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Decisions, decisions: how we make them (and how you can make them easier for us)

by on December 16, 2013

AT 5 QUID FOR LIFE we like to keep things simple, and that includes our decision making process when we’re responding to applications for help. That means, amongst other things, that our default position is trust: when someone contacts us with a request for help, we believe them.

We believe them because we also believe that the last thing someone needs when they’re facing the horrible combination of mental health problems and benefits cuts is more scepticism about what they’re going through; and the last thing we want to be is like the DWP/ESA which seem to have a default position of distrust, effectively branding everyone who needs welfare support a liar unless they can prove otherwise. We’re here to help, not to make people jump through hoops until they either collapse from exhaustion or go away and leave us alone.

What that doesn’t mean, however, is that we’re a walkover for anyone with a sob story: we have clearly defined eligibility criteria that applicants must meet, namely that they have mental health problems and that they are facing benefits cuts. We hold ourselves accountable to our supporters, many of whom have mental health difficulties themselves and are not much better off than the people we help: their money is precious, we hold it on trust, and we owe it to them — to you if you’re one of those supporters — to handle it responsibly, and we are determined to do so.

So when someone applies for our help we ask for two things: evidence of their mental health problems, which may involve written confirmation from their GP or another health professional; and evidence of their benefits situation, such as a copy or photograph of correspondence from the DWP/ESA. Without that evidence, which should be straightforward enough to provide in most cases, our constitution does not allow us to issue a payment. Once we have that evidence, our committee will discuss the application and, subject to any further clarification that may be needed, a payment will be issued.

This year so far we’ve responded to eight requests for help, of which four have resulted in formal applications, and two, in turn, have resulted in payments being made. Not every initial request is followed up by a formal application and without that step, of course, we’re unable to proceed any further. Of the two applications that haven’t resulted in a payment, one was unable to provide evidence of current mental health problems; the other remains open as we await more information.

It’s a genuine honour and privilege to have been able to make the payments that we have done, to be able to offer both hope and practical support to people at some of their darkest moments — and none of that would be possible without our fabulous supporters, so thank you, one and all: to those who give regularly; to those who make one-off donations; and to those who tweet and share via facebook and other social media.

Finally, a note for anyone thinking of applying for help: please do contact us; and please help us to help you by making sure you have the necessary evidence of your situation available when you apply. If you can email that to us, so much the better: it’s cheaper, for one thing, and faster. We ask for it not because we don’t believe you but because we owe it to our supporters to handle their gifts responsibly and to keep ourselves accountable.

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