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More cash-strapped farmers needed financial help in 2018, says charity

PUBLISHED: 09:25 28 January 2019 | UPDATED: 10:14 28 January 2019

More working farmers needed financial help in 2018, says rural charity RABI. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

More working farmers needed financial help in 2018, says rural charity RABI. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

More working farmers and their families need financial support as low income, debt, illness, evictions, extreme weather and problems with subsidy payments continue to beset their industry, said a rural charity.

Alicia Chivers, chief executive, Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI)  Picture: RABIAlicia Chivers, chief executive, Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) Picture: RABI

The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) says it saw a 47pc rise in the amount it paid out to farm workers and their dependants last year compared to 2017 – and expects that trend to continue.

The charity gave out £437,825 in grants to 215 working families in 2018, a significant increase on 2017’s figure of £297,000.

In total, it paid out around £2.22m to 1,248 individuals and their families in financial need in England and Wales during 2018.

In Suffolk it paid £136,116 to a total of 41 farmers and their families compared to £125,786 in 2017, while in Norfolk the figure dropped from £108,175 in 2017 to £101,953 for 59 cases last year.

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 (Rural Payments Agency) 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 £494,000 in state benefits in 2018.

“We are in a testing and volatile environment, which is going to endure for some time to come,” said Ms Chivers. “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.”

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