Farming charities are facing a multi-million-pound funding black hole after the cancellation of fundraising events due to Covid-19 saw income dry up.
Groups fear that without adequate resources, they will struggle to cope with an increase in demand for support and have called on the Government for a cash injection.
While calls to helplines have been steadily increasing throughout the coronavirus crisis, they predict the situation will peak later in the year when the impact on cashflows hits and ‘post trauma’ mental health issues surface.
Alicia Chivers, chief executive of Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI), which is facing a £3.5-£5million deficit, said: “Farming is unique in that unlike some sectors, it has not ground to a halt due to coronavirus, it is quite the opposite.
“But the pandemic is another stressor on top of Brexit, bovine TB, weather and social isolation, all of which farmers have no control over.
“The problem for farming is going to be much bigger down the line. If we look back to the foot and mouth outbreak, the effects will hit much later in the year, but that is difficult to quantify when we are asking for extra support from governments in England and Wales.”
Ms Chivers said the charity had already increased its spending from £2.5m to £2.9m to deal with Brexit but forecast the charity would need to distribute more than £3m to account for Covid-19.
Philip Wilson, head of operations at The Farming Community Network, said 57 per cent of helpline calls had been Covid-19 related, with many citing loss of income and issues sourcing farm labour. Others had called to offer help.
“Since lockdown, farmers have had an opportunity to get out onto their farms and have been preoccupied," said Mr Wilson.
“Normally, farmers and their families would be looking forward to socialising at the show season and with so many shows being cancelled, this prevents important interaction between members of the community.”
He said charities would also take a hit as shows provided opportunities for fundraising and promotion.
Many have turned to digital events and campaigns, with Scotland’s rural charity RSABI launching its #KeepTalking campaign ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week (May 18-24) in a bid to keep people feeling connected and encourage calls to its helpline.
Addington Fund chief executive Bill Young, said he was ’overwhelmed’ by a £75,000 donation from NFU Mutual’s Charitable Trust, with the insurer distributing more than £300,000 to the five organisations under the Farming Help umbrella and an extra £50,000 to the Princes Countryside Fund which will be distributed to local charities as part of a £750,000 funding package.
Mr Young added: "The enforced lack of fundraising due to the coronavirus naturally puts a strain on any charity, but we are lucky to have such great supporters who have continued to donate to us during lockdown.
“To put it quite simply, it will enable us to carry on helping farmers and those involved in agriculture with housing and disaster relief in times of need through this crisis and help with our shortfall of funds.”
Defra said it was working to support farming helplines and encouraged them to apply for a share of a £370m fund earmarked for small charities.
It’s good to talk and help is on hand at the end of the phone:
FCN - 03000 111 999
RABI - 0808 281 9490
RSABI - 0300 111 4166
For more information visit fginsight.com/FarmersStrivetoThrive