FARMING charity RABI saw a huge 47 per cent rise in the amount it paid to working farmers, farmworkers and their dependants last year, compared to 2017.

The 159-year-old charity – whose patron is the Queen – gave out grants of £437,825 to 215 working families in 2018, a significant increase on 2017’s figure of £297,000.

Overall it paid out around £2.22m to 1,248 individuals and families in financial need in England and Wales during 2018.

Alicia Chivers, chief executive, said: “Across the board, the amount we paid out last year increased significantly. Historically, R.A.B.I has probably been best known for helping the elderly, sick and disabled, but year on year we are being asked to do much more to support working families, and we fully expect that trend to continue.

“2018 was a particularly difficult year for many in farming, with adverse weather a contributing factor. Lots of working families struggled to recover from the effects of the ‘Beast from the East’ in the spring because they were subsequently hit by a prolonged and testing summer drought.

“Other problems about which we were made aware include unremittingly low incomes, debt, illness, evictions and difficulties with RPA Basic Payments.”

RABI’s regional caseworkers made 1,831 visits to farming people last year. As well as providing financial support, the charity invests a huge amount of time supporting individuals in their claims for state benefits. In total, RABI helped farming people of all ages claim around £494,000 in state benefits in 2018.

Alicia Chivers said: “More and more farming people are asking for our help with complicated application procedures and our team provides expertise and support with what can be a complex and often frightening process to claim benefits.

“We are in a testing and volatile environment, which is going to endure for some time to come. We foresee increasing difficulties ahead for many farming families. That is why we want people to contact our helpline on 0808 281 9490 before they find themselves in desperate circumstances.”