More working farmers seek charity help as financial squeeze takes its toll
PUBLISHED: 16:25 18 January 2019
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More working farmers and their families are needing charity support as low income, debt, illness, evictions, extreme weather and problems with farm subsidy payments continue to beset the industry, the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) says.
RABI saw a huge 47% rise in the amount it paid out to working farmers, farmworkers and their dependants last year compared to 2017 – and expects that trend to continue. They also made up a greater proportion of cases.
In total, it paid out around around £2.22m to 1,248 individuals and their families in financial need in England and Wales during 2018. In Suffolk it paid out £136,116 to a total of 41 farmers and their families compared to £125,786 in 2017, in Norfolk £101,953 for 59 cases (£108,175 in 2017) and in Essex, nine cases received a total of £10,887 (£9,746 in 2017).
The 159-year-old charity gave out a total of £437,825 in grants to 215 working families in 2018, a significant increase on 2017’s figure of £297,000.
Chief executive Alicia Chivers said: “Across the board, the amount we paid out last year increased significantly.
“Historically, RABI has probably been best known for helping the elderly, sick and disabled, but year on year we are being asked to do much more to support working families, and we fully expect that trend to continue.
“2018 was a particularly difficult year for many in farming, with adverse weather a contributing factor. Lots of working families struggled to recover from the effects of the ‘Beast from the East’ in the spring because they were subsequently hit by a prolonged and testing summer drought.
“Other problems about which we were made aware include unremittingly low incomes, debt, illness, evictions and difficulties with RPA Basic Payments.”
RABI’s regional caseworkers made 1,831 visits to farming people last year. As well as providing financial support, it supports individuals to make claims for state benefits, and in total, helped farming people of all ages claim around £494k in state benefits in 2018.
More and more farming people were asking for help with complicated application procedures in what was often a “frightening” process to claim benefits, said Ms Chivers. “We are in a testing and volatile environment, which is going to endure for some time to come. We foresee increasing difficulties ahead for many farming families. That is why we want people to contact our Helpline 0808 281 9490 before they find themselves in desperate circumstances.”