Many farmers still reluctant to seek financial help

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Too few male farmers are reaching out for support when they really need it even though farming families in North Yorkshire have received more emergency grants from one charity than in any other area of the country.

Farming charities are encouraging more to seek help when faced with financial crisis to ensure the county’s contribution to UK agriculture remains healthy.

A half year report by RABI (the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution) shows that it has distributed around £1 million of grant funding to farming families in financial difficulties in the first six months of the year. And North Yorkshire families received more support from the charity than in any other county, with 86 people offered a share of £67,988 between January and June.

The next most in need were farmers in Devon, Shropshire, Norfolk and Cornwall.

Around 20 per cent of RABI’s grants went to help farmers and farm workers who are working but are, nonetheless, in financial difficulty.

Philippa Spackman, head of fundraising and communications at RABI, said ‘in-work’ poverty was a particularly acute issue and was widely regarded as the fastest growing group seeking help from charities like itself.

“Despite real-terms cuts in national welfare spending, children and elderly people are still relatively well looked after by the state benefit system,” she said.

“The people who are really struggling are those in the middle who are in work but are finding it harder and harder to get by on their income, especially in the face of unforeseen bills following things like illness, accident, bereavement and family breakdown.

“North Yorkshire is the county to which we give the most money in grants and where we help the most people and this has been the case for a number of years.

“The size of the county is a factor in why this should be so but another factor is the number of upland livestock farmers it has – a sector which has been finding the going tough for many years.”

Kate Dale, co-ordinator of another local farming charity, the Yorkshire Rural Support Network (YRSN), which promotes and provides sources of practical, financial, medical and emotional help, said it was clear that male farmers were reluctant to seek support.

“As a result of women’s networking events we have held over the past two years, we know that it is often the women who recognise and acknowledge that help and support is needed and they seem more prepared to seek assistance.

“Farmers and their staff need to be mindful that there is no shame in asking for a bit of help when the going gets rough. Genuine hardship, ill health and family breakdowns can happen to anyone, anytime.”

And Richard Pearson, regional director of the National Farmers’ Union, added: “We know that farmers can be very proud and not want to seek help, but getting the right help early on can make a huge difference – not just financially but just in terms of sharing the load and having someone impartial to help talk it through.

“I would certainly urge anyone who finds themselves in a dire situation not to try and face it alone.”

The YRSN is celebrating the success of women in farming at the Pavilions of Harrogate on September 30.