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Federations and Mission simplify ‘daunting’ process

The national fishing federations and Fishermen’s Mission have joined forces to try to ensure that all fishermen and vessel operators are aware of all financial help that is available during the coronavirus crisis and are able to access it easily.

Warning that there are still tough times ahead even though the crisis has begun to ease, they say that an array of government, private and charitable support agencies exists to support those in the fishing sector who are facing genuine difficulties.

But in a joint statement, the NFFO, SFF and Fishermen’s Mission say that navigating these different agencies to find the right kind of support can be ‘daunting’.

They say: “There is now an urgent need for a single point of contact to be established so that fishermen can be directed to the support appropriate to each individual case.

“The Fishermen’s Mission has agreed to operate a ‘one-stop shop’ for all matters relating to welfare and the wellbeing of both active and retired fishermen and their families.

“It is our hope that the Fishermen’s Mission becomes the first point of contact for all fishermen when they need this kind of support, and that this information is widely available to them,” say the organisations.

They say that they and the government share a commitment to the whole fishing industry, including fishing businesses and individual fishermen, whether they work as owner-operators, as self-employed share-fishermen or under employment contracts.

They acknowledge that governments across the UK quickly delivered significant financial support. But, they say, this has been ‘broad-brush’, and ‘inevitably, some fishermen have fallen through the gaps’. They add that they will not hesitate to seek further government intervention if this proves necessary.

The organisations say that the extreme emergency is slowly receding, although there is a risk of a second wave as lockdown measures are relaxed.

“Markets are tentatively returning, but not in all areas. Some will take a long time to fully recover. Having survived the last few difficult months, the focus is now on how to get through the slow and possibly prolonged recovery period.

“This is at a time when financial resilience for businesses and crew will be low. With no reserves put aside, large parts of the industry are highly vulnerable. The challenges of debt management as government support schemes end will affect many fishermen and their families.”

The groups say it is important that those who have fallen through the gaps in the support measures are not left behind.

They say: “We, collectively feel a responsibility to:

  • Identify those at risk from the loss of their business and/or personal difficulties
  • Analyse the nature of the difficulties they are now facing
  • Develop and provide adequate solutions that will help fishermen who are struggling through this unprecedented and challenging time.

“We anticipate that the next few months will be tough. There is both economic and financial uncertainty, as well as fear and concern about a second wave, should the pandemic return in force.

“In these difficult conditions, it is our collective intention to ensure that fishermen – and their families – are guided to available sources of support where and when it is needed.

“If, in order for this to happen, we need further government intervention, we will not hesitate to make that case. Our intention with this initiative is to ensure, as far as possible, that appropriate assistance is available to everyone who needs it, and to ensure that we return to being the strong, resilient industry we were before this crisis, and that we can be again.”

David Dickens, chief executive of the Fishermen’s Mission, said: “This has been one of the busiest times in history of the work of the Fishermen’s Mission. We have worked closely, for many years, with the NFFO and SFF, and it is vital that all fishermen understand that we are here to help with any issues that they may be facing.

“We have port staff covering the whole of the UK coastline, and while currently we may all be working from home, we are still able to provide an extremely effective service. We welcome this initiative and statement as a declaration of our commitment to continue to support our fishermen and their families.”

NFFO chief executive Barrie Deas said: “We know that the Covid-19 virus and subsequent lockdown has stripped resilience out from many parts of our industry. The very least we can do is provide an adequate safety-net for those who find themselves in difficulty. Having a single contact point will, we hope, ease access to the support systems that are available.”

Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the SFF, said: “This has been an extremely difficult time for many in our industry, and indeed continues to be so for some, as the recovery from the Covid lockdowns slowly takes shape. It is important that fishermen can readily access the help and advice that they need over the weeks and months ahead, and this initiative will help to do that.”

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 restrictions, the Fishermen’s Mission has accessed grants totalling more than £250,000 to assist fishermen and their families, as well as providing emotional support and arranging for other services to assist where and when necessary.

‘One-stop’ contact numbers

The Fishermen’s Mission’s contacts for information are:

Freephone: 0800 6341020

Landline: 01489 566910

Email: enquiries@fishermensmission.org.uk

Via its website: fishermensmission.org.uk by using the ‘Need Help’ button.

The Fishermen’s Mission also has a strong presence on Twitter @thefishmish and Facebook, where it can receive direct messages.

 

 

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