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Launch of 24-hour agricultural freephone helpline


By David G Scott

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The Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RSABI), the organisation which provides emotional, financial and practical support to people in Scottish agriculture, has launched a new helpline number – 0808 1234 555 – which is free to call.

The easy-to-remember freephone number will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year round to ensure farmers, crofters and others involved in Scottish agriculture can access support at any time of day or night.

The new number, which will not appear on phone bills, has been launched as part of a move by the charity, which is this year celebrating its 125th anniversary, to ensure it offers the best possible service.

David Leggat, chair of RSABI, is pictured with Chris McVey, RSABI welfare manager, and Lorraine Caven of RSABI with the new 24/7 freephone Helpline number. Picture: Graeme Hart.
David Leggat, chair of RSABI, is pictured with Chris McVey, RSABI welfare manager, and Lorraine Caven of RSABI with the new 24/7 freephone Helpline number. Picture: Graeme Hart.

RSABI is grateful to the Royal Highland Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) for providing funding of £16,000 towards the cost of running the Helpline and also to the Scottish Government, which provided £15,000 to assist with the set-up costs of the new 24-hour Helpline.

“Our aim is to provide a friendly, professional, and confidential service for people of all ages, involved in a wide range of roles in Scottish agriculture and our message is very much that we are here for everyone in times of need,” said David Leggat, chair of RSABI.

“With challenging times expected in the coming months, we are also calling on people throughout the industry to help us to spread the word and increase awareness of RSABI’s wide range of services. We can provide financial help – including help with heating grants and a range of domestic items – as well as farm reviews and practical help with steps to get people back on track.”

Demand for emotional support from the agricultural community has stepped up significantly in the past year and is now the biggest area of support offered by the charity. RSABI is able to arrange counselling sessions very quickly when required, at a time when a referral via a GP could take months.

Cattle at Bilbster in Caithness. Help is now available for farmers with a free helpline. Picture: DGS
Cattle at Bilbster in Caithness. Help is now available for farmers with a free helpline. Picture: DGS

“We are pleased that more and more working farmers are reaching out to us. In recent months we have seen some exceptional results in terms of the mental health of farmers – aged in their 20’s upwards – who we have referred to our professional counsellors,” said Chris McVey, RSABI welfare manager.

“We are pleased that emotional wellbeing – and the steps to maintain and improve this – is increasingly being freely discussed in the agricultural community. This is very encouraging, and we are reminding people that, they can also contact us on behalf of an individual they may have concerns about, to get the ball rolling, as long as they have been given permission to do so.”

The charity, which was established on April 7, 1897, will be launching a range of initiatives during the coming 12 months as well as extending its existing services.

As well as extending its helpline services, the charity is also working on a new website aimed at clearly communicating the wide range of support it offers, in a way which is easy to navigate and resonates with younger people as well those more senior in age. As part of this a web chat function will be added to the website this summer to further extend the ways people can reach out for support.

RSABI’s 2022 Great Glen Challenge has a new sponsor, United Auctions, and a #Challenge125 initiative, aimed at collectively clocking up 125,000km, will start at the Royal Highland Show in June and run until the Great Glen Challenge on August 26.

The Supporters’ Scheme has now been firmly established as a cornerstone of the charity’s income stream and a target of 125 new individual, business, and corporate supporters from all parts of the industry has been set for the year. RSABI will also be marking its 125th anniversary with a St Andrew’s dinner on December 2 and details of the event will be announced in the coming weeks.


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