OVER 700 people and their families working within Scottish agriculture have received direct support from farming charity RSABI in the last financial year.

The latest figures released from the charity reveal that it is becoming more common for working farmers and crofters to use their services, with more than 10,000 interactions being recorded. This includes a mix of telephone calls with individuals, support helping to organise specialist business plans; or dealing with third parties to help resolve an issue.

RSABI’s helpline was particularly busy in the last 12 months with staff and volunteers making and receiving an average of 228 calls a month – up 63% on the previous year.

A regular call out service has increased to include frequent calls to around 150 people, where before the pandemic between 30 and 50 regular clients were supported.

Further figures revealed that £300,000 was spent on direct payments to clients and £21,000 of support was given to those living in fuel poverty.

RSABI explained that emotional support continues to be very important, with 67% of the people helped by the charity, receiving support of this kind. This could range from a regular call from the team, to offering help through a difficult time, to helping someone struggling with their mental health, to helping a client access counselling.

RSABI’s welfare manager Chris McVey, commented: “Despite Covid, RSABI has been busy and effective, with staff working from home to support people in Scottish agriculture.

“A lot of clients have come to RSABI looking for practical and emotional support, rather than financial support. And we’ve seen an increase in the use of our third-party counselling services and also our outbound helpline calls,” he explained.

“Before Covid we would have around 30 to 50 clients we would call on a regular basis but during the first and second lockdowns that jumped to 150.

“It’s now more common for working farmers and crofters to use our services, and their cases are often complicated and need us to work with them over a longer period,” he continued. “This reflected in the number of interactions we have with each client – in the last financial year we had 10,000 interactions.

“Sometimes all it takes is one or two phone calls to help a client move forward, but in other cases our Case Officers could be working with them for more than a year.”

Chair of RSABI, David Leggat, added: “I would like to take the opportunity to thank all our supporters, donors and people who fundraised on our behalf last year without whom we couldn’t do what we do. We’re incredibly appreciative to people for the efforts they make and some of the extraordinary things they do to raise funds for our organisation.”

If you, or someone you know, is struggling please call the RSABI helpline on 0300 111 4166. The helpline is open every day of the year from 7am to 11pm.