13 October 2000

Dont ignore entitlements

THOUSANDS of rural families are missing out on financial help because they dont know what they are entitled to or are too ashamed to claim it, says Somerset beef farmer and WFU chairman Fran Evens.

With the help of her WFU colleagues, Mrs Evens is distributing 5000 leaflets in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall to alert families to the fact that enquiries can be made by telephone (free of charge), complete confidence is assured and any benefits can be paid into bank accounts.

"It is not necessary to queue up at the Post Office to collect your benefits, so your neighbours need never know. Many farmers think that because they are self-employed their families will not be eligible. But that is not true. As long as you have savings less than £8000, not counting the value of your home and possessions, you have a child under 16 years old and your weekly wage is no more than £200 for 30 hours, you will be eligible for benefits," she says.

"Most farmers are happy enough to collect livestock and arable subsidies, so why not accept subsidies for the family?"

Possible benefits include family tax credit, reduced council tax and free prescriptions. The leaflet gives a freephone number for the Working Families Tax Credit helpline 0800-597597.

Mrs Evens also is willing to speak to anyone in need of help or advice either on her own number 01823-432523 or mobile 07989-790146.

"I know there are thousands of desperate country people out there and it could get worse. I am doing this in the hope it will help. If it stops just one person shooting himself it will be well worth it."