The work of RSABI
Pamela Samson is a welfare officer working for RSABI (Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution) across south west Scotland.
Pamela is a farmer’s daughter and has always had a close connection with the agricultural community. She was taken on by RSABI in 2001 to carry out the follow up work for the foot and mouth outbreak, specifically in Dumfries and Galloway.
Pamela has excellent knowledge of the local area as well as good interpersonal skills and understanding of the benefits system. She lives near Dumfries with her husband, Jim, and two sons.
In her role as welfare officer, Pamela visits applicants in their home and helps to find solutions for a wide variety of people and situations.
Here she describes a day in the life of a case officer for our Farming Review. My role as a RSABI case officer is to the visit those who apply to RSABI for help, including anyone who gets in touch via the RSABI helpline. We appreciate it is difficult to ask for help and we work with many of the local agencies and organisations and encourage them to make referrals to us.
Every morning I check my mail to see if anything urgent has come in through the helpline. I cover the whole of south west Scotland for RSABI which means up to a two-hour drive in any direction from my home near Dumfries.
First thing this morning, I received a call from a beneficiary letting me know that they had been awarded attendance allowance – this is a benefit for older people who may need extra help to stay independent at home, due to illness or disability.
I had made a referral for them to apply for this benefit as their health had been deteriorating and they were getting to a stage where they were unable to manage as they had done before. They were so pleased as they were now over £4,300 better off per year and this money would help them get the assistance they needed.
It’s always a wonderful feeling when you hear good news from beneficiaries.
After that, I headed off to my first appointment. The journey took an hour and during that time, the office left a message for me with details of a farmer who was struggling to manage since being taken ill. He had been asked to call us by another agency which is often the case.
I pulled over and called the farmer. We made an appointment for the next day as the situation sounded dire and he was glad to know that someone was going to help. I often have to reschedule appointments to ensure that I see those in the most difficult circumstances as soon as possible.
I saw my first appointment of the day – a long-term annual beneficiary. She was upset as a family member had died recently and we talked about them and the impact of her loss. She was glad to have someone to talk to and so I offered her a regular call from our helpline, which she was pleased to accept.
It is sad how lonely life can be so it’s good that RSABI can call to offer support, making sure they know somebody cares and there’s always someone to talk to.
My next appointment was with a gentleman who had been referred to us by Shelter as he had been allocated a council house but had no cooker.
He had worked in agriculture for more than 20 years but was unable to continue to work after suffering an accident. This led to him suffering from depression as he struggled to cope financially, physically and emotionally. There were no carpets or cooker in the house so I completed an application form and financial statement and then made a recommendation to the grant authorisation group that RSABI buy these items for him.
I also suggested that we consider helping with a small monthly payment until he was well enough to return to work. He was overwhelmed.
By the time I returned home, I had emails from the office asking me to organise an appointment with someone who had called the helpline because they had been struggling with heating costs, and another referral from an agency asking if we could help a recently widowed lady whose husband had been a farm worker. She was worried about her housing situation, as the house had been tied with her husband’s job.
My job is challenging and demanding at times but I feel very privileged to do what I do and I am delighted to know that RSABI can make a real difference to people’s lives.
RSABI provides emotional, practical and financial support to individuals of all ages and their families across the agricultural sector including farming, crofting and growing.
In recent years RSABI has experienced a surge in demand for services as well as a strong response from the wider agricultural community to assist us in their vital work.
Anyone looking to get in touch with RSABI can do so by calling the helpline on 0300 111 4166. Open from 7am to 11pm, RSABI can help financially in times of hardship and practically when you’re not sure where else to turn.
Help at hand Pamela Samson is a welfare officer working for RSABI across south west Scotland