It can be tough down on the farm, so Just Ask!

That’s the message from farming charity the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (R.A.B.I.) as winter really sets in.

‘You never know when someone may need help,’ said regional manager Sally Field. ‘People can get into financial difficulty through no fault of their own, for example as a result of accident, illness, bereavement or animal disease. But sadly, farming people are among the least likely, perhaps through pride, to talk about their problems, seek help, or even claim the state benefits to which they are entitled.’

As a welfare charity R.A.B.I. cannot help with business problems and is instead concerned with the impact that financial difficulties can have on the lives of farming families.

Sally Field explained: ‘It’s hard to ask for help, but we work in confidence and though we can’t help with business debts, we may be able to do more than people may think. We support elderly and retired people, but we also offer short-term help to working farmers and farmworkers.

‘It could be someone who cannot work following an accident for whom we may fund temporary help on the farm, or if someone has been made redundant we may be able to help them retrain.

‘Alternatively it could be someone who due to unforeseen events cannot take enough from their business to provide for their family who we then support by a one-off donation to help them heat their home in the winter.

‘We can also help by paying for people to train in additional skill which they can use to earn extra off-farm income.

‘We treat every application on its own merits and even if we can’t help, we probably know someone who can.’

Nationally in 2013 R.A.B.I. gave out more than £2.2m to help farming families. Grants varied from helping a farmworker who was made redundant by paying his rent arrears, to helping a family pay household bills after an accident left a farmer unable to work.

In addition R.A.B.I. made up shortfalls in housing benefit and provided grants to cover funeral costs and bankruptcy fees. Within Kent, R.A.B.I helped 31 beneficiaries and paid out nearly £38,000.

Sally Field said: ‘People from all industries can find it difficult in these circumstances and many have their own welfare charities, like R.A.B.I., which can help in difficult times.

‘Farmers don’t want to be a special case but agriculture is different because it’s a way of life and business and domestic finances are often intertwined. For various reasons there can also be dramatic differences in income month to month and year to year, making it very hard to plan family finances.

‘Farmers are resilient, but even government statistics show that a quarter of farming families live on or below the poverty line.’

The charity encourages anyone in need to contact its helpline.

Sally Field said: ‘Anyone may need help to get over bad times and we can help to turn lives around. Even if we can’t help, we probably know someone we can.

‘Farming is a great industry with a tremendous future – food is the one product we all need and we all depend on farmers for our own survival. But not everyone can take advantage of the opportunities that are available.’

If you know someone in the rural or farming community in financial need encourage them to call R.A.B.I.’s helpline on 0300 303 7373. Support is offered in confidence and to people of all ages.