Help at hand for the farming community

The volatility of agriculture is an all too familiar part of life to those in the farming community. Unremitting issues faced by the sector, which include low commodity prices and poor weather, can impact not only upon material circumstances but because of the unique way of life for farmers, also on their personal wellbeing.

Many in the farming community struggle in silence from difficulties which are out of their control and although we in Lloyds Bank recognise the effects of these challenges and the uncertainties faced by farmers, they often shy away from putting their hand up for help and support – even when it’s most needed.

The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution

In addition to the specialist support available from a Lloyds Bank Agriculture Relationship Manager, help is available from the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (R.A.B.I), a welfare charity that offers financial support to working farmers, farmworkers, and retired farmers. Founded in 1860 by Essex farmer John Mechi, R.A.B.I’s expert assistance is offered in absolute confidence in a wide range of ways to help all ages through a multitude of different difficulties.

What type of support can R.A.B.I provide for working farmers?

  • Helping with applications for state benefits and tax credits
  • Arranging free debt advice
  • Organising free business appraisals
  • Buying disability equipment
  • Covering travel costs if someone is in hospital
  • Paying domestic utility bills
  • Emergency grants in times of extreme need, for example, during floods
  • Providing food vouchers and hampers
  • Paying for relief farm staff when a farmer is sick or injured and cannot work
  • Buying white goods

Vocational training grants can also be given to established working farmers, which can be a significant benefit to those who are not making enough income from the farm alone to earn a living. It enables them to build upon their existing skills and experience, or learn new skills, to gain qualifications leading to secondary employment to supplement the farm income.

How does R.A.B.I provide this support?

R.A.B.I has experienced welfare officers who can visit new applicants and long-term beneficiaries who are no longer working once a year to carry out a review and to talk through any problems that may have arisen. In addition, beneficiaries can contact the charity’s office in Oxford at any time to discuss problems or arrange extra visits.

Although R.A.B.I cannot help with the payment of business bills, it can help in other ways as the above list highlights.

Importantly too, R.A.B.I helps many people from a farming background with care home and home-help costs; the charity also owns and runs two residential care homes.

What did 2015 look like?

The following numbers show how critical R.A.B.I has been in supporting the farming community in 2015 alone.

  • £1.9m of grants paid to 1,340 farming families
  • Helped people claim £390,500 in state benefits and tax credits
  • £270k paid to working farmers
  • £221,885 paid towards clearing domestic bills
  • £122,039 paid towards buying disability equipment and making adaptations

How does R.A.B.I fund the help they provide?

Voluntary income is the chief source of R.A.B.I funding coming from fundraising events and donations as well as from legacies and grants as a result of successful applications to charitable trusts. Investment dividends represent the second most important income stream and these underpin the charity’s running costs and some of the welfare work, allowing all voluntary income to currently go directly towards helping those supported. The charity also sells Christmas cards and calendars, which significantly help raise the profile of the work. R.A.B.I is extremely proud of the fact that around 84% of the money spent every year goes on charitable activities.

Bringing support to life

The following stories show how valuable the support provided by R.A.B.I can be to clients.

Greg’s story

Greg is a self-employed farm worker who has a hereditary kidney disease. He explained: “I got terribly tired and would fall asleep as soon as I got in from work. There is no cure and doctors began to speak about a transplant.”

His wife Carol offered to be a donor and the couple had two years of tests and preparation before the transplant operation. On top of the worry about Greg’s illness, the couple knew they would both be off work and without an income at the same time which posed a real difficulty for them. However, they had heard about R.A.B.I and we helped them apply for the state benefits they were entitled to and also helped with grants for household bills. Carol said: “Without R.A.B.I we would have gone into debt, from which we’d have struggled to recover. R.A.B.I gave us a cushion to support us through the operations. It wasn’t just the offer of financial help but also the help with claiming benefits and filling in forms.” Greg added: “It’s hard to ask for help – pride gets in the way and farmers are a proud bunch. But I’d say to anyone in the same situation just ask. With R.A.B.I’s help we’re now back on our feet.”

Paul and Jane’s story

Paul’s life was transformed when he was trampled by a bull. Several years on, Paul and his wife Jane are still fighting to rebuild their life together. Paul has made amazing progress, but the accident has left him deaf and epileptic as well as paralysed down his left side. He suffered post traumatic amnesia and has very poor short term memory.

The Citizens Advice Bureau suggested that Jane should get in touch with R.A.B.I and she became a beneficiary in her own right, receiving regular financial payments. She said: “I just don’t have words to express what R.A.B.I’s help means to us. R.A.B.I paid for the telephone, the TV licence, even money for the tolls when I was going back and forth over the Severn Bridge every day. It’s also the smaller things that mean so much for me personally, I also get a card and something on my birthday, which is lovely. Because of his amnesia Paul doesn’t remember my birthday and this gesture genuinely makes a huge difference.”

Seeking help

R.A.B.I’s message is simple. If you or someone you know works or has worked in farming and is in need of help, call the free phone Helpline 0808 281 9490Call telephone number 08082819490. All calls will be handled with discretion.