AS OF MID-FEBRUARY 2017 our funds are running critically low.
By the end of the month it is likely that we will have to reduce our maximum grants from £200 to £100, restricted to no more than two grants per month.
If you can help by making a one-off donation or by becoming a regular supporter, please do so. Please use either the donate button below or visit PayPal.me/5QuidForLife if you would like to donate via PayPal:
Please use the following details if you would like to set up a standing order:
Our International Bank Account Number (IBAN) may be found on our Donate page.
In January this year we registered 5 Quid for Life with Turn2us, a national charity that helps people in financial hardship to gain access to welfare benefits, charitable grants and support services. Since then we have been fielding 20 or more enquiries per week, of which around 1 in 4 are leading to grants being made.
In January we issued grants that totaled £1,600.00 (8 beneficiaries). This month we have issued grants totaling £1,535.00 (8 beneficiaries) and we have a number of applications for help in progress. We have been able to issue these grants thanks to reserves accumulated over several years, but those reserves are now rapidly diminishing.
Our regular income from a small group of dedicated supporters now stands at £120.00 per month: the current level of grants being awarded simply cannot be sustained unless we see a substantial increase in support.
If you can’t help directly yourself, please spread the word via social media or simply by telling a friend. The demand is relentless and the need is raw as vulnerable people find themselves stripped of support by the DWP’s harsh and heartless sanctions regime.
A Reminder of Why We’re Here…
We’re here to save lives, lives that have been put at risk by the DWP’s ongoing failure to acknowledge the debilitating effect of mental health difficulties. All around the UK, vulnerable people with serious mental health problems are struggling to make ends meet—to put food on the table, to afford heat and lighting, to pay their rent, to keep a roof over their heads—because the DWP is imposing benefits sanctions despite clear medical evidence that shows these people would not be capable of holding down a job.
This withdrawal of support by the DWP drives people into even deeper despair: rather than incentivising them to find work, it renders them even less capable of work. Yet the DWP keep on applying their punitive sanctions, preferring to believe their own Work Capability Assessments rather than the evidence provided by GPs and mental health caseworkers who know their patients.
Here at 5 Quid for Life we hold copies of this correspondence: on the one hand, GP’s letters explaining people’s mental health difficulties, and on the other, DWP communications telling these self-same people that they “do not have a Limited Capability for Work” and are therefore no longer entitled to benefits.
Once again, then: please help, in whatever way you can, by giving, by sharing, by writing to your MP or direct to the DWP—but please, whatever else you do, do not walk by on the other side.
MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS ARE DEBILITATING.
That’s a statement of the obvious if ever there was one, but it’s something that the DWP and their Work Capability Assessment (WCA) staff seem to be either unwilling or unable to grasp, so I’ll say it again, louder:
MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS ARE DEBILITATING
They undermine self-confidence and self-esteem, they knock the ability to process information, to relate to other people, they leave people disoriented, sap the will to live, make them want to curl up and die: to get to the point, dear DWP people, mental health problems affect the ability to work. Then when you at the DWP respond to a mentally ill person who hasn’t attended a WCA meeting—or has otherwise tripped up on your point-scoring system—by simply issuing a form letter telling them their benefits have been stopped, that knocks them even further into an even darker place.
You tweet about supporting people into work but what you do is withdraw support from people who are not fit for work: it is—and I say this with the utmost care—no exaggeration to say that you at the DWP have blood on your hands. You drive people to the edge and over the edge using cold, hunger and despair as weapons, then you wash your hands of them ready to process your next victim. You send letters from hell: “We support your application for heaven but we’ve removed the stairway and taken out the lift for good measure.”
Why, you may ask, such a drastic change of tone after my last post? Why this harsh assessment, these angry words? Simply this: the last fortnight has been our busiest ever period at 5 Quid for Life. We’re now dealing with around 20 enquiries per week, of which about 1 in 4 are leading to us issuing grants. It’s a development that’s taken us by surprise, but it’s one that’s long overdue.
If you follow us on facebook or twitter then you’ll know that we’ve been concerned for some time that we haven’t been reaching the people who need our help. Now, thanks to Turn2us, we are; and every enquiry we field is a tale of personal tragedy from someone who has been kicked when they’re down by the DWP. They’re people who have had the rug pulled from under their feet and been left floundering as their very means of survival have been taken away by sanctions or reassessments of their eligibility for benefits.
Consider Nicky, for instance. That’s not her real name, of course, and the story that we present here has been compiled using details from several different cases to ensure that no specific individual can be identified:
Nicky lives alone and struggles with depression and anxiety to the point where she can’t face going outside, where she can’t cope with meeting other people. She can’t concentrate, can’t think straight, loses track of the days. Her GP has given her a ‘Fit Note’ (there’s a misnomer if ever there was one!) to say she’s not fit for work due to her mental health problems. But the DWP called her in for a Work Capability Assessment regardless, and when she didn’t turn up for it, they stopped her benefits. Suddenly she’s left with no money to pay her rent, to buy food, to heat her flat. No discussion, just a form letter saying that because she didn’t attend her WCA, she’s no longer entitled to benefits—but she can appeal, which may take six weeks or longer to process…
Thankfully, Nicky discovered Turn2us, they referred her to us and we sent her £200 to help tide her over. But the harsh reality is that our £200 isn’t going to last long; and in the meantime, here at 5 Quid for Life we’re running out of money.
Here’s the current situation:
During the time it’s taken me to finalise this post, another four requests for help have come in. The demand is relentless and the need is raw as vulnerable people find themselves stripped of support.
If you’re already one of our supporters, thank you: without your support we wouldn’t be able to help any of these people. If you’re not a supporter, please consider joining us, either by donating through PayPal, through online banking (or a branch visit if you’d like to pay in cash or cheques) or by setting up a standing order direct to our bank account:
I’d also like to say thank you to:
My friends and colleagues on the 5 Quid for Life Committee, who have rallied round to help meet the new level of demand. You all have busy lives but haven’t hesitated to take the time needed to review and respond to applications for help and to bounce ideas around as we try to forge our way ahead. People, you rock and I’m immensely proud of you all: it’s a privilege to work with you.
My friends and colleagues at DLT Books, for your support, encouragement and understanding when I’ve had to focus on 5 Quid for Life when I really ought to be working on DLT promotions and publicity. You are stars, each and every one of you: long may your light continue to shine.
Finally for now, some good news: as a special thank you to all our followers, friends and supporters, DLT Books are offering 50% off their entire Mental Health range. Please see this post for details: A Special Offer from @dlt_books for @5QuidForLife friends and supporters
Today I’d like to say a huge thank you to all of our friends and supporters: I’ve said it before but it bears repeating, without your support we wouldn’t be able to help the people we do, people who have been left high and dry by the DWP’s ideologically driven determination to force even the least capable into work.
The flood of enquiries since we registered with Turn2us has brought home to me more powerfully than ever the draconian and heavy handed way in which the DWP uses its Work Capability Assessments: it is a truly dehumanising and demoralising system which treats vulnerable people as nothing more than expendable pawns in an economic game.
But right now, I’d like to give something back to you, our friends and supporters: DLT Books (a small Christian publisher with whom I work part-time on a freelance basis) have kindly agreed that I can offer you their entire Mental Health range—including the rather superb ‘Pick Me Up‘ series, pictured—at half-price.
The offer’s available for the whole of this month, February 2017: just use the discount code 5Q50 for 50% off in the online shopping basket.
Thank you all and thank you DLT Books.
IT’S EASY TO BE CYNICAL. My first response when I saw this tweet from DWP was to scream outrage at their blatant hypocrisy. After all, we’ve just read Bessie’s story courtesy of Frances Ryan in the Guardian, and last week 5 Quid for Life issued another two cheques to people who have had their benefits axed by the DWP despite medical evidence declaring them unfit for work.
There’s no two ways about it: the way the DWP treats people with mental health difficulties is outrageous, pulling the rug from under their feet when they’re at their most vulnerable — this is not the way a civilised society should be treating its weakest members.
But then I thought again: is this tweet hypocrisy or is it a sign that somebody at the DWP is in fact listening? I know from my own experience of claiming benefits during a three month spell of unemployment earlier this year that not everyone who works for the DWP is a heartless bean-counting bureaucrat: some of them really do want to help. They too have families and—just as easily as anyone else—they too could find themselves on the other side of their desks, demoralised, out of work and claiming benefits.
It’s a nightmare situation that none of us want to face, and it’s an even worse nightmare when your mind is skewered by anxiety, depression, self-doubt or other mental health disorders. What you need in that situation isn’t threats and sanctions, driving you deeper into despair: you need encouragement and support with clear lines of communication, someone you can turn to for help.
So that’s my answer to the DWP’s question: if you’re serious about working together to help people with mental health issues into employment, drop the bullying tactics. Put down the stick, bring on the carrot. Make time to work with people, to understand their difficulties, and provide the support they need.
Believe people. Listen. If someone doesn’t turn up for an appointment or doesn’t attend an interview, find out why. Don’t just turn to your computer screen and hit that button which churns out those impersonal letters you’re so fond of to tell someone their benefits are being stopped. Stop. Think. Make it personal: put yourself in their shoes. Write, phone or email: do all three if you have to. No reply? Get out from behind your desk, put your coat on and go pay a home visit. Think. Think again. Take a bunch of flowers or a food parcel if that’s what’s needed: show them you’re a friend, out to support them, not an enemy out to bring them down.
Yes, you’ll need safeguarding procedures in place, but that’s all part of what supporting people is about; and that, dear DWP people, is your bottom line: support. Not the budget. Not the economy. Support.
And yes, I know this is a sea change I’m calling for. But it’s the change you need to make, to turn the tide. You say you want to help people into employment: then restore their dignity instead of sweeping it away. Show people respect to help them regain their self-respect. Show people they’re worth something to society and they’ll want to contribute to that society; show them they’re worthless and all they’ll want to do is hide or die. In a simple sentence that I hope you’ll recognise, treat others the way you’d like them to treat you.
There are no guarantees, of course, and this isn’t the full story. Mental health difficulties can’t simply be overcome by positive thinking and cheering people on: the support needs to be ongoing and personal, in the workplace as well as on the way there. You’ll need to put comprehensive support structures in place for employers too. But make this your starting point and we’re in with a chance.
In the meantime, we’re still here at 5 Quid for Life to pick up the pieces when you get it wrong; but I’d much rather you made us unnecessary.
That’s my answer to the DWP’s question: what’s yours? Leave us a comment — and don’t forget to click through the link in their tweet to have your say in the consultation:
AS POSTED on our facebook page this morning:
This week @5QuidForLife we passed a significant milestone: we’ve now given away £1,000. That’s 5 people who have fallen through the benefits system, through what’s supposed to be a safety net for all of us but which — courtesy of the present government’s welfare reforms — is no longer fit for purpose. Fortunately for those five people, we were there, a mental health safety net underneath the benefits system.
That, dear friends, is thanks to you, our supporters: you’re the people who have made this possible and I salute you from the bottom of my heart. By supporting 5 Quid for Life — whether that’s by giving or by sharing — you’re making a real difference to people’s lives, helping to pick up the pieces after the system drops them. THANK YOU SO MUCH on behalf of the people we’ve helped. Those words feel completely inadequate to express the way I feel about what you have made possible, and the way I know, from the messages we receive, the people we’ve helped feel — so I’ll repeat them: THANK YOU SO MUCH.
Please continue to give if you can and please continue to share: too many people who need our help simply don’t know we’re here. You can change that by sharing, here on facebook, via twitter and even offline too with our poster and flyer: why not print one out today and see if your local library will display it? Or maybe your GP in their waiting room? Anywhere and everywhere — that café on the high street you love to go to? Here’s the link: Share the love with our brand new @5QuidForLife flyer and poster!
Thank you – Phil x
Boudicca Rising, our Project Manager, writes:
When I drafted this blog, one of our members said “good stuff, albeit grim. However, it’s where we are”. No truer words and all that.
After a brief hiatus in which nothing much seemed to happen, we have had a small flurry of requests for urgent help from people who are desperate to survive in the current climate of benefit sanctions and hysteria around benefit claimants.
Just imagine if you can, being ill. Imagine being in a cold flat or house, with no money for heating. Or food.
Imagine having a baby and having to choose whether the baby ate, or was warm.
Imagine having to sit through an assessment where an ATOS advisor asks you why you hadn’t killed yourself: Work capability assessor asked why depressed claimant had not committed suicide.
… the assessors’ attitude seemed to be that she couldn’t be depressed if she had not already killed herself.
Imagine if you can, the sheer desperation Jacqueline Harris, a former nurse, must have felt – visually impaired and suffering back pain so excruciating, she was waiting for an operation – when her assessment took place.
The only question asked of her during a two minute assessment was whether she could catch a bus.
Jacqueline did kill herself, after a career spent caring for the sick. Half-blind UK widow commits suicide after incapacity benefit cut.
Jacqueline is not the only one who has reached the limits of what she could bear and sadly, we don’t think she will be the last.
According to this article in The Independent Atos told incontinent woman to ‘wear nappy’: Firm condemned by MPs for pressuring sick and disabled into returning to work:
- 1,300 people have died after being prepared to return to work
- 2,200 people died before the assessment process was completed
However, there are no “official” figures. From that article:
Kevan Jones, a former Labour minister, said suicides of claimants who were found fit to work by Atos had been reported. “There are… a number of well-publicised cases where people have taken their own lives because of this system,” he said. “It is not too strong to say that this Coalition Government has blood on their hands for the deaths of those individuals.”
Tim Salter’s death was equally tragic and again directly linked to cuts made to his benefits when he was assessed by someone not capable of understanding his disabilities, Benefit cuts blind man committed suicide after Atos ruled him fit to work:
A coroner ruled the Government’s decision to axe Tim’s meagre incapacity benefit contributed to his death.
In closing here are some more eye witness accounts of deaths, shaming and humiliations carried out with our tax money on the very people the benefits system is designed to support and help, taken from Benefit Tales » Category Archives » suicide:
“This lady had a lot to look forward to,” said the chief executive of the MWC, Dr Donald Lyons. “She was getting married. She was being treated. She was undertaking voluntary work. She had a good social network. There wasn’t anything else which we could identify that would lead us to believe that there was any other factor in her life that resulted in her decision to end her life.”
Edward Jacques, 47, of Sneinton, Nottingham, took a fatal overdose after his benefit payments were stopped.
Jobless Richard Sanderson, 44, of Southfields, south-west London, stabbed himself in the heart.
Unemployed electrician Lee Robinson, 39, of Crawley, Sussex, also took his own life.
We have deliberately quoted from a variety of media sources from as many sides of the political spectrum as possible to show that these are not mere blips in statistics, not drops in the ocean.
These are people, people with lives and loves just like you.
The only difference is that they had the bad, bad luck of becoming ill or disabled in modern Britain where they were treated with disdain, disbelief and derogation.
Over the past few months we have been able to help a mere handful of people who are too ill to work, whose benefits have been partially or wholly removed.
Currently, we are reviewing whether we are able to help a man who needs financial assistance to buy clothes for job interviews after a period of time out of work due to mental ill-health. Whilst this request falls outside the strict letter of our criteria, we feel his circumstances may be such that our assistance may be justified to prevent his situation moving from the precarious into a crisis and therefore falls within the spirit of what we are trying to do here – save lives.
We are aware that there are many more whom we can help and we sit on the sidelines sometimes, in tears, when we hear of yet another precious life lost.
Please help us get the word out – we are here to provide crisis help and we are currently able to do so (see our criteria for financial crisis support here: Eligibility Criteria ).
Please help us get word to those who need us most: in particular, we’d like to shout out to SANE, Mind and Rethink — please, please let your clients know we’re here, that financial support is available if they’re in a crisis due to benefit cuts and sanctions. Let’s have an end to suicides because people think no help is available when it is if only someone told them!
To those who are already supporting us, a huge thank you: we wouldn’t be here without you; and if you’re not a supporter, please support us if you can: your contribution of five quid a month will help us save lives.
FIRST, MY APOLOGIES for the long silence: I’m aware that this update is long overdue; and second, my thanks to all our loyal supporters, without whom 5 Quid for Life simply would not exist.
1. Farewell to Paula
Due to personal circumstances, Paula Ann Walker has stepped down from the 5 Quid for Life Committee. I take this opportunity to say a huge thank you, Paula, for all that you have contributed to 5 Quid for Life: your input has been a tremendous source of encouragement to all of us on the team and we’re missing you already.
Paula’s departure leaves us, of course, with a gap on the Committee: if you’d like to get involved, please give us a shout.
2. Where we are now
At the moment we seem to be at a bit of a standstill. To summarise:
- We’ve received no new help requests since March this year.
- Donations are still coming in, typically £90 per month (some donors have dropped off; no new ones have signed up).
- We have a total of just over £4,000 available to help anyone who meets our eligibility criteria.
3. Where do we go from here?
It’s clear that we need to find some new momentum and an effective way of reaching out to the mental health community. Essentially we need new blood: we need to find someone — ideally more than one — who has the networking skills that will enable us to connect (1) with the media and (2) with Mind, Rethink, Sane and the other big mental health organisations in a way that will increase their awareness of us and encourage them to refer people who need our help to us.
Could you or someone you know be that person? Or do you have any other suggestions to help us regain momentum, to help spread the word that we’re here? If so, we’d love to hear from you: please leave a comment or get in touch. Thank you.
Mental health emergencies are the most frightening and time consuming I experience as a GP. Not because I lack the clinical skills to assess the patient, but because the resources are too thinly spread for me to get adequate timely care for them.
That’s the stark and honest assessment of GP Louise Hyde in response to an article published by The Guardian this time last week: Inside the UK’s mental health crisis: ‘It is my view that people will die’. The entire article makes sobering reading as columnist Amelia Gentleman reports on the effects that the government’s funding cuts are having on the ability of mental health support workers to deliver the care people need; and “people will die” as a result is the equally stark assessment of one senior nurse from which the article draws its title.
Here’s how Dr Hyde concludes her comment:
Under the recent austerity regime I have seen the most vulnerable patients suffering disproportionately, and this has a knock on effect on the severity of illness at every level, from turning minor stress to clinical depression, to destabilising those with chronic and enduring mental health problems. We need both social and political change to prevent worsening of our mental health problems, and adequate funding to ensure that when the very worst does happen there is a safety net in place.
This echoes precisely what we’ve been saying here at 5 Quid for Life since the day we launched: it’s why we’re here, to provide a mental health safety net, to help ensure that vulnerable people whose basic needs for life have been removed by the government’s austerity measures can live, not die. We can’t cover the funding gap in the NHS, of course, but we can help some of those facing crisis because their benefits have been axed.
But we can only help people if they know about us, so once again our appeal to you, our supporters and friends, is to help spread the word: if you haven’t already done so, please like our facebook page and share it; follow us on twitter, tweet about us or give us a retweet; or print out a flyer/poster and give it to your local library or ask your GP to display it in their waiting room.
Want to do even more? Please consider sending a copy of this post and the Guardian article to your MP — let them know how much damage the government’s cuts are causing, tell them what you and your friends are doing about it and ask them what they’re doing about it.
Last but not least, for those who’ve been asking what’s happening with 5 Quid for Life: we’re currently reviewing our ninth enquiry and expect to be able to make a decision about issuing a payment very soon. As always, a massive thank you to everyone who has supported the project so far: without your generosity, we’d be unable to help anyone. Your support changes lives and may even have saved some.