Union launches campaign to support farmers with dyslexia

NFU Scotland is calling for cross-party support for a campaign to raise awareness of the problems faced by farmers with dyslexia.

In recent months, the Union has been working alongside a member with dyslexia who has experienced some difficulties in coping with the level of red tape and form-filling associated with the sector. This included problems completing some of the forms regularly issued by the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspection Directorate (SGRPID).

Work has been ongoing with Dyslexia Scotland, the Scottish Government and SRUC and there is now better recognition that dyslexia can cause significant disadvantage for farmers and crofters in their dealings with SGRPID.

Former racing driver Sir Jackie Stewart OBE, President of Dyslexia Scotland has voiced his support for this campaign, which is aimed at ensuring that those affected by dyslexia have access to the appropriate tools and mechanisms to assist them and that they are not unfairly discriminated against.

It is now recognised that at least 10 percent of the population are likely to be dyslexic, four percent of those being severely dyslexic, with the Specific Learning Difficulty known to be hereditary. However, in the farming community, this percentage could be far higher. SRUC, Scotland’s rural college has confirmed that 25 percent of its agriculture students are dyslexic.

NFU Scotland has written to Alasdair Allan, Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages and has also raised the issue with Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment Richard Lochhead MSP and Scottish Parliamentary Education and Culture Committee Dyslexia Cross-Party Group Convener, Margaret Mitchell.

Nigel Miller, President of NFU Scotland, commented:
“We have opened discussions with Dyslexia Scotland, SRUC and SGRPID and are pleased that all have responded positively. In particular, the suggestion from Roy McLachlan, Deputy Chief Agricultural Officer, to consider setting up a ‘Farming with Dyslexia’ working group is warmly welcomed.

“One of our main aims is to try and remove the stigma that many people with dyslexia feel about their condition. Dyslexia is a disability recognised under the Equalities Act 2010, which came into law in Scotland on 27 May 2012. We recognise and are grateful for the time and attention that dyslexia has received by those in the Scottish Government and Parliament.

“The Act helpfully explains that having due regard for advancing equality involves removing or minimising disadvantages suffered by people; taking steps to meet the needs of people where these are different from others and encouraging people from protected groups to participate in public life or in other activities where their participation is disproportionately low.

“We believe that in order to ensure that farmers and crofters who have dyslexia are better supported, SGRPID must make stronger efforts to adhere to the key principles of the Equality Act and accommodate the needs of their dyslexic customers.

“We are keen to hear from our members with dyslexia, or indeed family members. We would ask them to come forward, in confidence, to share their experiences with a view to driving positive change for the future for the many Scottish farmers with dyslexia and their families. This is the time to address the issue before the next generation of farmers with dyslexia graduate from college, where they have received good and appropriate support, only to be faced by all the associated form filling and paperwork of modern day farming. We must ensure that our support and regulatory regimes do not inadvertently disadvantage them.”

Sir Jackie Stewart, OBE, President of Dyslexia Scotland said:
“I am a severe dyslexic. The frustration that a dyslexic person can have by not being able to do things like fill in forms is something that people who do not understand learning disabilities, have difficulty in comprehending. This is particularly true when forms and official papers have to be handled.

“A large percentage of dyslexics are so embarrassed that they do not want to admit that they cannot read or write as well other folks, but the frustration that it causes and the disruption it can lead to, can be very serious; not only for the person involved, but also for society in general. Dyslexics can be very creative and very successful but far too many, who are not given help and assistance, can end up in very sad circumstances.

“I congratulate NFU Scotland for taking this matter to the highest levels to ensure that those dyslexic members are given the help and assistance that will allow them to produce for the community and the nation.

“Dyslexic people can be very creative and very resourceful, but they do need more time to do things involving paperwork particularly. Government and local authorities need to be more aware that a great many people may need help and assistance.”

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