(pdf, 2 pages A4, 82kb)
For immediate release, 14/6/2013
Breaking the Fall
5 QUID FOR LIFE passed an important milestone this week as it made its first Mental Health Safety Net payment to a person who had lost their benefits as a result of the government’s welfare reforms.
The recipient’s identity must remain confidential but we can reveal what is becoming an all-too-familiar story: a person suffering with and on medication for long-term mental health difficulties, including depression. Loss of benefits inevitably made things worse leaving them with no income and rent arrears. A family member said, “It’s a long story of poor care for people with poor mental health and cannot be told quickly; but what can be done quickly is to pull the rug out from under the feet of people who need it — then there they are, in a heap on the floor!”
5 Quid for Life exists to catch those people, ideally before they hit the floor but, failing that, to help them back onto their feet: we are a mental health safety net.
On authorising the payment, Phil Groom, project founder and acting finance officer, issued a short statement via facebook:
“I am both saddened and delighted to report that 5 Quid for Life has today issued its first Mental Health Safety Net payment: saddened that it was necessary; delighted that it was possible.” He went on to thank the project’s supporters and invited others facing similar situations to get in touch: “Although we have limited funds available, we will always do our best to help where we can.”
Another long term supporter of the project, who has asked not to be named, said, “We know that this shouldn’t be necessary, but we also know that it is! From personal experience I can tell you that as well as the practical help money brings, the knowledge that someone listens, understands and cares is immensely beneficial emotionally and mentally. It is the antidote to the bitterness, suspicion and misunderstanding usually dealt out.”
More and more people are finding themselves in crisis since the government began to roll out its reforms to welfare system. 5 Quid for Life does not dispute that reforms are necessary, but we object strongly to the heartless way in which those changes are being implemented. There is no doubt that there are some scroungers out there, but the government’s approach is like that of a frustrated school teacher: unable to work out which child wrote rude words on the blackboard, he puts the whole class in detention.
Everyone on the 5 Quid for Life team has personal experience of mental illness, some their own, some affecting friends and family. Even though one in four people in the general population have such experience, people with mental health problems are amongst the most maligned and misunderstood members of our society. Our conversations with mentally ill people have consistently shown that there’s nothing they’d like more than to be fit for work. When a person’s mind is dysfunctional they are at their most vulnerable: withdrawing essential support in an attempt to force them into work is more likely to be the tipping point that pushes them over the edge into even deeper despair — and the possibility of suicide — than it is ever likely to help them.
Notes for Editors
5 Quid for Life is a small charitable trust which provides financial support to people with mental health problems who have lost benefits as a result of the government’s welfare reforms. The project was launched in January 2011 following Phil Groom’s response to a friend who declared that she would take her own life rather than be forced to revisit the trauma of her past in a benefits entitlement reassessment. Phil’s logic was simple: if he could find 200 people each willing to contribute £5 per month, this would secure a regular monthly income of £1,000 for his friend if her benefits were stopped.
He created a facebook group, people joined and began to offer help. The friend concerned suggested that the project should broaden its horizons: she was not the only one terrified by the idea of having to revisit the issues that had caused her mental health breakdown — and so 5 Quid for Life was born. Our aim: to encourage people to give, ideally to commit to regular giving of £5 per month, to enable us to offer a life-saving safety net beneath the benefits system. 5 Quid for Life, because we think life is worth far more than five quid, but if enough of us stand together with our fivers ready, a network of friends standing in solidarity with those battling mental illness, then lives can and will be saved: A Mental Health Safety Net.
For the full story, please see our first post on our website: Welcome to 5 Quid for Life. Phil is available for interview by email, via facebook or by phone: please see the Contact Information section below.
Many other individuals and organisations have expressed concerns about the impact of the government’s welfare reforms upon vulnerable people, including Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson who recently said that the changes to the benefits system could set the clock back for disabled people by as much as 30 years. 5 Quid for Life, however, is one of the few organisations that exists specifically to lessen that impact by providing financial support to those affected.
We are not a registered charity because the Charity Commission does not allow organisations with an annual income below £5,000 to register. We hope to pass that threshold soon and will then register.
The best way to contact us is online, via our Contact Us page. Most members of the team may also be contacted via facebook: see our About page. Personal contact information is available in the full version of this press release which is being distributed to media contacts: if you are a journalist interested in running this story and have not received a copy, please ask.
Please ensure that any spam filters on your email are set to allow incoming messages from 5quidforlife.org.uk addresses. Alternatively, if you have no spam filters, please check your “junk” or “spam” folder on your email.
YOU MAY WELL ASK, and I must apologise for yet another long silence; but please rest assured, we are still here.
First of all, my thanks to everyone who has supported the project so far in so many different ways, whether by tweeting, blogging, facebooking, other reporting or by giving, both of money and of time: you rock, each and every one of you.
When we first launched 5 Quid for Life our plan was to formally register as a charity: that has proved impossible simply because the Charity Commission does not allow organisations with an annual income below £5k to register (see: Charity Commission » When to register), and as I write our total income to date is £2,728.88. This has accrued from our early donations along with a few one-off donations and a steady monthly income of £40 contributed via standing order by six regular supporters. If you’d like to join that band of supporters, you’ll find our bank details in the sidebar on every page » Make a Donation: please do consider it.
We went on to explore the possibility of applying for recognition as a charity for tax purposes with HMRC but the process proved too convoluted and time-consuming for any of us to take forward. We have therefore concluded that we must remain what we already are for all practical purposes: a trust fund, holding monies received ready to give out to applicants who meet our eligibility criteria  — unless, that is, anyone reading this has the necessary expertise and time to complete an application for HMRC recognition for us. Could that person be you? If so, please leave a comment or give us a shout: we’d love to hear from you.
Last but certainly not least, because this is the reason we are here: we have received two enquiries from people wanting to know how to apply for assistance but neither of them have actually followed that up.
Our eligibility criteria are very simple: we provide crisis support for people with mental health difficulties who:
- have lost their benefits
- or are not able to apply for benefit
- or have been notified that they are going to lose their benefits
If you meet those criteria, please contact us and we will then ask you to complete an online application form or, if your prefer, send you a form in the post. Please note that support is currently limited to a maximum of £200 per application and is normally restricted to two payments in any 12 month period. All payments are subject to available funds.
BRITAIN, so David Cameron tells us in his New Year message, is “heading in the right direction”:
We are still dealing with debts that built up over many years. And for many families, making ends meet is difficult. So to anyone starting this New Year with questions about where we are heading and what the future holds, I want to reassure you of this: we are on the right track. On all the big issues that matter to Britain, we are heading in the right direction and I have the evidence to prove it.
Splendid. So perhaps, David, you can explain why on earth a project such as this, 5 Quid for Life, is necessary? Why do those on benefits whose mental health is such that they are unable to work need a safety net such as this?
Admittedly, we’ve been quiet: the real damage that your changes to the benefits system will unleash upon some of the most vulnerable people in our society has yet to be seen; and the reassurance you offer rings hollow in view of what lies ahead for them.
You say, “When people say we’ve got to stop our welfare reforms because somehow it is cruel to expect people to work, we are saying no.”
Who, exactly, is saying this, please, David? I’ve googled the phrase “it is cruel to expect people to work” and the only person I’ve found using it is you. Ever heard the term “straw man”, David? They’re very easy to knock down. In some ways, sadly, that makes them rather like people with mental health problems: very easy to knock down. The difference is that with a straw man, there’s no blood spilt, no pain: everything just blows away in the wind.
But people… well, David, I find myself wondering: do you even recognise those with mental health problems as people? Or are they just another easy target, like the homeless, out there selling the Big Issue? “On all the big issues that matter to Britain, we are heading in the right direction…”
Did you watch Mr Stink in the run up to Christmas, David? Mr Stink stank. He also stunk. He was the stinkiest stinker who ever lived… but as the story goes on, a more serious stench emerges: the stench of hypocrisy from politicians who want to either sweep the problem people away or use them for their own ends. But you’re not like that, are you? Are you?
Dear David, it isn’t cruel to expect people to work; far from it, in fact: most of those I know with mental health problems would love nothing more than the ability to work. They’d love to be able to hold down a job, to make their own way in society without our support.
But here in the real world, the world of real people rather than straw men, life’s not that simple. The changes you’re making to the benefits system won’t just blow away the straw men in your fantasy world where everyone can work: those changes are likely to blow away real people.
That’s why we’re here. That’s why 5 Quid for Life exists: a mental health safety net to catch the people — or some of them, at least — that you seem set to blow away.
You’re right in the things that you affirm, David: “Getting people into good jobs is absolutely vital, not just for them, but for all of us.” I love that you’ve used the term “good jobs” there: it gives me hope that you’re not simply set on forcing people into any old job regardless. Perhaps you’d care to reinforce that at the sharp end of the welfare system, to emphasise to your colleagues in the Job Centres that any old job won’t do, that the work needs to be appropriate? Because that’s not the message that most of those who are unemployed are receiving, is it? It’s more a case of, “Take this job or we’ll stop your benefits” — with all that that implies about loss of housing, food and everything else people need to live.
And that isn’t good for anything except, perhaps, your statistics. It doesn’t help a worker to be forced into an inappropriate job; it doesn’t help employers. Worst of all, however, it doesn’t help those who can’t work: they need our support, and lumping everyone on benefits together as no-good scroungers, as work-shy parasites, does no one any good. On the contrary, for those with mental health problems, it drives them deeper into despair. Is the sense of shame and self-hate that many of them feel not good enough for you? Must you hammer their fragile psyches into submission until their entire world collapses and their only way is out?
So this is my message to the country at the start of 2013. We can look to the future with realism and optimism. Realism, because you can’t cure problems, that were decades in the making, overnight. There are no quick fixes and I wouldn’t claim otherwise. But we can be optimistic too because we are making tangible progress. We are doing what’s right for our country and what’s best for our children’s future. And nothing could be more important than that.
Again, you’re right in what you affirm: there are no quick fixes. But the future you’re holding out to us is not a future of “realism and optimism” unless you’re in the exceptionally privileged position that those such as yourself occupy. It is, rather, a future of increasing futility and distress for the most vulnerable members of our society, which is neither right for the country nor best for anyone’s future, least of all for those children growing up to face that future; and nothing could be more important than that.
David Cameron, I wish you a Happy New Year and best wishes for 2013; and I hope and pray that you will rethink your policies and apply them in a way that offers genuine hope for the future in place of your blind optimism that refuses to see reality as it is for the majority of those whom you, I trust, seek to serve.
THEY SAID IT COULDN’T BE DONE — so we did it. Held a meeting that is. Using new Google+ meeting room technology. Except we didn’t because actually I, Sam, needed a web cam and a mic and not all of us could get on: we eventually resorted to Johnathon diligently setting up a private facebook chat thingie (okay, I am rather technologically impaired, so bite me).
But after a shaky start, with Phil and Jonathon bellowing, “Hello, hello, can you hear me?” at each other and the rest of us, Paula and I, texting in to say yes, but you can’t hear us, general chaos as Kate got online and couldn’t find us (being somewhere else from where we had agreed did not help), it worked fine and we started on a lengthy and challenging agenda.
At times it felt like we were all in the same room, debating, discussing, referring, deferring, disagreeing, agreeing and joyfully being part of something rather awesome we had all stepped up to do 10 months earlier. At other times, we felt the separateness of each other keenly — mainly when it came time for coffee and meal breaks, because what we really wanted to do was be sitting round Paula’s dining table again, eating her wonderful meals and doing what we seem to do best: laugh, cry, support and create.
But despite the distance and the electronic communication, we still shared and loved and talked; oh, how we talked. We talked about all the things mentioned in Phil’s blog post but we also agreed our Constitution, an important step on the way to becoming a fully fledged charity. Talk of meeting up in person in January developed into plans to hold a MadUp #2, combining meeting and meet-up to celebrate our first birthday. [See above for an update - Ed.]
We also finalised the criteria, the process and the forms for application, so that we are now in a position to help people, something that is going to become more and more critical as people’s benefits are denied them.
The cats (mine) interfered several times, demanding food, clean litter and cuddles with menaces and some of us (okay, mostly me) had to reboot ageing computer equipment.
We broke several times to put on kettles round the country, we drank copious amounts of tea, had litter tray breaks and after 5 hours that felt like 50 minutes, we were done.
What had we done? Taken a few giant steps forward to be able to support those with mental health problems whose much needed benefits are slowly but surely being removed from them. Without those benefits, they face hardship, homelessness and despair.
Mental illness will affect 1 in 4 people in the UK over their lifetimes. This statistic does not mean 1 in 4 of us will know of someone who is mentally ill: it means 1 in 4 people will become mentally ill. That’s 25% of the population.
Some of us will be lucky enough to be able to take time off work to heal, some of us will get better quickly. Some of us won’t. Some of us will need benefits to survive, to keep a roof over our heads and to eat. And they won’t be there. Just as they are not there for those who face such challenges right now.
Mental ill-health is not something to be ashamed of, to be tucked away and not talked about. And needing benefits to survive is not something to be ashamed of either. It is what they are supposed to be there for. Or were.
Our dream is to be able to help everyone who faces such hardship, to help keep the bailiffs from the door, to keep food in bellies and to help those already facing the fight of their lives to keep on going, to find a place of peace and happiness and to have the resources available to them to do this.
Just £5 a month will pay a bill, put food in an empty cupboard, keep debt collectors from the door, change despair into triumph. Please – help us help them.
MY APOLOGIES, first of all, for the long gap between posts: life, as they say, and life’s challenges don’t go away, as we all know only too well. Last month — on October 15th, to be precise, exactly one month ago today — the 5 Quid for Life Committee held our second meeting, this time in cyberspace rather than face-to-face in a physical space. We had hoped to meet via a Google+ hangout, but the technology defeated us and we reconvened via facebook chat, typing rather than talking, and it worked remarkably well for a meeting that stretched over some 5 hours.
Those present were Sam Jenkin, Johnathon Tinsley, Paula Ann Walker, Kate White and myself, Phil Groom, with apologies from David Edwards. I guess I should also make honorable mention of Sam’s cats, who periodically interrupted the meeting with demands for attention and fresh cat litter, but that’s another story that I’ll allow Sam to elaborate on if she so chooses. My personal thanks to one and all — humans and cats alike — for taking the time out of their otherwise busy lives for this meeting.
Paula, whose gentle persistence over the summer led to the meeting, kicked the meeting off with a brief financial report: we now have a number of supporters committed to regular giving of £5 per month and as of the date of our meeting, our bank balance stood at a total of £1,883.55, now increased to £1,953.94. A huge thank you to everyone who has contributed to this; though I’ve said it before, I think it’s worth saying again: without your support, 5 Quid for Life simply would not exist.
We thank you all again for your continued donations because your support and encouragement is what kept us all at our PCs and Macs for 5 hours; and what inspires us to keep going and indeed go further in terms of growth, marketing and advertising so that we may indeed be able to offer real help to those who find themselves in need of it.
Sadly, however, due to personal circumstances, after giving her report Paula then handed in her resignation as Finance Officer, and the Committee agreed that I would take on the role on an interim basis until a replacement can be found. I am therefore now 5 Quid for Life’s Interim Finance Officer, but if you, gentle reader, are suitably experienced, have a head for the world of high finance and book keeping, and are willing to volunteer your services, then I (or any other member of the Committee) would be very happy to hear from you and to discuss what’s involved (bankers implicated in the current economic crisis need not apply). Another huge thank you, then, this time to Paula, through whose efforts we have both bank and PayPal accounts up and running: Paula, you have been a rock and I salute you.
Paula remains a member of 5 Quid for Life but will no longer serve on the Board or as a Trustee.
Communications and Fundraising
Communications and fundraising were the next topics under the spotlight, with a lively discussion during which Kate put forward ideas for a new logo, Sam suggested a video promotion, and it was agreed by all that we need to be rather more proactive in liaising with other mental health groups and organisations — such as Mind — as well as making better use of our own facebook page, the original 200 People facebook group and twitter. If you come across a news story or blog post that you think we should be aware of or respond to, please do feel free to give us a shout-out on twitter or post a link on our facebook wall; and please help us to spread the word about 5 Quid for Life — the risk of suicide amongst the mentally ill is real, as this recent Mind blog post illustrates all too painfully: Why MoneySupermarket ran for Mind.
I guess we’ll never know quite what tipped Mark Hanson over the edge, but we do know that one of the big issues affecting and destabilising those struggling with mental health issues is money worries — Mind have an entire section of their site dedicated to the topic, Money and Mental Health — and 5 Quid for Life exists specifically to help those whose financial security is threatened by the DWP’s changes to the UK benefits system. We are not alone in voicing these concerns, of course, and we stand in solidarity with other campaign groups seeking to raise awareness of the impact these changes are already having on vulnerable people, even before they’re finalised.
An important change on the communications front is that Karita Razzell, who was one of our spokespeople, has stepped down from that role due to other commitments. Karita remains as a member of the team behind the scenes in admin support, and in her place as spokesperson we’re delighted to welcome Carrie Holroyd. Carrie will be no stranger to readers of One in Four magazine, to which she is a regular contributor, but for the benefit of those who don’t know her, I’ve invited her to write a brief introduction as part of our ‘Meet the Team‘ series: watch this space! Thank you to both Karita and Carrie for all their encouragement, help and support.
What Next? MadUp #2…
Inevitably we found ourselves asking what next for 5 Quid for Life — and where? The plan — very much in its early stages as I write — is to hold our next meeting on the last Saturday of January at a venue in London; but rather than just another meeting of t’Committee, we thought we should make it a celebration: 5 Quid for Life will be one year old in January 2011! So, subject to our identifying and booking a suitable location, you, gentle reader, as a friend/supporter of 5 Quid for Life, are invited to MadUp #2.
We hope to send out invitations with full details of precisely where and when nearer the time. For the group’s safety and security, however, these details will not be published but kept confidential to those attending. In the meantime, if you’ve got your 2012 diary handy, please pencil in the date now: Saturday 28th Jan 2012. We look forward to seeing you then!
And finally: for those who missed it, here’s my account of MadUp #1 … which, if the truth be told, is where the original seed for 5 Quid for Life was sown:
Some twitter follow suggestions…
Important Update, 4/3/2012
Unfortunately we are temporarily unable to accept donations via PayPal: we have therefore removed the PayPal Donate Button from this post and the sidebar. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience this may cause and watch this space for further updates.
Donations may still be made direct into our bank account, details shown opposite.
Thank you for your patience and understanding whilst we sort out this problem.
THANK YOU, first of all, to everyone who has donated to 5 Quid for Life so far, and thanks especially to those who have set up standing orders direct into our bank account: without your support, 5 Quid for Life simply would not exist.
I’m pleased to be able to say that we now have our own PayPal account, set up by Paula, our Finance Officer, so another thank you to her. We have therefore stopped taking donations via the UK Christian Bookshops Directory and have replaced that PayPal donate button in the sidebar with our own:
Please do feel free to try it out — and thank you once again for your support.
EDIT: After all the fanfare below, on Facebook and Twitter, unfortunately the fundraiser has hit a rather serious snag; we can’t run it on the date organised. Unfortunately the venue accidentally double-booked itself after a mix-up. The staff have sent their apologies, and I would like to express mine here too.
I’m liasing with the bands to see what date we can re-arrange for, and as soon as I know, I’ll advice everyone here and on the social networks.
Once again, I am really sorry. Please, please do stick with us though – this is still going to happen, it’s still going to rock, and we’re still in a good cause!
Thanks all, and best wishes
Karen (Press and Social Media Officer)
After much faffing about in the background, I’ve finally got round to officially organising our first fundraiser!
I wish I could claim all the credit for this, but that would be fibbing ever so slightly. On a night out a few months ago, my good mate Tony mentioned that he had seen on Facebook that I was involved with 5 Quid. Straight then and there, he offered to have his band – and others that he knows – perform at a charity gig for us. So, let me publicly thank you Tony – your generosity is very, very much appreciated.
The current line up involves two bands, as sadly a third we had hoped to have is not available on the date we’ve organised. However, we are hoping to get someone else to slot into that set. We’ll also have a DJ there who is, I understand, under instructions to play whatever guests wish. Well, as long as it’s within the rock genre
On that note, we can expect to hear soft rock, classic rock, pop rock, glam rock, blues rock, punk, metal, alternative – the list goes on. As well as that, we’re looking into prizes for a raffle (if I can’t get any local businesses on-board with this, I’ll donate them myself) and there will be drinks promotions if you like a good tipple (plus you’ll have the dubious pleasure of seeing me make an eejit of myself over the PA system). So it promises to be a great night!
The details are as follows:
Ma Nelson’s Rock Bar
149 Lisburn Road
30 July 2011
TBC, but probably at starting either 9pm/10pm – going on until the wee small hours!
Now, I know many 5 Quid supporters are not in Northern Ireland, but if there is any possibility that you could come, please do. Belfast is a great city these days; there’s plenty to see and do in it itself, and there are some stunning places within no more than an hour away from us, such as the Giant’s Causeway, the Glens of Antrim (a personal favourite place of mine) to the North and the beautiful Mourne Mountains to the South. So any traveling contingent could easily make a weekend or a short break out of it! Give me a shout if you want any further details on this.
For anyone in Northern Ireland – or even Ireland as a whole, it’s not such a big place these days, is it? – please, please make the effort to attend if you possibly can. This is our first fundraiser and we really need it to be a success. Tell you friends and family too!
You can find out more about our venue, Ma Nelson’s, on their Facebook site at www.facebook.com/manelsons. Huge thanks are also due to the bar’s owner, Tina, for all her hard work in accommodating everything for us, and for her generosity vis a vis our non-profit status! Cheers Tina
I’ve set up a Facebook ‘event’ page for the gig: please click here. Please go ahead and invite yourself and all your mates! [I'll create a new event page as soon as the new date is confirmed.]
I hope to see many of you there!
On another note, there have been a few pieces in The Guardian lately that we thought you may be interested in. First, if I may be narcissistic enough to raise this, I had a small bit published myself on 3 June. I, and three other users of the paper’s Comment is Free pags were discussing our experiences of mental illness and the treatment available for same. You can view the article, and the lively discussion that ensued, at www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/03/mental-health-support-peoples-panel. It was also published in the print edition.
Secondly, Phil has spotted a very interesting but very worrying letter to the paper from the Chief Executives of a number of leading mental health charities such as Mind and Rethink, plus statutory bodies like the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The letter states that:
Reform of the welfare system is steaming ahead, and already we’re hearing about the devastating effects this is having on the mental health of hundreds of thousands of people across Great Britain. While much is made of the impact that changes to benefits will have on people with physical disabilities, it is vital that those with “invisible” issues such as mental health problems are not forgotten…
…We’ve found that the prospect of IB reassessment is causing huge amounts of distress, and tragically there have already been cases where people have taken their own life following problems with changes to their benefits…
You can read the letter in full here.
Obviously, 5 Quid for Life shares the concerns raised; it is the very reason that we even exist. We are alarmed to hear that individuals are already dying because of the cuts – though sadly, we are not entirely surprised. Don’t forget what first brought our organisation into fruition.
The letter highlights the very real need for 5 Quid‘s services in this arena. So please, come to the fundraiser if you can, and either way please send us some doh. People’s lives, their welfare, their homes depend on it.
You can donate online here, or alternatively, here are our bank details:
Account Name: 5 Quid for Life
Bank: HSBC Woodbridge
Sort Code: 40 47 42
Account No: 2146 8928
Thank you so much for anything you can give – even better if it’s a regular £5 per month! But every penny really is appreciated.
We’re doing a lot of background work at the minute on practical issues such as eligibility criteria and how to apply; we know that the imminence with which our services are needed is grower greater by the day. Watch this space for full details over the next few weeks.
Thanks for reading folks, and I hope to see you on 30 July!