Rural support scheme is helping farming families

Rural support scheme is helping farming families

7 March 2018

A NEW service aimed at supporting farming and rural families across the district is having a positive impact, according to those behind the initiative.

The Rural Support charity provides a listening ear and signposting service for farmers and rural families. Its local mentor is David Workman, from Ballynahinch.

The charity says an evaluation looking at on-farm business mentoring it provides has found that the help being provided to farm families is having a positive impact on mental well-being in particular.

Family members reported that mentors also have helped them take practical action relating to their financial situation, with the evaluation finding that the one-to-one support which is provided by experienced financial mentors with a background in agriculture has given clients confidence to take action not only in relation to 

their financial problems, but with other issues affecting the family such as mental health. 

Clients reported that they found mentors to be “empathetic” and “easy to talk to” and felt reassured that the mentor understood their situation. 

The evaluation also found that the skills and experience of the mentors providing support was a key factor in clients achieving successful outcomes for their families and farm businesses. 

Clients felt the financial issues they were having were impacting both their physical and mental health and that getting support to take action and address their financial issues helped improve their emotional well-being. 

Mr Workman — who was brought up on a family farm — was employed by the former Northern Bank for almost 40 years, mainly in agricultural finance. During his time with the bank, he 

managed a team of over 30 agri-business managers with responsibility for agricultural policy, credit and marketing/sponsorship budgets. 

David is still closely involved with a number of agricultural organisations including Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster, Ulster Grassland Society, Northern Ireland Texel Sheep Society, British Texel Sheep Society, Royal Ulster Agricultural Society, Agrisearch and was awarded the Fellowship of Royal Agricultural Societies. 

He has worked closely with the farming community, farming organisations and industry leaders in particular Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU).

David decided to get involved with Rural Support as he felt he could use his financial expertise to help farmers and rural dwellers deal with financial issues through the provision of free, confidential face-to-face support and help them identify a way forward.

“In many situations, I have signposted individuals to other agencies and organisations which provide further advice and support. My role as a mentor is to assist and support clients in identifying options for their business,” he explained.

“I also assist clients in identifying options for further advice, support and assistance whether it be financial or otherwise from their bank manager, accountant, solicitor, UFU, DAERA and Citizens Advice Bureau for example.”

David said since becoming involved with Rural Support, the situations he has been asked to help with are varied, with no two the same. He explained they include farmers being over borrowed, cash flow issues, lack of succession planning, nursing care costs, bureaucracy and health issues. 

“Barriers I have encountered are a lack of support or flexibility of their bank when faced with difficult financial and health situations but the main one was a lack of understanding of the real issues by many of the clients and their bankers,” he continued.

David said all enquiries made to Rural Support will result in a farmer being assigned a mentor, with a face-to-meeting subsequently arranged.

The Rural Support helpline number is 0845 606 7 607 and is available from Monday to Friday between 9am to 9pm, with a voicemail and support options available at all other times. 

On-Farm Business Mentoring is delivered by Rural Support under The Tackling Rural Stress; Promoting Positive Mental Health project funded by the Public Health Agency.