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This Generation January 24, 2015

Posted by Phil Groom in Life.
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TO WHAT shall I compare this generation?

To what shall I compare the strong of our nation?

They are like clowns, clambering to reach the top of a ladder, heedless of whom they trample in their race to the top; and when they reach the top — look out! The ladder falls! For those who should have been holding it up are gone, bleeding, wounded, dead, trampled to death by the very ones who needed them.

And then they do it all over again.

Wealth does not trickle down: it topples — again and again and they never learn.

What then can we do?

We can start again.

Those who are poor, those who are weak, those whom the wealthy have trampled: look not to the ladder but to one another. The ladder is a fool’s game: let it lie where it has fallen. Start again.

How, you ask? I say it again: look to one another. Behold the angel’s face in your brother, in your sister, in those weaker than yourself — for in their weakness lies your strength: lend them your strength and your strength will grow.

How, you ask?

Start small. £5 per month. Less than many spend in coffee shops each week: even you, perhaps?

5 Quid for Life: a mental health safety netYou know my chosen cause: 5 Quid for Life, a mental health safety net. It saves lives. It provides crisis support for people who’ve had everything stripped away: finance, dignity, hope. Everything stripped away by a government so wrapped up in its austerity measures and so lacking in imagination that the only way they can see to offset the crimes of the rich is to punish the poor. If you’re not in that place, you’re only a hair’s breadth from it: do you think that if the company you work for falls, that if your business fails, this government will care, will help you to pick up the pieces of your broken life?

Not so, my friend, not so. Go read my friend Boudicca Rising’s latest 5 Quid for Life blog post: Where we are. As you read, reflect: it could be you.

The time has come. Time to get down off that ladder. Time to let it lie. Time to stop scrambling and fighting and trampling. Time, rather, to love. To give. To stand alongside the poor, the vulnerable, the weak and the outcast.

Lend the weak your strength and your strength will grow. Trample them underfoot and you will land face down, a fallen clown.

Which is it to be?

Choose wisely: choose life.

Finally: I understand that 5 Quid for Life may not be for you. There are many, many other worthy causes. If 5 Quid for Life is not for you, choose one of them. If you can, choose several; for the more you give, the more your strength will grow.

May God grant you grace and the wisdom you need.

My thanks to Jean Vanier for his words of wisdom as he was interviewed this morning on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, words that inspired this post: the strong need the weak.
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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

GroomNews Christmas 2011 December 16, 2011

Posted by Phil Groom in Advent and Christmas, Life.
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GroomNews Christmas 2011 - printer-friendly version (pdf, 193kb)

GroomNews Christmas 2011 - printer-friendly version (pdf, 193kb)

A Card Free Zone
Last year we invited you to vote for the charity that would receive our Christmas card money: the charity you chose was WaterAid, so we’ve gone with the flow and designated them for this year too — a much better cause than Royal Mail, we hope you’ll agree…

2011: A Year of Years
10 years since UKCBD, the UK Christian Bookshops Directory, was launched. Christian booksellers are suffering along with other retailers, with dozens of shops closing down.
15 years since Sue’s ordination, and still going strong — from ordinand to DDO: see below!
20 years since we set sail to London on Almost to become students at London Bible College, now London School of Theology. Sadly LST is still struggling to balance the books, with more redundancies kicking in over Christmas/New Year: please pray for those leaving, those left behind and those with the unfortunate task of liaising with the staff affected.

Visiting York for Phil's 50th

Visiting York for Phil's 50th

50 years since Phil’s Mum unleashed him on the world: it’s all your fault, mother!! We celebrated with a few days away in York, and you’ll be relieved to know that the city survived the experience.

Church, Work and Research
Sue has now been formally appointed as St Albans DDO, Diocesan Director of Ordinands, which is keeping her busier then ever alongside parish responsibilities and research. DDO work is supposed to take 21 hours a week but in practice it’s nearer 30 — not surprising since her predecessor was full-time. The parishes have been growing in responsibility if not numerically: we now have a trained baptism preparation team and a bereavement visiting team who work across the benefice. Find out more on the church websites, which Phil is now looking after: www.henlowchurch.org.uk and www.langfordchurch.org.uk

The DThM has taken the hit from the workload: Sue has been unable to do as much as she would have liked and now that she’s in year 6, it gets scary. She has, however, negotiated a sabbatical (Sept – Nov 2012) and aims to produce a full draft of the final thesis during that time.

Sue also gives a ‘Thought for the Day’ on our local radio station on the first Thursday of each month: tune in to Biggles FM 104.8 if you’re in range!

Almost on the Nene, July 2011

Almost on the Nene, July 2011

Holidays
This year we set off along a waterway we hadn’t visited before: the River Nene. It’s a lovely stretch of water: Almost fairly flew along and we found some very pleasant moorings along the way. Two weeks gave us enough time to make Peterborough and back. Almost finished the year with a week in dry dock and now has a spendidly shiny black bottom.

In May Sue joined some of her friends in the Third Order of the Society of Saint Francis for a pilgrimage to Assisi. It was a wonderful week revisiting some of the well-known churches but also getting out into the countryside to see where Francis escaped on retreat. For her own annual retreat, Sue returned to Alnmouth Friary in Northumberland and renewed her acquaintance with some of the writings of Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton, two of her favourite spiritual writers.

A New Generation
We’re delighted to report that we are now a Great Uncle and Aunt to Oliver, born to nephew John and his wife Laura in October. Oliver is already taking swimming lessons and is expected to win Gold in the 2012 Olympics: Oliver, we salute you!

A Super Slimline Sue!
Over the summer Sue realised that she was slowly but surely putting on weight (a factor of increasing age apparently!), so she increased her swimming to five mornings a week bright and early and is now slimmer, fitter and healthier than she has been in years.

5 Quid for Life: A Mental Health Safety Net

5 Quid for Life: A Mental Health Safety Net

5 Quid for Life
5 Quid for Life is a new charity launched this year by Phil and a group of friends to support people with mental health problems whose lives and livelihoods are under threat due to changes to the UK benefits system: discover more online at 5quidforlife.org.uk.

Thank You
Thank you for being there with us through 2011. This comes as always with our love, best wishes for Christmas and prayers for peace in the year ahead,

It isn’t suicide: it’s murder June 2, 2011

Posted by Phil Groom in Current Affairs, Death, Life, Mental Health.
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9 comments

Cross-posted from 5 Quid for Life:

BBC News, 01/06/2011: Campaigners warn over incapacity benefit changes

BBC News, 01/06/2011: Campaigners warn over incapacity benefit changes

THE BBC NEWS have now picked up on the risk of suicide by those suffering from mental illness as they face the trauma of changes to the benefits system. Citing a letter published in the Guardian on May 31st from representatives of Mind, Rethink and a number of other mental health organisations, the BBC report notes that some claimants have already taken their own lives in response to the changes: Campaigners warn over incapacity benefit changes.

In the letter, the campaigners state:

We’ve found that the prospect of IB [incapacity benefit] reassessment is causing huge amounts of distress, and tragically there have already been cases where people have taken their own life following problems with changes to their benefits. We are hugely worried that the benefits system is heading in a direction which will put people with mental health problems under even more pressure and scrutiny, at a time when they are already being hit in other areas such as cuts to services.

The very reason 5 Quid for Life exists, of course, is to be there for such people: we are a mental health safety net. But for that net to be effective, we need funds and people need to know that we are here.

If you have already contributed to the fund, blogged, tweeted or written to help spread the word, thank you. The need for 5 Quid for Life remains as vital as when the 200 People to Save Ali Quant campaign was first launched, however — and what I said then remains true: these deaths are not suicide, they’re

murder, death by a thousand cuts from a knife wielded by the UK Government — the very people whose job it is to take care of the poor, the weak, the vulnerable on our behalf as taxpayers.

I now urge all who share these concerns, the concerns expressed in that letter to the Guardian, to raise your voices once again: write to the BBC, write to the Guardian, write to your own MP. Let them know that the risk is real and ask them to stand with us.

Thank you, and thanks in particular to The Madosphere for drawing attention to this and to us already.

 

5 Quid for Life Banking Details April 9, 2011

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

5 Quid for Life: A Mental Health Safety Net

IT’S BEEN A SLOW TRAIN COMING but we got there at last!

If you’re a regular here, you’ll already know about 5 Quid for Life — but for anyone who’s new: 5 Quid for Life is also new, a charity-in-the-making that’s been taking shape this year as an amazing group of people have responded to a shout-out I made back in January: 200 People to Save Ali Quant.

It was a wild, insane thing to hope for, a crazy dream. Here we are in the middle of the worst financial crisis the western world has seen in my lifetime, in a country run by a government that seems to be incapable of doing anything but cut and run from its responsibilities to its most vulnerable citizens whilst simultaneously allowing failed bankers to cut and run with vast swathes of our hard-earned money — and I put out a shout for support for someone who some (the Daily Mail springs to mind) would regard as being one of the lowest of the low, mentally ill, living on state benefits.

It shouldn’t have worked, if the Daily Mail’s account of life was right. Everyone should have laughed: they should have called me out for a fool, for a sucker, for dreaming a dream too far.

Thank God the Daily Mail account of life is a lie! Thank God that there are people can see beyond the blinkers of such a narrow vision of life — that there is a level of compassion and care that goes beyond the selfishness that so much of contemporary western society is built upon! Or as Rob Bell would say: LOVE WINS!

5 Quid for Life Inaugural Meeting

5 Quid for Life Inaugural Meeting: From left to right - Standing: Phil Groom, Paula Ann Walker, Kate White; Sitting: Johnathon Tinsley, Sam Jenkin

To all my friends in the madosphere, to all my friends who have supported 5 Quid for Life this far: I salute you! And for those who can, who are in a position to take that support to the next level, here are the banking details you need to make a direct donation or to set up a standing order:

Account Name: 5 Quid for Life
Bank: HSBC Woodbridge
Sort Code: 40 47 42
Account No: 2146 8928

Finally for now: if you’re not in a position to make a financial commitment, please don’t berate yourself or beat yourself up — just spread the word! Tweet it, facebook it, blog it. That, my friends, is how things grow — and with the spring sunshine upon us, what better time for that?

Thank you.

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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