Farmers struggling to care for family members battling life-threatening illnesses are among the 3,000-plus BPS claimants who are still waiting for their cash, an investigation by Farmers Guardian has revealed.
After issuing a plea for readers who have not yet received their payment to get in touch, FG has been inundated with calls from farmers in desperate need of the money they are owed.
At the end of February, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) had paid out £1.59 billion to more than 95 per cent of farmers in England, but the Farming Community Network (FCN), which offers support to farmers in serious financial difficulty, said the number of calls it was fielding this year had gone up by almost 30 per cent.
Sam Conway, FCN communications manager, said: “At the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016, the number of calls we had went up five-fold. Last year, we had about half that number, but we have noticed it is creeping up again this year.
“We had 219 calls this January. In January 2017, we had 170, so the number has gone up.”
One farmer who reached out to FG, David Williams, Gloucestershire, has been suffering because his straightforward claim had still not been processed.
“I am having difficulties with cash flow,” he said.
“My wife has advanced Parkinson’s and needs a part-time carer we are struggling to pay for.
“We have had no mapping issues or anything. The whole thing smacks of incompetence.”
Another caller, Sarah Hunt, a small farmer on the edge of the New Forest, is going through a similar struggle as her husband fights cancer.
“There is nothing complex about our claim, we usually get paid in December,” she said.
“It is only worth about £1,400, which may not be a lot to others, but it is to us when rent is due and our heating bills are up.
“We also have increased feed bills because of the wet weather.”
An RPA spokesman said: “As in every year, there are some claims in the pipeline and some which require more complex processing so take longer to complete.
“Any farmer who does not receive a payment by the end of March 2018 will be provided a bridging payment in early April.”