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Sinn Fein call for mainstreaming of Rural Advice Bureaus

19 July, 2005


Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP
Michelle Gildernew has called for government to bring forward proposals for
the mainstreaming of Rural Advice Bureaus to support rural communities and
particularly the farming community after a report from the Health and Safety
Executive highlighted the impact of stress on farmers.

Ms Gildernew:

"Sinn Fein have consistently argued that rural communities are not well
supported. We have advocated the rolling out of a one-stop shop Rural Advice
Bureau, such as that piloted by Newry and Mourne Local Action Group,
throughout Newry and Mourne. Rural Advice Bureaus could provide a single
access point for a wide range of services and support both in terms of
giving advice and support particularly on dealing with the increasing levels
of red tape, options for future financial direction and in terms of the
provision of health and social support.

"A piecemeal approach to Rural Advice Bureaus will see the successful pilot
in Newry and Mourne close in October because of the ending of funding. The
hundreds of farm families who have received help and support is testament to
the success of this pilot project.

"This new research shows that feelings of stress arise because of factors
which farmers fell they had little or no control, such as falling market
prices, European and Government regulation, the weather and the farming way
of life.

"It is vital that farmers are enabled to take more control of their lives.
While there is nothing we can do about the weather there is definitely
something that can be done in relation to many other issues.

"The decline in farm incomes and reduction in labour has intensified the
pressure on those who remain in the industry, and long hours and isolation
have been highlighted as significant issues for many farmers.

"It is vital that the ongoing uncertainty facing many in the farming
community is needed because the constant shifting of goalposts, with
frequent changes to rules and regulations, and increased paperwork and
inflexible deadlines that take little account of the unpredictability of
farming.

"It is vital that government put in place a long-term response to support
those at increased risk of stress-related problems, particularly smaller
family farms, livestock farmers, those living in isolated areas and farmers
working until late in life because of financial pressures." ENDS

Note to Editors
The research report RR362 Farmers, Farm Workers and Work Related Stress can
be found on HSE's website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrhtm/rr362.htm

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