Cornwall’s Farming Health Hub offers vital support to farmers struggling to cope with impact of COVID-19 pandemic.

As people in farming and those living and working in rural communities struggle
to cope with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their physical, mental and
business health, Cornwall’s Farming Health Hub has produced a new leaflet
aimed at signposting people to where they can go for help and advice.
Originally set up just over 12 months ago in partnership with organisations from
the private, public and voluntary sectors, the Farming Health Hub offers a single
source of business, physical and mental health support for farmers and their
families.

With the lockdown restrictions already reported to have had a significant impact
on the sale and distribution of local produce, including milk, and the availability
of farm workers to pick seasonal crops, the decision to extend the restrictions for
at least a further three weeks, has led to growing fears for the physical and
mental health and wellbeing of people in farming and rural communities.

“While people working in the agricultural sector can access some of the
business support measures already announced by the Government, we
know that many are struggling to understand and access the ever
changing advice and guidance about what might be available to them “
said Jon James, Chief Executive of the Farming Health Hub. “This is adding to
the stress and pressures farmers and their families are under which is,
in turn, affecting their physical and mental health and wellbeing.

“With so many people in rural communities across Cornwall dependent
on farming for their income, it is vital that organisations pull together to
support and guide the farming community. We have worked with
people across the private, public and voluntary sector to develop this
document which contains the latest information about the support
which is currently available, as well as practical advice on how people
can protect their physical and mental health.

“We hope that this goes some way in providing the farming community
with the help and support they need to help them through these
challenging and uncertain times and to prepare them for the times
ahead. We recognise that a number of organisations are currently
calling on the Government to increase the level of support for rural and
farming communities and will provide further updates highlighting any
changes."

Membership of the Hub includes a wide range of public, private and voluntary
sector organisations, including the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution; the
Prince’s Countryside Fund; the National Farmers Union; Cornwall Young
Farmers; Exeter University; Cornwall’s Public Health team, NHS Kernow and
GP’s; Cornwall Development Company; auctioneers, banks and insurance
companies and local churches.

Welcoming the publication of the new leaflet Ruth Goldstein, Chair of the
Farming Health Hub and Cornwall Council’s Public Health Consultant said “Our
key concern is that the farming community are able to access any
support they need during this current situation and we are aware that
getting this type of information to the right people is a challenge."

“We hope that by providing the information directly to people working
in the farming sector, those in need of any type of support for their
physical health, mental health or business health, will find it easier to
access what is available.”

Local farmer and past Chairman of the Cornwall Branch of the NFU and RABI
Martin Howlett said “The resilience of farmers over the years is well
documented; whether it be through continuous low incomes, animal
disease challenge or weather extremes. However, it is the combined
impact of shortages of farm supplies, lack of cash flow and the
uncertainty of market trade, that creates the greatest damage to farm
business, mostly family run on their financial, physical and mental
health and wellbeing. The knock-on effect is inevitably felt by the wider
rural communities during these most unprecedented times.

“As acknowledged ‘key workers’, it is reassuring to the farming
community to know that both the Farming Health Hub (FHH) and the
organisations which support it– such as the Royal Agricultural
Benevolent Institution (RABI) - are there to offer and signpost farming
help and rebuild, both during and, equally important, after this
pandemic. Together with the genuine support of our Great British Public
in recognising the value of our farm produce, buying local and now
reconnecting with nature and its countryside, each give us renewed
hope for the future.”

One of the organisations involved in the creation of the leaflet is the Farming
Community Network . Cornwall FCN co-ordinator Sue Gillbard says the network
is still taking cases which are being managed over the phone during the crisis.

“We recognise that this is a very difficult time for the farming
community” she said. “There is lots of useful information on the
Farmwell page of our website and we also have a Helpline which is open
from 7am until 11pm if farmers want someone to talk to. The number is
03000 111 999."

Kelly Evans represents Cornwall Young Farmers Clubs "Many of our clubs are
supporting the elderly and those isolating in their local communities by
helping with shopping and daily requirements “she said. “We are very
conscious of the impact the current situation will be having on isolated
people living in the rural environment, so we are trying to keep in touch
with members who require some help or just a listening ear.
“Our MyMindMatters campaign remains at the forefront of our minds
and we are still working closely with FCN to ensure members receive the
support they require. “

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