The Royal Agriculture Benevolent Institution (RABI), a major rural charity that helps people from the farming sector in England and Wales, has reported a surge in the number applying for state benefits.

The charity's welfare team helped people claim £472,809 in state benefits last year - a 65 percent increase on the previous year's figure of £286,691. This rise comes in the face of widespread cutbacks to many benefits.

The benefit claim payments are in addition to grants made to farmers and farming families from RABI's own funds. In 2017, the charity paid £1,990, 262 in grants to 1,260 individuals and families - including grants of £297,416 to working people and their dependants.

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Figures from RSABI, the Scottish equivalent of RABI, are not so dramatic, but claims in Scotland for state benefits are on track to be up by about 50 percent on the year. Since April 2017 £154,000 of state benefits were secured for Scottish claimants, but there are still three months to go before RSABI's financial year ends.

The charity also helped secure a further £90,000 by signposting other charities, or through debt write-offs or reduced utility bills In addition RSABI awarded £535,000 in grants from its own funds last year to 850 people and families,

Nina Clancy, RSABI's Chief Executive points out that change seems to keep coming at an ever increasing pace and can be overwhelming, adding that uncertainty is also having an effect.

RSABI gives practical, emotional and financial support to people in the agricultural community by a helpline, and one-to-one by a network of case officers and some volunteers.

Ms Clancy said: "The top three helpline issues are business difficulties - including debts, emotional support and state benefits.

"It is straightforward for us to work out what you may be entitled to. We are here to help. Don't be ashamed or worried about asking for help. In fact it is a show of strength.

"Our practical support often means people only need us for a short time before moving out of their difficulties.

"We are a service for the agricultural community, who do more than you think. Please use us"

The telephone number for RSABI's confidential helpline is 0300 111 4166.

Market round-up

C&D Auction Marts Ltd sold 5869 prime hoggs in Longtown on Thursday to a top of £134 per head and 305p per kg to average 189.9p ( (+0.9p on the week).

There were also 4053 cast sheep when heavy ewes sold to £158 for Texels and averaged £82.80 (+£13.83), while light/export-type ewes peaked at £74 for Cheviots and levelled at £47.70 (+£8.99). Rams sold to £132 for a Texel and averaged £75.73.