Update @5QuidForLife: Your Help Needed June 18, 2013Posted by Phil Groom in Campaigns, Mental Health.
Tags: 5 Quid for Life, Benefits, Help Needed, Loss of Benefits, Mental health safety net
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REMEMBER 5 QUID FOR LIFE? Daft question — of course you do; at least, I hope you do. But for anyone who’s new here or who needs a reminder, it’s a small project I’ve been involved with for a couple of years which provides financial help for people with mental health problems who have lost their benefits due to the UK government’s welfare reforms.
It’s a situation that makes me extremely angry as our government legislates mercilessly against the poor and vulnerable but only ever issues guidelines for the rich and powerful. Consider your own situation: do you have any choice about how much tax you pay? Not the slightest: if you’re employed, tax is taken before you ever even see your wages; and when you’re out shopping, VAT is conveniently hidden behind VAT-inclusive prices. But if you’re big business, like Amazon, Apple, Google or Starbucks — to name but a few of the tax avoiders out there — you can choose where to pay your taxes, and by virtue of that choice, how much, and all the government seems willing to do is mutter imprecations and offer guidelines: big business pockets billions whilst the poor are left completely out of pocket, not even allowed a spare room for family or friends to visit!
Now throw into that mix the devastating effects of mental illness and I hope you’ll begin to understand where I’m coming from with 5 Quid for Life. 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.
The project has kept me particularly busy over the last couple of weeks as we’ve begun to receive enquiries and applications for help. We issued our first payment last week to a person suffering with and on medication for long-term mental health difficulties, including depression. Loss of benefits had inevitably made things worse leaving them with no income and rent arrears: you can read more about it in a press release we issued on Friday: Breaking the Fall: 5 Quid for Life makes first Mental Health Safety Net payment.
Despite sending that press release directly to all the UK’s major daily newspapers, so far, to the best of my knowledge, none of them have picked up the story — and that, gentle reader, is where you come in: 5 Quid for Life needs your help to spread the love, please. What I’m asking you to do is drop a line to your local paper or radio station and tell them about it: tell them you’ve heard about this remarkable little project that wants to give money to their readers or listeners — because we do. It’s generally accepted that one in four people are affected in some way by mental illness: that’s up to 25% of their readers/listeners who could potentially be eligible for a 5 Quid for Life payout of up to £200 (subject, of course, to available funds). Our eligibility criteria are very simple: we provide crisis support for people in the UK 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 someone meets those criteria, all they need do to start the ball rolling is contact us with brief details of their situation; if appropriate, we will then ask them to complete an online application form or, if they prefer, send them a form in the post.
Money for nothing, for people who’ve had the next-to-nothing they had taken away by a government that doesn’t govern except against its weakest people.
If you’re not up to contacting your local paper or radio station, there are plenty of other ways to spread the word:
- Online, please tell your friends on facebook; upload our logo to pinterest; tweet us; or if you’re a blogger, please consider posting a news story using our press release.
- Offline, please share the love with our brand new @5QuidForLife flyer and poster: they’re pdf downloads, A4 or 2 x A5, ready for you to print out and put up on your local community noticeboard, in your local library or anywhere else that will let you.
And last but not least: we need donors too, please. At present our regular income is less than £100 per month and whilst we have a healthy bank balance at the moment — not far short of £3,000 — that’s not going to last long now that we’ve started giving it away. Full details of how to give are on our Donate page; and for the avoidance of doubt, please note that 5 Quid for Life operates on a 100% voluntary basis: all donations go entirely to those we support: we do not make any deductions, claim expenses or charge for our services.
REPOST: It isn’t suicide, it’s murder: Part 2 – Too close to home: Langford man hounded to death over council tax dispute June 3, 2013Posted by Phil Groom in Death, Mental Health.
Tags: Biggleswade Chronicle, Central Beds Council, Council Tax, Debt, Depression, Langford, Mental Illness, Peter Williams, Suicide
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I’M BRINGING THIS POST — originally published 18th Feb 2012 — back to the top because Peter’s tragic story has now made the national news as the inquest into his death is at last underway. Please spare a thought and a prayer for his friends and family as the inquest and news coverage forces them to revisit their grief.
Here are some of the reports:
- BBC News, Beds, Herts & Bucks: Bedfordshire inquest hears eviction threat led to death
- Daily Mail: Council accused of hounding Dragons’ Den inventor to his death by relatives after it made him bankrupt and sent in bailiffs over unpaid tax
- Hertfordshire Advertiser: ‘Council hounded ‘brilliant’ Langford inventor to his death’
- Huffington Post UK: Peter Williams Killed Himself After Battling Missed Council Tax Payments
- Lynn News: Railway death engineer ‘confused’
- Telegraph: Railway death engineer told friends he was going to kill himself after council tax battle
THIS IS THE STORY that ran on the front cover of our local paper, The Biggleswade Chronicle, yesterday, and it’s a story that’s as tragic as it gets: in short, Peter Williams, who was clinically depressed and lived here in Langford, didn’t pay his council tax for several years around the turn of the millennium, was made bankrupt and eventually, faced with the threat of eviction from his home, killed himself on the railway at Biggleswade last week.
I’ll let one of his friends take up the story, as published in the Chronicle:
His friend, Richard Harris, who assisted Peter in his legal battles, said: “His council pursued him relentlessly and aggressively over a period of some 16 years without helping him. It culminated in them bankrupting him over a £1,350 debt in 2006, seeking to evict him from his home, which was worth in excess of £200,000, that he owned outright.”
The report goes on to quote a Central Beds Council spokesman explaining that the unpaid £1,350 represented legal costs incurred by the council and its solicitors in pursuing Mr Williams — but, if you’ll forgive me colloquialising, “it ain’t our fault, guv, honest” because the debt had been handed over to Grant Thornton, acting as bankruptcy trustees, and apparently they were the ones behind the eviction proceedings as part of the debt recovery process.
The council, on the other hand, were right there supporting Mr Williams:
[The spokesman] added that the council’s emergency duty team was in touch with Peter earlier this month and referred him for an urgent mental health assessment.
Last year the Local Government Ombudsman investigated the council’s relationship with Peter and said there were no grounds on which to criticise the council.
So where does that leave us? A man with known mental health problems, hounded to death over a council tax dispute, and a blameless council. Maybe I’m missing something here: I never knew Peter, even though he lived in the same village as me, and unlike the Local Government Ombudsman, I’m not privy to the ins and outs of Peter’s story and have only the Chronicle report to go on; but assuming the accuracy of that report, I have a couple of simple questions for Central Beds Council:
- Who let the dogs out?
- Since you knew about Peter’s mental health problems, why didn’t you call them off?
Seems to me that transferring a debt to a third party, then denying all responsibility when that third party’s pursuit of that debt results in a tragedy such as this, simply doesn’t wash, any more than Pontius Pilate washing his hands absolved him of responsibility for the death of Jesus.
No one should be hounded by debt collectors to the point where they can see no way forward beyond taking their own life; and when a person has a known record of mental health difficulties, even more caution is called for.
Which begs the question: was it suicide, or murder?
- Read Part 1: It isn’t suicide, it’s murder
A shortened version of this post has been sent as a letter to the Biggleswade Chronicle.