Churches offer support to foot-and-mouth farming communities

By staff writers
8 Aug 2007

Local clergy and rural chaplains, working with the Farm Crisis Network, are providing pastoral care and support to farmers directly affected by the Protection and Surveillance Zones set up in Surrey following the local outbreak of foot and mouth disease.

The Arthur Rank Centre, a partnership between the Royal Agricultural Society of England, the national churches and the Rank Foundation, the churches rural resources unit is providing back up and help as needed.

During the national foot and mouth epidemic in 2001, the Centre set up the ARC-Addington Fund that distributed £10.3 million to farmers in 15 months.

“The Farming Help charities are providing support to the wider farming community across Britain for those anxious about the outbreak of foot and mouth,” said Dr Jill Hopkinson, the Church of England’s National Rural Officer.

She added: “For some this will bring back difficult memories of the 2001 outbreak, while a prolonged national movement ban on all cattle, sheep, goats, deer and pigs will have a severe impact on cash flows for many."

“Financial hardship is a real concern, particularly among farmers who were expecting to sell stock about this time and in such a difficult year following the recent severe weather. Anyone in farming or a related business with such concerns can contact Farming Help on 07002 326326 to be put in contact with trained local support”, said Dr Hopkinson.

The Rt Rev Christopher Hill, the Anglican Bishop of Guildford, in whose diocese the outbreak was reported, commented: “My thoughts and prayers are with the farmers, the people at Wanborough, Wyke, Elstead and Wood Street and all involved in investigating and containing this outbreak both locally and at a wider level."

He continued: "Having seen the impact of foot and mouth at close hand in Staffordshire in 2001, I am aware of its enormous emotional and practical costs and the terrible isolation of those in the communities affected.”

Prayers for those affected by the outbreak of foot and mouth disease have also been posted on the Church of England website.

The ARC-Addington Fund is currently concentrating on hardship grants for flood affected farmers and will monitor the situation with concern, with a view to taking a final decision on Monday 13 August on the availability of hardship grants relating directly to foot and mouth.

Farmers in severe financial difficulty currently are being advised to contact Farming Help on 07002 326326. All other enquiries regarding the ARC-Addington Fund should go via (024) 7669 0587, the Fund says.

The Farming Help Partnership aims to ensure that, in addition to appropriate financial support, long-term pastoral care is provided to the farming community. Long lasting relationships are formed through local support groups and local clergy.

Those from non-agricultural businesses, or others from the rural community not directly engaged in farming, who are experiencing stress or distress at this time can call the Rural Stress Helpline on (024) 7641 2916.

The Farming Help Partnership brings together the three national charities working in the farming community, ARC-Addington Fund, Farm Crisis Network and the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution. Each partner charity provides different but complementary forms of help and support to meet a wide range of needs.

The Arthur Rank Centre is the churches rural resources unit and is a partnership between the Royal Agricultural Society of England, the national churches and the Rank Foundation. It is 35 years old this year and is an ecumenical centre for the UK churches focusing on rural communities, agriculture and rural churches.

The ARC-Addington Fund was set up by the Arthur Rank Centre in 2001 during the foot and mouth epidemic, and distributed £10.3 million to farmers in 15 months. The Fund continues its work by providing strategic housing support for those who loose their homes when their rural business ends and this will continue beyond the current extreme circumstances.

Farm Crisis Network provides pastoral and practical support to farming people during periods of anxiety, stress and problems relating to both the farm household and the farm business. It was set up by the Arthur Rank Centre and the Agricultural Christian Fellowship in 1996.

The Rural Stress Helpline is an Arthur Rank Centre project offering a confidential listening service to those suffering stress or distress in rural areas.

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