R.A.B.I chairman Malcolm Thomas told guests at the charity’s annual general meeting and conference that the need for help is ‘constant’ and R.A.B.I’s work is ‘more important than ever’.
Speaking to more than 200 supporters and guests in Oxfordshire this week, Malcolm announced that the charity had paid out grants of £2.1 million last year to 1,375 individuals and families. Of this, around £450k went to working people and/or dependants.
“Those figures clearly demonstrate the pressures many farmers are under,” he said.
“There is a lot of hardship and many difficulties in our rural areas. This year, we’ve already given out more than £637k. Calls to the charity are running at the same level as 2016, despite the fact that we’ve not had the flooding problems we had last year in the north. That, to me, shows the work of R.A.B.I is growing.”
The guests at the conference included Lord Plumb, former president of the NFU, John Kinnaird, RSABI chairman, Nina Clancy, RSABI CEO and Charles Smith, CEO of the Farming Community Network. The speaker was Sarah Dunning OBE, whose farming family launched the
highly-acclaimed Tebay Services and Gloucester motorway service stations.
Norfolk farmer David Otley also spoke courageously to a packed marquee, sharing the story of how he had come to seek R.A.B.I’s help. He said: “I had the farm and the family I’d always wanted but something was not right. I was not happy. But I didn’t know why.
“Money was tight and I was hiding bills. I sat outside at our table. There were no birds, no life. I decided I needed to do something.”
David contacted You Are Not Alone (YARNA) and R.A.B.I. He received a visit from R.A.B.I welfare officer Sally Hubbard and together they put together a plan to pay off the bills. David said: “Sally helped me to see that things were not as bad as I’d thought they were. She called the creditors and she listened to me, without rushing me.
“The money that R.A.B.I gave us kept the house running so the farm had a little bit of space and we could function. R.A.B.I helped me to focus so I could hear the birds again.”
At the conference, R.A.B.I also presented its annual fundraising awards with North Yorkshire dominating. The Yorkshire Agricultural Society won the Dennis Brown Shield (awarded to the organisation which raises the most money and / or awareness), while R.A.B.I’s North Yorkshire committee scooped the Beaufort Shield (for raising more than £64k in 2016) and the Sam Taylor Cup. The latter was awarded for organising the best new stand-alone fundraiser, the Magic of Farming Ball in Leyburn.
A special trustee award also went to Jack Walton, who raised more than £7k with his 2016 summer tour of the UK’s livestock markets.
Lord Plumb paid tribute to R.A.B.I by saying: “Keep up the good work and keep helping those in real need. R.A.B.I may be needed even more in the future than in the past.”
To find out how R.A.B.I can help you call the Freephone Helpline 0808 281 9490.