Farming families are missing out on millions of pounds of state benefits, according to consultants and charities.

A lack of awareness of what’s on offer, people wrongly assuming that they won’t qualify and the perceived stigma attached to claiming are preventing many getting the cash.

“Apply,” urges Trish Pickford, head of welfare at the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution.

“We’re talking thousands of pounds a year in many cases.

“Once people get these benefits, they’re absolutely delighted – and the money can make a huge amount of difference in these challenging times.”

“You don’t know unless you try, so give it a shot,” says Renny Wodynska, director of the Rural Stress Information Network.

“It’s not charity – it’s your entitlement.

“If there ever was a time when farmers needed to maximise their income, it’s now as the pinch is being like never before.

They tend to see these benefits as a last resort – but they shouldn’t.”

According to David Bolton of consultants Andersons East, benefits should be viewed in the same way as any other financial opportunity.

“It’s another perfectly proper line of inquiry you should make – as you would a new enterprise or diversification.

“The countryside is full of people who like to work hard and who are used to animal and crop husbandry so this may feel foreign and uncomfortable – but they should have no qualms about inquiring.

It’s no different from what any other type of family or business would do.”

Farm Crisis Network deputy national co-ordinator Helen Bagwell stresses no one should feel guilty or embarrassed about getting this money.

“As taxpayers, farmers have paid over the years for these systems to be available for those who need them – and they are just as entitled to benefit from them as anyone else.

“The stigma which used to be associated with claiming benefits is no longer there.

The majority of families are, for example, entitled to claim Working Tax Credit and many non-farming families take advantage of it.”