RURAL Support has joined forces with Embrace FARM, a farm accident support charity based in the Republic of Ireland, and developed the Life Beyond programme to provide much needed practical and emotional support for farm families in Northern Ireland who have experienced bereavement through whatever circumstances, and those who have survived a farm accident.
Life Beyond was formally launched by Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots and Health Minister Robin Swann at the Eikon Centre on August 26, with a range of stakeholders from within the agri-sector, health, and care-related communities in attendance.
Life Beyond provides a unique combination of support specifically tailored to what each family needs, with an all-in approach that incorporates various aspects of the farming family and the farming enterprise that has been affected by the loss.
It will provide farm business, financial and technical mentoring support, alongside emotional health, and bereavement counselling, including trauma support where needed. It will also work with farmers and their families where there is a terminal diagnosis within the family in order to help them plan and to give them space to spend with their loved ones.
This support will operate alongside peer-to-peer group activities tailored for specific groups, for example: widows/widowers, parents, siblings, family members, farm accident survivors and their families, and there is also access to digital resources online through the Northern Ireland Farm Support Hub in partnership with HSENI.
All support is free of charge and will be provided over a 12-month period and beyond if needed, with the aim of helping families to navigate their experiences and move forward in their new normal – whatever that is for each family and farm business.
As well as this, an annual celebration gathering will take place to acknowledge the contributions made by loved ones who have passed away – to the land, our lives, and the agricultural community – with the inaugural gathering taking place on October 24 in the Glenavon Hotel in Cookstown at 1.30pm.
Norma Rohan, General Manager and founder of Embrace FARM, said: “Our experience of working with families in the Republic of Ireland who have been affected by the death of a loved one through farm accident has showed us that these types of services are invaluable in helping people to move through the trauma. We have also found that peer-to-peer support groups have been particularly useful for building networks and meeting new friends who understand the complexities of experiencing loss in this way. They are also helpful for those who have survived a farming accident and their families as they get used to a very new and often challenging life beyond the initial recovery.
“We are confident that this approach combined with financial/business mentoring and bereavement counselling support through Rural Support will really help families to address the key problems and help them to move forward.
“Life Beyond in Northern Ireland will also provide help to those who have been bereaved for whatever reason – no matter how far back the bereavement happened – and so will have a significant reach in the agri-community in Northern Ireland.”
Speaking at the launch, DAERA Minister Edwin Poots said: “I am delighted to join with Minister Swann to launch the Life Beyond programme, which will provide support to farmers and farming families who experience bereavement.
“It is something that many families go through and can be made worse because of complications relating to the farm business and sometimes problems relating to succession.
“This programme will take people through that experience both on the practical and business side as well as on the emotional side and provide the support they need, when they need it and for whatever length of time they need it. This can only strengthen the health and wellbeing of the farm family and, alongside that, help the farm business to continue.”
Minister of Health, Robin Swann said: “Farmers and farming families tend to just get on with it when they are faced with tragedy. However, supporting rural families through bereavement and loss is vitally important in helping them to come through their suffering and move forward.
“Today, I am pleased to join Minister Poots to launch Life Beyond which is such an important initiative for the rural community in Northern Ireland. I also commend the Steering Group of Life Beyond, Embrace FARM and Rural Support for recognising the need of our rural families and developing these services to meet that need.”
Victor Chestnutt, UFU President, who was instrumental in bringing the programme to life, said: “Over recent years I witnessed the impact of the work that Embrace FARM have done in the Republic of Ireland to help families who had experienced a farm accident death and those who survived. I was conscious we didn’t have a dedicated service in Northern Ireland for farming people who have been bereaved, even though there is a need for this type of support and spoke with Embrace Farm and Rural Support about whether there was something could be done to help.
“Off the back of that, Rural Support and Embrace FARM, along with the Steering Group, have developed a unique programme that will meet the needs of farmers and their families in Northern Ireland, and I am pleased to have played a part in getting it going and will continue to help keep it moving forward over the coming years.
“I have also chosen to fundraise for Life Beyond during my term as President of UFU, and we are continuing to raise money to fund the services being provided through our JustGiving page.”
Veronica Morris, Chief Executive of Rural Support, added: “Rural Support are delighted to be working with Embrace FARM in bringing our collective expertise together to provide much needed support to our farming families in Northern Ireland who have experienced loss.
“When the worst happens in a farming family it is often not only about dealing with the shock, sadness and sometimes trauma that comes from losing a loved one. It can mean trying to deal with practical issues relating to the farm business in the middle of unbearable grief.
“Also, once the initial weeks and months have passed after a death, and neighbours and extended family have had to get back to their own lives, it can be very difficult for a farming family to move forward. This programme provides the practical and emotional support to help families to navigate their experience – both personally and farm business related – no matter how difficult that might be.
“The services are provided free of charge to the service users and is funded through various sources. We are very grateful to have received some very kind donations in these initial stages to get the programme off the ground, including from ABP Food Group, NIGTA, Ulster Farmers’ Union, the Richard Lawes Foundation, NFU Mutual Charitable Trust and Tyrone Farming Society and will continue to fundraise to support these vital services over the coming months.
“I would encourage anyone who is interested in availing of the services to contact Life Beyond and, also if interested in donating to the programme to go to the UFU Life Beyond JustGiving page at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ufusupportinglifebeyond or contact myself at Rural Support, email@example.com or Catherine Kenneally at Embrace FARM, firstname.lastname@example.org”
n Do you think you could benefit from the services of Life Beyond?
n If you or someone you know would benefit from the Life beyond programme or from speaking to a Rural Support team member, please ring the support line which is confidential and is available 9am-9pm, Monday to Friday (voicemail and options available at all other times). The freephone number is 0800 138 1678.