PRESS RELEASE: Breaking the Fall: 5 Quid for Life makes first Mental Health Safety Net payment
(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.