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Carol McLaren: 125 years on, RSABI is still supporting Scottish farmers

RSASBI is enhancing its helpline service later this year.
RSASBI is enhancing its helpline service later this year.

After just one month in my new role I am already incredibly proud of the dedicated team of staff at RSABI and the excellent work being delivered for the industry.

The service RSABI delivers for people in Scottish agriculture ranges from financial and emotional support to practical help and is always given with respect, understanding and confidentiality.

What has also quickly become very clear is the value of the way the Scottish agricultural community supports RSABI and this underpins the success of the work being undertaken.

Whether it is taking part in a fundraising challenge, becoming a member of our supporters’ schemes or a trustee on our board, the goodwill from those in the industry is greatly appreciated.

During the coming year RSABI will be celebrating its 125th anniversary and we will be asking for the farming community’s continued support to raise awareness of the work we do and encourage people who need support to get in touch without hesitation.

When you contact RSABI you will find the response is always compassionate, understanding, and friendly and, for those in need of help, our team of case officers will find a way to make life feel less overwhelming.

Something which I had not realised before joining the team is the breadth of the range of the support offered by RSABI – from organising assistance with business plans to opening up channels of communication with statutory agencies, utility providers and creditors.

One less well-known service which has seen demand treble since the start of the pandemic is our outgoing call service.

RSABI regularly calls farmers who are experiencing loneliness.

Stress and loneliness are the main reasons for people receiving regular phone calls from our team, who worked brilliantly throughout the festive period – a tough time for many – to continue that support.

We are also incredibly grateful to the team of volunteers who help us with these phone calls.

There is no doubt that the pandemic and the resulting enforced isolation has had a substantial impact on many people of all ages in agriculture – from couples with young families to elderly retired people living on their own.

Tensions can emerge in family businesses when coping with issues like succession and this has been even more challenging recently without the usual opportunities to let off steam by heading out to the local agricultural show or auction market.

Our welfare team regularly get steps in place to help people who are feeling “overwhelmed” or “lost” feel more in control of life again.

Situations which appear to be mountains in times of despair, can be broken down into manageable chunks so that light is seen at the end of the tunnel.

The team are also very good at signposting where to find specialist support and, importantly, they can respond quickly to move things forward so if we can’t help, we will open up the way to an organisation that can.

We also set up sessions with trusted counsellors who understand the agricultural industry, and, in cases of extreme financial difficulty or practical problems, what is needed can be assessed very quickly with steps taken within 24 hours in some urgent cases.

With energy prices rising, fuel poverty continues to be a very real issue and our team have been assisting with “Help with Heating” funding which is available for those struggling to keep their homes warm, along with other support services such as insulation.

RSABI offers support to help farmers in fuel poverty heat their homes.

We know there are people who could benefit from our support, including younger people, who for some reason are hesitating to reach out to us.

We are looking at steps to address this and during the coming months we will be launching an enhanced helpline service which will extend the channels we use to engage with people – young and older – to make it even easier to contact us at any time of day or night.

As we prepare to enter a milestone year for RSABI, our thanks go to all those who support the work of the charity in so many ways.

There will be times of change in the years ahead and it is vital that people know, whatever is around the corner, RSABI is here for them, as we have been for 125 years.

Our service is always confidential, always friendly, and always understanding so if you are in difficulty, or worried about a friend, family member of neighbour, please share our number or contact us on 0300 111 4166. Don’t hesitate.

  • Carol McLaren is chief executive of rural charity RSABI.