Caroline Harrison, Regional Welfare Officer for the Heart of England, says the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting farmers directly and indirectly – exacerbating problems that might have already been there.
Calls to the R.A.B.I Helpline are currently being diverted to a frontline of Regional Welfare Officers, such as Caroline, who are then liaising with other members of the welfare team to ensure people get the support they need.
“No one foresaw the unprecedented times we are living in,” said Caroline, who covers the counties of Staffordshire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire and the West Midlands.
“The issues I’m seeing are varied but many farmers with health problems, who are vulnerable, cannot go to market and therefore cannot trade. Those that can get to market are finding less people there wanting to do business, whilst beef prices have also been affected by a lot of the big companies, such as McDonalds, being closed.
“Many of those seeking help have been affected by the loss of second incomes, including self-employed partners. Dairy farmers are finding payments delayed and, in my area, TB remains a big problem too.”
Caroline is in regular contact with many older people, who the charity offers long-term support to. She has also been calling working farmers in her patch who have sought assistance from R.A.B.I during the past year.
She said: “There are some people who I contact every week, some who I call once a fortnight and some who I just check up on every so often. Despite not being able to visit in person, maintaining a level of human contact is important. Some of the people I call are very lonely and tell me it’s comforting to receive a call from a voice they know. Previously, they would have seen people when they made trips to the shops or visited friends and family, but now they cannot go out.
“Even if they do not need my help, they appreciate a chat, and the fact that someone is thinking of them.
“I cannot promise I will solve everyone’s problems, but I will listen and work through things with people so they can also do what they need to help themselves.”