Farming families in North Yorkshire were given the most financial help in England to recover from crippling hardship in the last 12 months, according to new figures from the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (R.A.B.I).
Requests for assistance from the charity made by working farming families soared last year by 67 per cent across the country, leaving R.A.B.I bosses unsure how many would have managed to continue in the industry without the charity’s lifeline support.
Grants totalling more than £2m were shared between 1,357 families - a significant increase on the previous year when around £1.89m was distributed to those in need of the charity’s support.
Serious flooding in the early part of 2016 meant that R.A.B.I was busy helping flood victims in the North of England - mainly in Cumbria - giving out emergency grants of £91,000.
However, the real story of the year was the number of claims received from working farmers, farm workers and their dependants with £450,169 paid to 216 cases. In 2015, the charity gave out around £269,000 to working people and/or dependants.
Paul Burrows, the national charity’s chief executive officer, said: “It’s been a challenging year for many in the farming sector with bad weather, animal disease, fluctuating commodity prices and late RPA (Rural Payments Agency) payments all contributing to the difficulties encountered by some.
“Farmers, in our experience, do not want or readily seek charity. However, our message to them is there is no shame in turning to R.A.B.I to help you through the bad times.”
Across the board, R.A.B.I welfare officers also helped people claim £286,691 in state benefits.
The county that received the most support was North Yorkshire, with grants of £152,428.
Around £283,000 was also given out in Wales, with more than £92,000 paid to working families. Other counties receiving significant support included Devon, Suffolk, Cumbria, Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Shropshire, Cheshire, Cornwall and Somerset.
Trish Pickford, head of welfare at R.A.B.I, said: “Our welfare staff undertook a variety of training courses during 2016. The Universal Credit system is still being rolled out and staff are also getting to grips with more and more mandatory reconsiderations and appeals on behalf of people turned down for Employment and Support Allowance and Personal Independence Payments.
“We have also been involved with the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group regarding Universal Credit for the self-employed and are still very concerned about the impact this will have on farmers who have low incomes.”
The charity’s chairman Malcolm Thomas added: “There can be no doubt that there continues to be a great deal of hardship and suffering within our industry and the cases that appear before our grants committee are the clearest evidence that, for all sorts of reasons, people can find themselves in extremely difficult and harrowing circumstances. I often wonder what many of these people would do without the support that R.A.B.I is able to provide.”