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Update @5QuidForLife: Your Help Needed June 18, 2013

Posted by Phil Groom in Campaigns, Mental Health.
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5 Quid for Life: A Mental Health Safety Net

5 Quid for Life: A Mental Health Safety Net

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.

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.

Thank you!

Links Roundup

5 Quid for Life: a mental health safety net

5quidforlife.org.uk | facebook.com/5QuidForLife
twitter.com/5QuidForLife

Voting for Change: YES to AV! May 5, 2011

Posted by Phil Groom in Campaigns, Current Affairs, Life, Watching and Waiting.
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YES to Fairer Votes

YES to Fairer Votes

TODAY’S THE DAY when we, the British people, get a chance to make a difference to British politics.

The YES campaign tell us it’s now or never, and in that they’re as guilty as the NO campaign in laying things on a bit thick. If we say no to change now, it doesn’t mean that the opportunity will never come around again: it may or may not; but I’m sure of this much — if we say no now, the chance for change is unlikely to come around again in my lifetime.

This year I turn 50. Just over three decades since I was given my first opportunity to vote — and in all that time my votes have been ignored, despite that fact that I’ve always voted with the majority against the party that’s ended up in power.

Yes, you read that right: I’ve always voted with the majority; and every time, a minority party, a party that most citizens in the UK didn’t want in power, has ended up in power. Because we’ve got a twisted, fundamentally unfair voting system called ‘First Past the Post’ that treats the majority of the British electorate as if we were, quite literally, runners in a race; and as a result of that, most of us get left behind. Our votes simply don’t count. Sure, they’re counted: but we’re the losers: goodbye. Imagine the ‘Weakest Link’ with only one round, where everyone except the first-round winner gets sent off first: we are the weakest link. Wouldn’t make much of a show, would it? So why do we allow it in politics?

TODAY we get the chance to ditch that system for ever … well, for as long as we don’t have another referendum and turn it all upside down again, but hopefully between us we’ve got enough sense not to do that. Today, we get a chance to bring in a fair voting system in which the losers lose but instead of having their votes swept away like writing in the sand when the tide comes in, their votes are picked up and recycled.

I like that: recycling. No wasted votes: everyone’s voice heard until, at last, a genuine winner emerges with more than 50% of the vote.

So today, I’m voting YES to AV … and hoping and praying that you will too, in this two-horse race, the only context where first past the post actually does make sense…

5 Quid for Life: thankful, exhilarated and terrified all at once! February 1, 2011

Posted by Phil Groom in Campaigns, Life, Mental Health.
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THIS IS A POST that’s long overdue, that I should have posted about a week ago, and as I finally write it I am thankful, exhilarated and terrified all at once. Thankful to everyone who has risen to the challenge of my 200 People to Save Ali Quant post a couple of weeks ago, to everyone who voted in the poll to choose a name; exhilarated by the enthusiasm people have shown for getting the bigger project envisaged by Ali off the ground; and terrified by the question, What if…?

No such thing as never

No such thing as never

Melissa, over at No such thing as never, gets to the heart of it in her recent post Butterflies and small things: everything — everyone — connects. Every little thing counts: you, me, no matter how inadequate we may feel:

One small change can provoke a hurricane.

I have been trying to hold onto this recognition. To not kill it with scepticism nor lose it in the light of the very real and very enormous challenges that people are facing today.

The fact that a smile can bridge disconnection. That one kind word can stop an angry one. That one person – and another one person – and another one person – can have quite a mighty impact. That what is given to me – I give to the next person – who gives it to the next person – who might one day change the world.

It is this last bit that has really got me thinking. It continually amazes me how interconnected we, as people, are. We see the big ripples but we do not always acknowledge – or recognize – the little ones from which they are made.

We are the little ones. Those of us involved in this project are not millionaires, big business owners, world leaders, but by working together we can send out a ripple that builds and grows until —

Until. That’s what terrifies me. Until what? Until it crashes against the shore, the cliff face of immovable bureaucracy that our government seems to represent; or until it flows around that cliff face, turning it into an irrelevance because this, this little ripple we’ve started, is part of something stronger, something more powerful, something that flows from people’s hearts.

But still that What if…? haunts me. As I commented over at Melissa’s place:

… I look at what I’ve started with 5 Quid for Life and, quite frankly, it terrifies me: who am I to start something like this? On what basis should anyone trust me or anyone else in the group? And what if it doesn’t work? What if we end up with people crying for help and we’re not ready or we don’t have the funds available? What if, what if…?

But then I look at the other side of the equation: if it does work — wow! We may not be able to change the world — but we can change someone’s world! And — well I guess it brings me back to my new year’s post: New Year’s Risk: Adjusting my sails. Amazing to think we’re still in the same month that I posted that — and didn’t have a clue that this might be where it would lead. I’m feeling all blown away now…

Risk. I guess that’s what life is about; and right now, I can feel the wind in my sails…

… which brings me to the name poll results:

5 Quid for Life: Campaign Name Poll Results

5 Quid for Life: Campaign Name Poll Results

It was a three horse race, with 5 Quid for Life and Safety Net Trust neck and neck followed closely by The Real Big Society. In the discussions that followed we threw out the Big Society option, not wanting to tie in too closely to something identified with a particular administration: whilst I guess most of us involved in the project do have pretty strong political views, this is not a political project; it is, rather, something that transcends politics, an idea that I hope anyone, of any political persuasion or none, can take hold of.

So we took the two winners and combined them: 5 Quid for Life: A Mental Health Safety Net was born. It’s early days yet: as I said in my introductory post, there are still a lot of details to hammer out. But we’re getting there; and I — I am thankful, exhilarated and terrified.

Join me for the ride, if you will: we’re on facebook and twitter too. You may not be able to commit to the £5 per month we’re asking for, but you can still stand in solidarity with us, with people like Ali whose lives are in jeopardy. You too can be part of this ripple and help it become a wave.

Thank you.

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