Farming charity RABI sees 67% rise in claims from working families, and hard-up Suffolk farmers come third in county table for grants

Paul Burrows, chief executive of RABI.

Paul Burrows, chief executive of RABI. - Credit: Archant

Hard-up Suffolk farmers were the third highest recipients of help from a sector charity after a “challenging year” for agriculture.

Farming charity the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) says it saw a 67% rise in requests for help from working families last year.

It paid out grants of £2,035,702 to 1,357 families. That compares to £1.89m in the previous year.

Nearly £123,000 was paid out to Suffolk farmers, while Norfolk, which came fifth in the table, with £99,500 worth of support.

RABI, which has been providing financial assistance to people in hardship from the farming sector since 1860, said in the early part of 2016, it was busy helping flood victims in the north of England, primarily in Cumbria, and gave out emergency grants of £91k.

However, it said the real story of the year was the number of claims received from working farmers, farmworkers and their dependants with £450,169 paid to 216 cases. In 2015, the charity gave out around £269k to working people and/or dependants. Chief executive Paul Burrows said: “It’s been a challenging year for many in the farming sector with bad weather, animal disease, fluctuating commodity prices and late Rural Payments Agency (RPA) 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 RABI to help you through the bad times’.”

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Across the board, RABI 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 £283k was also given out in Wales, with more than £92k paid to working families. Other counties receiving significant support included Devon (£127k), Suffolk, Cumbria, Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Shropshire, Cheshire, Cornwall and Somerset.

Head of welfare Trish Pickford said: “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.” Chairman Malcolm Thomas said: “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 RABI is able to provide.”

If you or someone you know in farming is in need of help please call the Freephone Helpline 0808 281 9490.

Table of RABI grant aid payments in 2016

1) North Yorkshire, £152,428

2) Devon, £127,616

3) Suffolk, £122,906

4) Cumbria, £110,760

5) Norfolk, £99,505

6) Lincolnshire, £91,941

7) Shropshire, £80,152

8) Cheshire, £71,177

9) Cornwall, £67,736

10) Somerset, £63,209