The Co Down man who set up the ‘Gay Farmer Helpline’ in 2010 has been honoured by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The Prime Minister has today, 1 October, recognised Canon Keith Ineson, from Cheshire but now based in Northern Ireland, for his exceptional service setting up the ‘Gay Farmer Helpline’ in 2010 - the only service of its kind in the UK - to support men in isolated rural communities struggling with their sexuality.
Growing up in a farming family, Keith realised he was gay at the age of 14 but only felt able to come out at the age of 50. After founding Cheshire’s Agricultural Chaplaincy Team, Keith began working with gay farmers and realised how many people across the country in the same situation must also be hiding their sexuality and consequently facing enormous pressures on their mental health and wellbeing. Since its launch, the ‘Gay Farmer Helpline’ has received new callers every week, and Keith’s work was featured in a documentary Landline, made in collaboration with BFI Flare, which showcased stories of some of the individuals who have been supported through the helpline.
Keith is the latest recipient of the Points of Light award, which recognises outstanding volunteers who are making a change in their community and inspiring others. Each day, someone, somewhere in the country is selected to receive the award to celebrate their remarkable achievements.
In a personal letter to Keith, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I know you do this with no thought of praise or reward, but allow me to offer my own recognition of how you are using your unique, confidential helpline service to support men across the country who are living in isolated rural communities and are struggling with their sexuality and wellbeing.”
Keith said: “Since starting the helpline for gay farmers we have helped nearly 500 farmers, some of who were suicidal, so I am extremely please that this work has been recognised in this way.”
Keith is the 1251st winner of the Points of Light award, which has been developed in partnership with the hugely successful Points of Light programme in the USA. Over 6,000 Points of Light have been awarded in the USA, and former Presidents have publicly supported the partnership with Points of Light UK. There is a similar cross-party approach to the UK programme and MPs from different parties often present their constituents with their Points of Light awards.