. This project will provide that help and make a big difference on the ground”.
The project, which will launch in the Autumn, will focus on helping farmers and farming families to improve business skills, increasing the likelihood of long-term sustainability for the farm business. It will comprise of two elements, the first will see up to 20 information meetings hosted across the region, open to all members of the farm family and will cover topics relevant to the audience.
The second element will involve identifying families and businesses which would benefit from more focused support, providing small workshops and one to one business mentoring through the ‘Tackling Rural Stress and Promoting Positive Mental Health’ programme.
By the end of the project, and thanks to the funding provided by the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust, Rural Support will have provided more than 600 additional support hours to farmers in Northern Ireland, building on the assistance the organisation already provides through other ongoing programmes and services.
This donation is one of several announced by the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust, with donations totalling £739,000 across several national organisations that reach out to the isolated and vulnerable across the UK. Early in April, insurer NFU Mutual pledged an additional £750,000 to the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust to grant these donations, as part of an overall £32m support package committed for the benefit of its members and communities affected by coronavirus.
Additional donations will be distributed by the Charitable Trust to further this support over the coming months and, by the end of the year, it is expected that the overall donations during 2020 will reach £1m.
Lindsay Sinclair, Group Chief Executive of NFU Mutual, said: “We understand how isolation is affecting people and families and that our members need these services now more than ever. The emotional and practical support offered by these charities will be vital for all our communities at this challenging time.
“Our members have told us that loneliness, the strain of juggling home and work, financial pressures, lack of broadband and access to general amenities, is impacting every inch of their lives and leading to feelings of heightened anxiety and fear.
“As a result of COVID-19, we know that there are extra demands on charities, which is why we want to help them take care of the ‘now,’ as well as the future financial health of their organisation.”
If you or someone you know would benefit from speaking to Rural Support, please ring our helpline on 0800 138 1678. All calls are confidential, the helpline is available 9am-9pm, Monday to Friday (alternative support options available at all times).