Grain Trade hears details of Rural Support

Guest Speaker at the NIGTA AGM was Jude McCann, centre,  who is pictured with Grain Trade President Alan Johnston and Chief Executive Robin Irvine. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Guest Speaker at the NIGTA AGM was Jude McCann, centre, who is pictured with Grain Trade President Alan Johnston and Chief Executive Robin Irvine. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

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The wide range of support services, and the groups and individuals that have been assisted by Rural Support were outlined by Jude McCann, Development Director, Rural Support, at the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association’s recent annual general meeting and lunch.

Jude pointed out that Rural Support had 33 volunteers who assisted with a very wide range of problems for farming and rural families across all of Northern Ireland.

There is a helpline available from 8am to 11pm seven days a week with voicemail and support options available at all other times. It offers a listening ear and signposting service for issues such as farming information and technical queries, financial matters, physical and emotional health, suicide risk and family/relationship issues.  

Jude emphasised that Rural Support’s vision is to contribute to a healthy, sustainable rural community by providing individual support and promoting positive mental health and well-being.

He added: “We provide confidential non-judgemental support to farmers and rural dwellers. At present 33 volunteers give their time, knowledge, expertise and experience to those who require it.  They undertake helpline cover, finance mentoring, work/life balance guidance, counselling, promotion and outreach.”

The key drivers of rural stress have been identified as: 1) Shifting Policies and Financial Pressures, 2) Instability, Risk and Uncertainty, 3) Increasing Isolation and Service Provision and 4)Family Pressures.

A review of helpline calls revealed that almost 40% of callers highlighted farm finance and debt issues as the main reason for calling. Other reasons included relationship problems, mental health issues, paperwork, government schemes, inheritance and succession, health and isolation. More recent issues emanating from CAP reform have added to some of the problems.

Volunteers are matched to the person, group and problem eg. Rural Support has nine finance mentors who assist with financial problems.

Jude added: “Rural Support can claim to have saved lives, marriages and businesses in addition to helping callers find a better quality of life.”

Alan Johnston, President of NIGTA thanked Jude for his time and excellent presentation and announced that Rural Support is the chosen charity for support at NIGTA’s annual dinner in April.

At the annual general meeting Alan Johnston was re-elected as President and David O’Connor as Vice President. David Malseed announced his retirement from the post of Honorary Secretary and it was unanimously agreed that his contribution to the Association - as a Past President, Honorary Secretary and Executive Committee member - would be missed by the Association.

Patrick McLaughlin was elected as the new Honorary Secretary and Stephen Burrell was re-elected as Honorary Treasurer.