11/09/14 A question of faith.

Yes…still an atheist…faith, for me, is a funny old thing.

When I started the walk all those years ago I had great faith in myself and others that this walk a mile gig would just work.

There was no science to it. It wasn’t an objective peer reviewed endeavour. I didn’t know it would work – but I KNEW it would.

And, as you know, my faith has never been tested.

However, Lyme disease and having this mental health problem – what I’ve called my triple dip recession – over the summer has taken it’s toll.

I have all the support I need – in Ella, and in you lot…I guess that faith’s still there…I think my faith in me has been a little shaken.

We broke me in gently, Ella came over with me to Pwllheli and stayed for a couple of nights.

I walked – she read her book – we met up at the end of the day…

How did it feel? I wasn’t entirely sure.

I wasn’t entirely sure until I watched her drive off, leaving me, Hubert and the gang to wander off into the sunny Welsh day.

As ever, I had stories, potential blogs, wrongs to be righted buzzing through my mind…but there was something new.


Just keep walking. One foot in front of the other. Think of the route. Should I take the designated path or…?


Over the summer I’ve lost a lot of fitness. Being locked in your own head doesn’t burn the calories, doesn’t keep those muscles twitching…


I had a couple of stumbling chats with folk during the day…it all felt a little unfamiliar.

So I just followed the path.

My mate, Derek and I have had a number of chats about less than legal camping.

At the time of the chats we agreed that a bit of illegal camping, a bit of conflict with whoever, would all add to the story…

There’s no right to roam in England and Wales, so I’m obliged to park in designated places.

Which is fine – I’ve had some donations.

I trundled into Black Rock Sands camp site at 8.30 that evening.

It was dark as I found my way into reception.

I spoke to the woman there, passing my card on to her, talking about the walk…

‘I don’t want your money,’ she smiled warmly.

I thanked her, ‘Where do you want me to pitch up?’

‘Anywhere you like,’ she enthused with a grand sweep of her arm.

I set about my task – a guy opposite asked if I needed some light – I didn’t, so he invited me round for a cup of tea in the morning.

Tent up, radio on…chilly…balaclava on, meds taken, using Darth as a pillow I dozed off.

The next day went completely walk a mile.

The campsite folk took my picture for their Facebook page…

Over a cup of tea, Big Pete the chef told me how he’d met Rosie Swale Pope, a woman who’d run around the world, pulling a trailer that she slept in…we’ve tried a bit of twitter linkage…

I walked the length of the beach east of Criccieth…hard going on the sand with Hubert, but he didn’t complain.

A couple stopped me – they told me there was no way ahead when I reached the end of the sands. I thanked them – stopped – had a drink – and looked at my maps.

It LOOKED ok…a guy bounded over – he’d heard the conversation – he was sure I’d be able to manage the small climb up onto the coastal path…

As I approached, it looked like a big rocky obstacle rising out of the beach.

I’m sure I can manage it…

Just as I arrived, a couple appeared rambling in the opposite direction.

‘Can I give you a hand with that?’ the older than me man asked.

In no time we’d negotiated a tricky rocky bit…where I found a lovely couple – who were enjoying the beauty of the day and the scenery.

Rule number 1 of the walk is that I tend not to forget people’s names.

However…these nameless folk talked with great enthusiasm – in amongst our chat, they told me how they’d been touched by mental ill health through their family…they thrust £10 into my hand, promised to join walk a mile, and off they went.

I met a guy, fleetingly, who told me how his mother had been in a psychiatric hospital for the first 15 years of his life…

How do you deal with that?

Well, he told me, it was just normal for him…

The path hit a rather steep bit – the track turned into a cross between stairs and slopes.

Halfway up I stopped to er, look at the scenery. Ok, I was knackered.

There I met the lovely David and his partner. We talked for a while and they carried Hubert up the remainder of the 20 odd steps.

They lived near the Polytechnic – now university – where I studied psychology in the late 80’s.

He hugged my sweaty form and thrust £20 into my hand – promising they’d join up and that I had somewhere to stay in London – he’d come and pick me up and drop me back off as I needed…

A while later, while I was lying around – a man (Mike) and his dog (Biggles the spaniel) came over for a chat (at Biggles’ insistence)

‘He’s daft,’ Mike smiled.

‘That’s not fair, you hardly know me,’ I came back with my rapier wit.

He and his partner Ann, invited me for a cup if tea – so, I thought, it would be rude not to.

Tea turned into tea, sarnies, pork pie and cake and a long lost friend kind of a chat.

They were renting the holiday cottage for a couple of weeks – a place with the most stupendous views of Tremadog bay.

Like so many folk I meet, they’d been touched by mental ill health – depression that had stopped them in their tracks – but a mixture of love, treatment and medication had started them back on their way.

Speaking of which, I should be on my way – but it was then I realised I’d lost my hat. We looked around – it had vanished.

Without stopping for breath Mike gave me his hat and sent me on my way.

Great weather, scenery and lovely people – to quote me a number of years ago – I told you people would be great, didn’t I?

I wouldn’t say my faith has been fully restored, but it’s certainly received a healthy injection of loveliness that’s going to help.

Walk a mile



Posted in economy, hospitality, inequality, kindness, mental health, walking | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

27/07/14 Walk a Mile Is back…The return to Pwllheli

Mad dogs and Englishmen, so they say, go out in the midday sun. I’ll be back in that lovely part of Wales tomorrow having made a somewhat rash decision to walk on the coastal path as opposed to the roads.

As with the rest of the ramble, let’s see how it goes.

My knee is cured – not in a joint of ham sort of way – although recipes are welcome – and my shoulder’s as good as it’s going to get.

I’ll be walking in accordance with the official walk a mile summer timetable – up just before dawn and ramble until it gets uncomfortable. (Roughly just before the midday sun)

Join me! Walk with me (I don’t move terribly quickly, so don’t get any crazy notions of me striding out at speed); failing that, sit with me, tell me some/ part of/ any of your story – or just join me as I gaze upon the beauty of the Welsh coast.

If you feel the urge, you can offer me any manner of hospitality you like, from a peanut M&M to the attic room next to your Auntie May.

For those of you who may not know, Pwllheli is on the north west coast of Wales – I’ll be walking from there in a southerly direction with my trusty trailer, Hubert, my rucksack, Darth II, with Wilson the cuddly turtle strapped to the back.

You can phone me on 07535 035909

Or email me at c.mcculloughyoung@btinternet.com

Twitter me @walkamileuk

Or join the group on Facebook here

If you don’t like social media, you can just follow the blog here

Or see the trailer to the film here

If you have a rush of blood to the head, feel free to read about the journey through the eyes of others

and here – (on pages 40-43)

I’ve also been in the Scottish Sun (the paper – not the weather) here

Yes, I’m a media whore.

You can give to my chosen charities here

Join me. Let’s continue to make a noise about mental ill health.

Walk a Mile


Posted in economy, government, hospitality, inequality, mental health, social work, walking | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

25/07/14 Only 10% of the NHS Budget is Spent on mental health services – a letter to MP’s

What can I do to help?

I am, what could be best described as, a mental health campaigner. I am currently walking around the edge of the UK to highlight the experiences of people with a mental health problem, who often feel on the edge.

So far I have circumnavigated Scotland, a bit of England and North Wales, having walked anti-clockwise from Edinburgh. I am doing this with no money to demonstrate the kindness and generosity of the people of the UK.

The journey has been curtailed by my mental health problem – borderline personality disorder, and Lyme disease.

Every day I meet people who have been touched by mental ill health, whether it be their own, that of their friends or their families. People seem to be keen to share their experiences with a wandering stranger. I meet still more folk who have no idea about mental ill health, people who when I tell them about my malady tell me I don’t look like one!

I appreciate the task of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Mental Health is a massive one – I know they’re currently looking into parity of service with mainstream NHS services. This, from my perspective really is a no-brainer. Sure you can collate more and more information that is already out there, but there are a swathe of simple facts to consider today, right now.

Every year over 6000 people take their own lives in the UK – that’s an increase of approximately 1000 a year since austerity measures began.

Mental ill health is the biggest killer of men under 35 in the UK.

Since services have been cut further – now that only 10% of NHS spending goes on mental health services – more and more people are losing their services – often being told that their mental health problem has improved when it hasn’t.

Without parity, people are being diagnosed with severe and enduring mental health problems but being offered no treatment at all.

The prison population is vastly overrepresented by men with mental health problems.

People with mental health problems are over represented in those people who have their benefits sanctioned.

Social work, Health, and the Department of Work and Pensions must work together – not in the punitive ways that were recently suggested in the media – but in gentle collaboration. People with mental health problems are every bit as skilled, talented and wonderful as the mainstream population. It would benefit everyone if we could work together. We don’t need tough love, thanks.

Since the closure of Remploy, and the proposed dissolution of the Independent Living Fund, more needs to be done to support people with mental health problems in employment and education – including help for employers to fully consider what ‘reasonable adjustments’ they can make. I know it has been proposed that ILF money goes directly to local authorities – but, given the recent cuts to their budgets, together with the lack of policy to demand this money is ring fenced, I’m sure this will vanish like a drop in the ocean.

People are ignorant about mental ill health. 1 in four of us will experience it, but there’s no push in our schools to improve that situation. As such, much of what people feel they know comes through the media, including well meaning but ill-informed soaps. This lack of knowledge generates fear and prejudice.

The treatment that 1000’s of people have received at the hands of ATOS and the countless workfare programmes has been shameful.

This goes far beyond being a health problem – this is a problem that touches all of us in all walks of life. My concern is that with election year soon to be upon us, parliamentary interest in mental ill health will diminish for snappier, vote attracting policies. With a new government there will be new personnel looking at the issue of mental ill health and the work you’ve done will vanish without a trace.

I honestly thought that things couldn’t get any worse when I heard that only 13% of the NHS budget was spent on services for folk with mental health problems – it looks like there’s been a massive rush to cut the already meagre provision before you publish something on the parity of service. Guidelines which I fear will be too little too late.

It’s with all the above in mind that I repeat my question.

What can I do to help?

You can find my links here;


And on Twitter here @walkamileuk

The trailer to the film of my walk is here http://youtu.be/tAxIQSfHZDY

I have developed a one man show in conjunction with Chris Sudworth the artistic director, and Spike the Poet at the Core at Corby Cube, and I have spoken to the public, schools, universities and other organisations on the subject of mental health.

Please get in touch, I’d be delighted to hear from you.

Yours sincerely

Chris McCullough Young

Posted in economy, inequality, kindness, mental health, social work, walking | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

22/07/14 Joint Enterprise – are we all culpable?

The law of Joint Enterprise or Common Purpose came under close scrutiny in a recent TV crime drama by Jimmy McGovern.

Don’t worry, just because I buggered my knee, I haven’t decided to try my hand at TV reviews…but have you seen…?

In this one-off story he told the tale of a young man who drove some wayward mates to get a pizza – one of them killed a guy in the takeaway – they all ran back to the car where the driver was waiting to return home with some tasty goodies.

Instead of the delicious aroma of Italy he was met with alarmed shouts of, ‘Drive, drive, drive!!!’

Joint enterprise is a 300 year old law that was brought about to stop people supporting duellists, er, duelling…

In recent years this crime of association has been used in a large number of murders where either it wasn’t completely clear as to who did what to whom and when – but it sure as hell was one of you – which was incredibly useful in the trial of the killers of Stephen Lawrence; or one where the accused could have reasonably known that his friend, Tam the Bam, was likely to commit crime ‘x’ in that particular situation.

Like so many in his predicament, the driver of the takeaway, now getaway, car was convicted of manslaughter by association.

From a recent freedom of information request it was found that around 17.7% of all homicide charges and 44% of homicide prosecutions where there were 2 or more defendants, had relied on the joint enterprise doctrine.

Concerns have been raised by many of those effected by this law from all it’s angles – from lawyers to the incarcerated – suggesting that the law is confusing – is used inconsistently – that it requires a greatly reduced burden of proof to stick someone in prison for joint enterprise than for the original crime, be that assault, manslaughter or murder – and that young, working class males from housing estates are over represented in the figures.

Damian Green, the justice minister, has said this law is fine and it isn’t going to be changed any time soon… Yes, I am paraphrasing there…

But what about you? What about me? What about more middle class, white collar crime?


Andy Coulson?

Tony Blair and Iraq?

Iain Duncan Smith?

Cases where you find yourself saying,

‘I always knew he was dodgy…’

‘Yeah, he grabbed my arse…’

Cases where you know prejudice has taken place?

Where someone didn’t get employed because…well, you’d followed the anti discriminatory guidelines…but you knew through a friend that James was the right man for the job – he just had a bad interview…sure,she had all the experience and the qualifications, but you had a gut feeling that…or, I know we don’t discriminate on the grounds of disability, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religious belief, but…

And that’s a great big BUT.

People discriminate, abuse and get up to all kinds of shit openly, under the gaze of others.

Bad things happen when good people do nothing.

Bad things happen when YOU do nothing.

Sure, justify it to yourself, what can I do? I’m too busy…these people should take a chill-pill…it’s not that bad…

It’ll fuck up my career if I blow the whistle.

Hell, we even discriminate against ourselves – I feel stressed/ mental/ ill (insert anything you can imagine here) but if I show any kind of weakness I’m fucked…

We watch colleagues and friends struggle and we do nothing.

Social workers, doctors, nurses, lawyers…name any profession…we see austerity cuts come in and we’re complicit with them – through omission – we’re worried about our jobs, our potential for promotion…we don’t want to rock the boat…my job’s hard enough without…Shit, I’m doing my best here!

I don’t vote because they’re all wankers…

Why not lobby?

Your MP’s and councillors all have to have surgeries where we, the great unwashed, can get our greasy paws on them…? Voting really is the least of it.

I don’t watch the news because it’s so depressing/ right wing/ left wing biased/ boring…

We live in the age information – through a multitude of screen based devices the world, or representations of it dribble in through our eyes and ears 24/7.

There are so many alternatives/ slants/ ways of looking at the same situation.

Is this all joint enterprise? Are we all responsible for our lot?
Do we share the common purpose of those who tell us they’re leading the way?

If so, why aren’t we doing something about it?

As Gandhi seemingly never said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’

It’s a long story, but well worth the read here

But you get the idea…

Otherwise we’re all guilty.

Walk a mile


Posted in economy, government, inequality, mental health, walking, war | Tagged , | Leave a comment

13/07/14 A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on. Winston Churchill.

Today, I woke up to one of the most venomous and malicious attacks on folk with mental health problems I think I’ve ever read.

So, congratulations to Tim Ross at the Daily Telegraph for that

It’s quite a short piece, so let’s have a GCSE in media studies walk through…

Tories discuss stripping benefits claimants who refuse treatment for depression’

Well, that’s got your attention, hasn’t it? Refusing treatment? How dare they…?

Senior ministers now believe the rules should be reviewed in order to reduce the “huge” numbers of people who are declared unfit for work due to mental health problems.’

Some people,who may or may not be in government, are too afraid to put their names to the unmitigated balderdash that follows…

“Huge” being any number you can think of that isn’t “small” …which actually means…

We don’t have any real figures to back this up, but that’s never stopped us in the past.

‘Hundreds of thousands of benefit claimants face being stripped of their state allowances if they refuse to undergo treatment for anxiety and depression, under radical plans being drawn up by ministers.’

Ok, here our courageous hack, Tim, realises that the lack of real figures detracts somewhat from his otherwise perfect piece – so he inserts a vague figure for those Telegraph readers who can’t imagine ‘Huge’.

He also introduces us to the notion that these people don’t want to get better.

Even more imaginatively he’s suggesting that there’s more than enough treatment to go round.

‘Existing welfare rules mean it is not possible to require claimants to have treatment, such as therapy or counselling, as a condition of receiving sickness benefits.’

Yep, there’s millions of scrounging bastards collecting benefits off the back of hard working tax payers…

‘Senior ministers now believe the rules should be reviewed in order to reduce the “huge” numbers of people who are declared unfit for work due to mental health problems.’

Er…but these, er ministers refuse to have their names mentioned in this made up, er, well researched, piece of seamless prose…

‘Huge’ remains, like, you know, a really massive number. We can’t give you the actual figures because of, er, confidentiality.

‘The first moves towards potential reform are expected in a series of pilot schemes to be launched within weeks.’

They’re going to try out some ill conceived draconian measure in some labour strongholds – hopefully Scotland – before they manage to bugger off.

The pilots, jointly designed by the Department of Health and the Department for Work and Pensions, will test ways of combining treatment for mental health problems with support to find work.’

Arbeit macht frei.

‘According to the government, 46 per cent of benefit claimants receiving Employment and Support Allowance, the main benefit for ill and disabled people, have mental health problems.’

According to someone I’ve never spoken to/ doesn’t exist/ still refuses to put their name to this hateful piece of fiction, a number of folk – shit, how do I make this sound believable? Er, 46 sounds like it hasn’t been made up…let’s go for that…

‘This means that the proposal to enforce treatment could apply to an estimated 260,000 claimants, who receive up to £101 per week each in ESA.’

We don’t have any actual figures, but I’m sure you’ll agree, 260 thousand is a really huge number…unless ,of course, you’re wondering how many bicycles there are in Beijing…

‘Estimates based on government figures suggest the state spends up to £1.4 billion a year – more than £3.5 million per day – on ESA for these claimants with mental health issues.’

So, based on the made up figures that nobody is willing to put their name to, these scrounging bastards are robbing you blind.

‘The reforms however, would apply only to those claimants judged to be capable of some work in future.’

Shit, this sounds harsh even by our standards – quick, let’s get a bit feely-touchy before we lose all our voters…

Small question – er, how would they measure this? ATOS? Son of ATOS?

‘Those who are judged to be incapable of work due to the severity of their conditions would not be targeted under the plans.’

WHAT???? Even by the government’s own statistics – around 0.5% of disability benefits are claimed fraudulently.

‘Tory ministers hope to persuade senior Liberal Democrats to back the idea of mandating treatment for benefit claimants with common mental health problems.’

The Liberal Democrats think this idea is just more hateful bollocks.

‘The proposal will raise ethical questions about whether the state should have the power to force patients to undergo treatment.’

I wonder if we can get away with this…hold on, don’t we already have mental health legislation that forces people with mental health problems to undergo treatment? Er…don’t ask me, I’m making this up…

‘It could lead to a fresh row with campaigners and charities who have claimed that the coalition’s welfare reforms already target vulnerable people with poor mental and physical health.’

I think that makes this story sound a bit more balanced…So, which campaigners and organisations? Er…I dunno…I know they’re a bunch of left wing moaning hippies though.

‘Conservatives could include the proposal for mandatory treatments in the party manifesto next year as part of the next phase of reforms to the welfare state.’

If we’re voted in for a second term that’ll give us Carte Blanche to blame those who are sick, vulnerable, disabled…everyone apart from Our Friends, the Bankers, (soon to be a Ladybird book near you) for this financial car crash we find ourselves in…

‘A senior government source said “a huge number” of claimants on ESA who cannot work have treatable mental health issues such as “depression and anxiety”.’

Do you think if I say “Huge” enough times people will start to believe it? This information comes from the same bloke I met in the pub the other night…

But, er, won’t this alert the public to the fact that only 13% of the NHS budget goes towards mental ill health; that over 6000 people take their own lives each year in the UK – an increase of 1000 following the tight squeeze of austerity; that people with mental health problems, unlike people with physical maladies, don’t have a guaranteed waiting time of 18 weeks between diagnosis and the beginning of treatment; that there are thousands of people with medically diagnosed mental health problems who have received no treatment whatsoever for their condition because of shortages and further cuts in services…?

Look, if we can blame the poor for being poor, then it’s going to be a pretty easy task to blame the mad for being mad – fish in a barrel…

‘ “We know that depression and anxiety are treatable conditions. Cognitive behavioural therapies work and they get people stable again but you can’t mandate people to take that treatment,” the source said.’

Er…if all these conditions are treatable, doesn’t that make it particularly poor that these therapies aren’t being offered to the people who suffer from these maladies?

Look – the treatments are there, people just need to search for them…

Isn’t that what you said about employment when there are 2 million too few jobs?

I think you answered your own question there – if people will buy the worklessness argument, they’ll buy anything.

‘ “But there are loads of people who claim ESA who undergo no treatment whatsoever. It is bizarre. This is a real problem because we want people to get better.’


‘ “These are areas we need to explore. The taxpayer has committed a lot of money but the idea was never to sustain them for years and years on benefit. We think it’s time for a rethink.’

Er…who exactly are you quoting here?

And isn’t ‘rethink’ the name of a mental health organisation…?

Don’t you see that’s part of the plan?

People will think they’re endorsing our, er, product…

“At some point something has to be done. Right now it’s an open ended contract.” ‘

But doesn’t that just continue to pedal the myth that disability benefits are just handed out without any proof and without any time limit ?

Will you be quiet, I’m on a roll here…

The source suggested that successful treatments could reduce the numbers of people with mental health issues claiming the benefits by up to 90 per cent.’

90 PERCENT???!!!What wonder treatment is this? And why haven’t people been receiving it up until now?

I, er, hmmm…confidentiality?

‘Benefit claimants receiving ESA, are typically paid up to £101 per week if they are deemed potentially capable of work and are placed in the so-called “work-related activity group” of welfare recipients.

If they fail to abide by conditions such attending work-focused interviews, their ESA payments can be reduced as a sanction. No conditions are currently applied requiring claimants to undergo treatment for health problems.’

But there’s a massive shortage in appropriate treatments for people with mental health problems…

Sorry, I meant ‘Huge’.

‘One trial began last month, looking at combining “talking therapies” with employment support. Four jobcentres are taking part.

The intention of the scheme is to give benefit claimants early access to experts who can help them prepare for work while they are receiving treatment for mental health issues.’

Hold on, is this the same scheme that was piloted by the last incumbents of Downing Street in 2009

Whatever became of that idea?

Three further trials being launched this summer are intended to test different ways of linking mental health services with support for benefit claimants seeking work.

One of these schemes is designed to analyse effectiveness of “group work” to help build the “resilience” of individuals who are out of work and suffering with poor mental health.’

Er…isn’t this the same government that closed down most of Remploy – an organisation that supported people with a variety of disabilities to work; the same government who had to change the law in order to close down the Independent Living Scheme – a fund that, again, supported people with disabilities and/ or mental health problems to live full lives – full lives that included employment?

The same government quoted by the BBC

‘The High Court has ruled emergency laws underpinning a government back-to-work scheme are “incompatible” with the European Convention on Human Rights.’

Why let a few facts get in the way of…

‘An other trial will see whether better results can be achieved by hiring specialist private organisations outside the NHS and welfare system to take control of providing a combination of psychological and employment support to claimants.’

We are not privatising the NHS.

‘A final pilot scheme will assess the effectiveness of offering online tests and therapies at improving individuals’ health and job prospects.’

This really is as shit as it sounds.

‘Norman Lamb, the Lib Dem health minister, said mandating mental health treatment for benefit claimaints would not work and was “not a sensible idea”.

“The idea that you frogmarch someone into therapy with the threat of a loss of benefits simply won’t work,” he said. “It is not a question of whether tough love is a good concept.

“You actually need someone to go into therapy willingly.”‘

A leading government minister suggests that this whole idea is a pile of shite…

Walk a mile


Posted in economy, inequality, kindness, mental health, social work, walking | Tagged , | Leave a comment

04/07/14 A great day to bury bad news?

Rolf Harris?

Andy Coulson?

The launch of a great big aircraft carrier at Rosyth?

A stabbing of a teacher in France?

The funeral of a Palestinian teenager – possibly the victim of an Israeli revenge attack?

Oh, and pesky old British Gas have set up a £1 million compensation fund for mis-selling to customers?

By the way…mumble…look over there, you don’t see one of THOSE every day…the er Government’s, well, I mean, the Department for Work and Pensions’ workfare scheme, where people on benefits get paid as little as £1.60 an hour so they don’t get ‘something for nothing’, has been found, er, wanting…

‘The High Court has ruled emergency laws underpinning a government back-to-work scheme are “incompatible” with the European Convention on Human Rights.’
…was reported on the ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ part of the BBC News today

Paul Heron, of Public Interest Lawyers has been fighting the corner of the victims of workfare…

‘About £130m was owed to people who had fallen foul of the retrospective legislation, he said, ranging from four weeks’ benefit, about £250, to several thousand pounds.’

£130 million? That’s a bit more than British Gas’s misdemeanour…

The government are appealing – by which I don’t mean I find them attractive.

In other news…

We are the 6th wealthiest country in the world…

Less than 0.5% of disability benefits are claimed fraudulently…

I haven’t met ANYONE…by which I mean a single person who is happy to live out their lives of worklessness on £58 per week.

And I’ve met quite a few folk as a social worker and a wandering loon.

People sanctioned by the department of work and pensions for all kinds of nonsense can lose their benefits for anything between a week and 3 years.

People with mental health problems are hugely over-represented in the sanctioned group.


And what on earth are we doing getting anywhere near falling foul of human rights legislation?

This isn’t tough love!

Yes, I know I’m ranting…

Walk a Mile


Posted in economy, government, hospitality, inequality, kindness, mental health, social work, walking | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

03/07/14 The Battle of Westminster Abbey or, surely there must be some mistake?

On Saturday the 30th of June 2014, a crack group of 60 (give or take) disabled folk attempted to protest against the closure of the Independent Living Fund by occupying some of the grounds around Westminster Abbey.

According to reports



this occupation was quashed by a ‘disproportionate response’ by the police who provided over 200 officers to kettle and cajole this terrifying group of fugitives from the grounds of the Abbey.

Again, according to the reports above, the Dean of Westminster refused to engage with the campaigners who presented staff at the Abbey with a letter that explained their intention to protest peacefully.

Since this is private land, the Dean – the head honcho – could have asked the police to withdraw at any stage.

Again, according to the reports above, he didn’t.

I thought that instead of blogging in the usual stylie, I’d write a message to the Dean of Westminster Abbey, The Very Reverend John Hall in an attempt to clear things up.

The Very Reverend John Hall the Dean of Westminster Abbey,
Westminster Abbey,
20 Deans Yard,

Dear Reverend Hall,

I’m writing to you following the recent hoo-har between the good people from DPAC and the folk at Westminster Abbey.

From what I’ve read, it would appear that approximately 60 people with disabilities attempted to occupy some of the land around your beautiful building in the hope of raising awareness of the impending closure of the independent living fund.

To quote from your website, your aim is…”To serve pilgrims and all other visitors and to maintain a tradition of hospitality”

However, instead of being met with hospitality, these protesters were met with around 200 police officers who kettled and removed them from the Abbey grounds.

I wouldn’t pretend to be a religious man. That said, I am a man of faith.

In April 2011 I began a pilgrimage. I left Edinburgh on foot with the aim to circumnavigate our beautiful island, travelling anti clockwise, with no money, driven by the belief that the people of the UK would give me hospitality and would be trusting and trustworthy to help me on my way.

I have a severe and enduring mental health problem that curtails my ramblings, a mental health problem that has been the butt of prejudice from professionals, carers, the media and sufferers alike.

Pretty poor odds, I’m sure you’d agree – but every day I have been proven right that people are wonderful.

I looked at your story and wondered what could cause such a response to a group of people who were pilgrims in their own way, just trying to get their message across.

I was a social worker for nearly 20 years in Scotland. In that role I learned to rely heavily on the Independent Living Fund. This is – soon to be was – an organisation who financially supplemented care packages for people with disabilities to enable them to be more in charge of their lives, allowing them access to independence, education, employment, fun and relationships and a non-institutional life.

Last year DPAC and others fought and overturned the government’s decision to close this valuable fund.

The government changed the law which has allowed them to close the fund, with the aim to transfer that budget to local authorities.

Nothing much wrong with that I hear you cry. Unfortunately local authorities have had their budgets hacked to the bone – and the money given from the closure of the ILF will not be ring fenced.

This means that the lives of thousands of people with disabilities will be deprived of this great service.

This is not a political issue. A cross party parliamentary committee agreed that this fund should not close – unfortunately their voices along with those of the service users, their carers and their families are left unheard.

Please take some time to listen John McDonnel speaking eloquently to the house

These aren’t scary people, and yet their plight was met with fear and suspicion.

What would Jesus have done?

I won’t bang on about what I think he would have or wouldn’t have done. I’ll leave that to the more knowledgeable theologians amongst you.

That said, I know he was fond of a parable to get his message across – so, please indulge me with this real life story of love.

I was trundling towards Crimond, a village on the east coast of Scotland, lugging my 60 pound rucksack in the sun.

A man drew up in his car next to me and said, ‘I’m going to give you a lift,’

I explained that I was walking around the edge of the UK to highlight the experience of people with a mental health problem – who often feel on the edge – with no money, just a faith that the people of the UK would be fabulous.

He told me he lived in Crimond, that it was a long way up that hill, and maybe he’d see me there.

I wandered into the village about 3 hours later to find him standing on the postage stamp of a village green with a smile on his face.

‘What will you do now?’ he asked

I explained that sometimes I stayed with folk who followed me on the internet, sometimes, if I’d had donations, I’d stay in a B&B, or, failing that, I’d stick my tent up…

He told me I couldn’t stay with him – but I could put my tent up in his garden and he’d make me something for tea.

I didn’t need to be told twice, erecting my tent in record time, I found myself tucking into fish fingers and chips, chatting to this complete stranger like we were old friends.

All too soon it was time for bed, and I dozed off listening to the owl that lived at the end if his garden.

I was awoken by a gentle knock on the side of my tent, this man, Kenny, had made me tea and toast for breakfast before he went off to work.

Hit and run kindness.

It was while I was bathing in the generosity of people that I realised I wasn’t in Kenny’s garden.

I was in a communal drying area. I also noticed that I was nowhere near his door – but I’d pitched my tent about 5 feet away from the entrance to his neighbours house.

While I was thinking about making good my getaway as quickly as possible, his neighbour, a woman in her mid ’60’s opened her door.

Slightly panicked, wondering what on earth she must be thinking, I began to babble, explaining that Kenny had allowed me to camp there and I hadn’t realised how close I was to her house, amongst other things.

She politely asked me what I was talking about – which caused me to babble more.

She held her hand up and said, ‘I’m not interested in any of that. I’ve run you a bath, I was wondering if you wanted any bubbles in it…?’

‘Bubbles would be fine,’ I whispered.

I asked her what made her run a bath for a complete stranger who looks more than a little like a bouncer who had set up camp in her garden.

She told me that she’d camped before – and the thing she missed the most was a bath. She thought, quite rightfully, that I’d be no different.

I chatted with her for a couple of hours, finding out that she’d been the carer for a friend if hers who’d died recently.

We talked about how sad and hard that must have been for her.

She told me she was finished with caring for folk – she was going to get herself a job in her local supermarket filling shelves.

I had to laugh. I reminded her that she’d just run a bath for a complete stranger – kindness and compassion coursed through her veins.

We hugged – to be honest I was reluctant to let this lovely woman go – I felt we were both so much richer for our meeting.

Which brings me back to you. I thought that being the Dean of Westminster Abbey, a lifelong man of the cloth, would make you into some kind if kindness ninja.

A man whose actions would be borne out of love and faith – not mistrust and fear.

This was a great opportunity for you and the people of DPAC to connect and share stories.

Please remember,

‘All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.’

Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

Please seize this opportunity.

Walk a mile in my shoes

Yours sincerely

Chris Young

Posted in economy, government, hospitality, inequality, kindness, mental health, social work, walking | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment