THE FUW is hosting an All Wales Mental Health Conference on the eve of World Mental Health Day to shed light on the wider context of poor mental health in rural communities.
Taking place online via Zoom on Friday 9 October, the conference will hear from a top panel of speakers. The morning session will explore the wider context of poor mental health in rural communities and what steps need to be taken by Government, decision makers and policy shapers to address the situation, especially as Covid-19 has put further pressure not just on people’s mental health but also their finances.
Speakers for the morning session, which starts at 10.30am and is chaired by Farmers Guardian Chief Reporter Abi Kay, include Sara Lloyd, Team Leader, South Ceredigion Community Mental Health Team; Cath Fallon, Head of Enterprise and Community Animation Enterprise Directorate, Monmouthshire County Council; Lee Philips, Wales Manager, Money and Pensions Service; John Forbes-Jones, Corporate Manager Mental Wellbeing Services, Ceredigion County Council and Vicky Beers from The Farming Community Network.
The afternoon session, which starts at 2pm, will take a practical approach and hear from various dedicated mental health charities offering hands-on advice for those who are supporting a loved one going through mental issues as well as those who are currently experiencing poor mental health.
Speakers for the afternoon session, which is chaired by well-known TV Presenter Alun Elidyr, include Gareth Davies, Chief Executive Officer, Tir Dewi; David Williams, Wales Regional Director, the Farming Community Network; Kate Miles, Charity Manager, The DPJ Foundation and Linda Jones, Regional Manager, Wales RABI.
The event is also supported by Welsh Government’s Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, and New Zealand farmer and mental health champion Doug Avery through video message.
FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “Poor mental health and suicide in rural and farming communities is sadly an increasing problem and one that the FUW has made a commitment to tackle.
“We understand that mental health problems can affect a person’s ability to process information and solve problems, deplete their energy and motivation, and increase impulsive behaviour. Whilst the symptoms are being treated, the root causes of these issues are not so frequently addressed.
“This conference will therefore go beyond the usual points of discussions and explore the subject further. It is an open event and anyone with an interest in mental health is welcome to join us virtually on the day.”
Commenting on the issue, Janet Finch-Saunders MS – the Welsh Conservatives’ Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Energy, and Rural Affairs – said: “The sudden and striking impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Wales’ rural communities has once again shone a light on the precarious position that many residents find themselves in, as isolation has been compounded by troubles over public transport links, broadband connections and access to medical treatment.
“Taken together, this has left a marked impact on the mental well-being of rural residents, which is a demographic that typically skews older. From my recent conversations with rural villagers of North Wales, it is plain that many have struggled with loneliness throughout this most challenging period.
“I am also greatly concerned about the impact of the pandemic on our rural farming communities, which has only added to the stresses of this vital sector. A recent shocking analysis of the sector has found that one agricultural worker in the UK takes their own life each week. Some 84% of farmers under 40 also now believe that mental health is the single biggest danger facing the industry.
“We know that entrenched issues with Bovine TB has had a dangerous and regretful impact on farmer’s mental well-being. It is why the Welsh Conservatives have called for a two-pronged approach, which includes dealing with the disease in wildlife. We must work to relieve this unnecessary stress.
“More must be done to support our rural communities in combating the mental health stigma. I have repeatedly urged Lesley Griffiths MS to look at launching a digital awareness campaign that signposts towards counselling and support services, targeted towards farmers and young people across the broader rural community.
“I have also praised the efforts of the Tir Dewi helpline, a bilingual support network which is supported by The Church in Wales (Dioceses of St David’s) and the Prince’s Countryside Fund. This fantastic initiative, showing the excellent role that the charity sector can play, has now expanded its network to include the North of Wales.
“Our rural communities are the guardians and custodians of our land. The Welsh Government must stand with these residents by facilitating access to support networks. They must also take seriously the experiences and challenges that a rural way of life can bring, realising the hugely detrimental impact that any future pandemic restrictions may have.”
Plan for ‘collaborative approach’ to tackling rural crime issues
THIS week (Mar 9) Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn chaired a strategic meeting with key stakeholders to identify collaborative opportunities to tackle rural and wildlife crime in the Dyfed-Powys area.
Following a meeting with the Farming Unions in Wales earlier this year, Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn is keen to establish a Strategic Partnership Working Group with key stakeholders that will aim to identify ways of working collaboratively to tackle some of the rural and wildlife crime issues in Dyfed-Powys.
Dyfed-Powys Police have recently appointed a Sergeant for the Rural Crime Team, and the Police and Crime Commissioner has been keen to consult with key stakeholders to gain an input from partners to support the development of a new Rural Crime Strategy for the Force.
Key Stakeholders that were invited to be part of the strategic group include both NFU Cymru and FUW unions, as well as local authorities, National Parks, RSPCA and many others.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn said: “I had positive discussions with representatives from both unions earlier this year to highlight some of the rural crime issues in the Dyfed-Powys area.
“One of the priorities identified was the need to take a collaborative approach to tackling rural and wildlife Crime, and the meeting with several key partners today was an opportunity to develop discussions and ideas further”.
Earlier in March, PCC Dafydd Llywelyn published a Rural Crime bulletin, which highlights some of the work that has taken place recently in the Dyfed-Powys area, and cross border collaborative initiatives.
PCC Dafydd Llywelyn noted that this multi agency partnership will aim to build on some of the great work that is already happening, and said; “This meeting today comes a year on from the successful St. David’s Day Conference focusing on Rural Crime that I held at Police Headquarters last year. The last 12 months have been like no other but sadly crime and incidents affecting the rural community have continued.
“Today’s multiagency Strategic meeting was an opportunity to present the new Sergeant for the specialist team, and to discuss a new website that we are developing in partnership with North Wales Police to provide key crime prevention messages to the agricultural industry – the Future Farms Cymru initiative.
“I’m grateful to all partners who attended the meeting today, and I now look forward to take all comments on board as we look to re-energise and refocus the work of the Dyfed Powys Rural Crime Team.”
NFU Cymru ‘responds robustly’ to WG
NFU CYMRU has said that many proposals within the Welsh Government and Defra’s Welfare in Transport consultation will cause significant disruption to livestock transportation in the UK.
In a robust response to the joint Welsh Government / Defra consultation, the union has stressed the significant impact the proposals would have on the livestock and poultry sectors, and raised concerns that if the proposals are implemented, they will fail to deliver any meaningful benefit to animals’ welfare.
Wyn Evans, NFU Cymru Livestock Board Chairman said: “In order to ensure the best possible welfare outcomes, the main priorities should be the animal’s fitness to travel, loading and unloading, driver training and experience, rather than the length of the journey or the external temperature at the time of transport.
“We firmly believe that the current regulations for domestic transport already deliver high welfare, as a result of the standards, cleanliness and adaptability to different weather conditions of transport boxes in the UK. But as an industry, we want to strive for even better. We believe that in order to do that there should be more focus on certified training and providing clearer, sector-specific guidance, particularly during loading and unloading rather than what is proposed in the consultation. Good welfare and healthy livestock go hand in hand; safe arrival at a destination, be that at market or abattoir, must be and is a priority.
“The transporting of livestock is an integral part of UK food production. The suggested changes to journeys based on duration and weather conditions would cause serious delays and disruption, potentially damaging welfare outcomes, while changes to vehicle requirements would add significant costs. It will also lead to many more journeys being made, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, which work against both farming’s and the government’s net-zero targets.
“Turning to the part of the consultation on live exports, we have inputted our views into a proposed NFU assurance scheme, which is detailed in an appendix in the response. This would be extremely effective in delivering welfare outcomes at the same time as maintaining this trade, as assessing the animals’ health and reporting back to producers is a fundamental part of the scheme.”
Richard Williams, Chairman of NFU Cymru’s Poultry Group said: “Looking at the month of January for example, over the last three years on average there were 10 days where temperatures were five degrees or less. If the proposals were implemented to stop transport at this temperature, no broilers could be collected off-farm in those days. If we had a prolonged cold snap; this would have a massive effect on the food chain.
“With any policy developments government makes, it is essential they are based on the latest evidence. We have an industry to be proud of, with world-leading standards, and that includes our current transportation requirements for all farmed livestock.”
Export push for Welsh Lamb
PGI Welsh Lamb will feature in export marketing events in Dubai and Qatar over the coming months, despite Coronavirus restrictions, with the industry aiming to continue a major growth in exports to the Middle East region.
Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) will have a presence at the upcoming Gulfood 2021 trade show during February 21-25 with support from the Welsh Government via the Enhanced Export Fund. The event, which takes place in Dubai, is the first global trade show to take place in nearly a year due to the Coronavirus pandemic. In-market representatives will promote PGI Welsh Lamb to buyers at the Covid-secure event.
The Middle East is an important and growing export market; newly published export data shows that the volume of UK sheepmeat exports increased by 18.3% on levels seen in 2019 and a hefty 368% compared to 2018. HCC helped to secure four new retailers as stockists of PGI Welsh Lamb in Qatar over the last year along with a high-end online retailer in the United Arab Emirates.
HCC’s Export Development Executive, Deanna Jones, explained ‘Welsh Lamb exports have grown rapidly in the Middle East over the last few years and the market now sells Welsh Lamb through wholesale, retail and foodservice.’
‘Whilst we will not be attending any events in person, it is important that Welsh Lamb has a presence at Gulfood 2021 and other trade events as we continue to build the customer base and profile of our products.’
Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said: “I am very pleased we have been able to support Hybu Cig Cymru as they continue to promote Welsh produce internationally – particularly given the increasing export value of the Middle East to Welsh Lamb producers.
“While restrictions mean delegates will not be able to attend in person, it is vital that Wales continues to have a presence at trade events such as Gulfood 2021, and I am very pleased Wales will be at the table in Dubai.”
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