19/11/17 I need your help. Yes YOU!

The ‘All in the Mind’ awards

If you’ve felt touched or supported by any of the following, please nominate me for this award.

The coastal walk; the #LetsWalkAMile events around Scotland; any of our training sessions; personal support/ advice; practical and theoretical advice; awareness raising and that feeling of community on social media; the walk a mile film or my video logs; the ‘Walk a Mile: Tales of a Wandering Loon’ book, or something I’ve possibly forgotten

I’d really love your support

It will help raise the profile of the whole Walk a Mile Gig

Walk a Mile

Chris

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15/11/17 Walk a Mile: Tales of a Wandering Loon – Press Release with links to order/ preorder the 📚

Walk a Mile: Tales of a Wandering Loon

Chris Young

paperback, £11.99, published 28 November 2017 by Trigger Press

Walk a Mile: Tales of a Wandering Loon is the story of how one man’s normal, nurturing childhood turned into one of neglect, alcoholism and sexual abuse following his mother’s death. His story explores how this, combined with a little faulty brain wiring, lead Chris to a severe and enduring mental illness. It is also the story of how he’s tackling mental health stigma, one step at a time.

As a kind, chatty, and good-humoured man with a zest for life and a passion for helping people, Chris Young adored his job as a social worker. But things fell apart when, in 2008, he was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, the symptoms of which include vivid, horribly imaginative thoughts of violent self-harm, long or short periods of dissociation in which the world around him doesn’t feel real, difficulties maintaining healthy relationships and inappropriate or uncontrollable anger.

His illness brought about the end of his job, the failure of his marriage and the loss of his home.

Desperate for help, he undertook group psychotherapy and slowly learned to understand, accept, and better manage his condition.

Along the way, he realised that he wanted to give something back. His work in social care had shown that even some mental health professionals were prejudiced against borderline personality disorder. Chris Young wanted to change people’s perceptions of mental health and prove that people, no matter their background, race, age, or political affiliation, could be fabulous, hospitable, interested and interesting and eager to talk about mental ill health.

He came up with Walk a Mile in my Shoes – an awareness campaign in which he would walk around the edge of the UK, representing the edge of society, where many people with mental health problems feel they are. In the style of the Jain monk Satish Kumar, who walked from India to Pakistan in the 60’s to share his views on nuclear arms, Chris Young would make his Walk a Mile trek with no money, relying solely on the kindness of other people for food, water, shelter and compassion. He would go only with a backpack full of supplies and a head full of ‘what if’, bringing people together to discuss mental health and the issues surrounding it.

And so in 2011, 34 years to the day after his mum’s death, Chris embarked on his journey. He was joined along the way by members of the public, as well as celebrities such as Sir Chris Hoy, and the adventures shared on his blog soon captured public and media interest throughout the country.

Walk A Mile is the story of Chris Young’s struggle to reach an understanding of his own mental health,  looking back at the traumatic events leading up to his diagnosis and treatment. He also shares tales of his eye-opening, heart-warming travels around the UK, and the many wonderful people he met along the way who shared their stories.

He’s since joined with See Me Scotland, a Scottish programme to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination, to bring people together at #LetsWalkAMile events throughout Scotland to talk about mental health, literally walking a mile in each other’s shoes. He has also founded the Walk a Mile in My Shoes charity, with the aim of bringing the events to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Chris knows he’s not going to ‘get better’, but he is getting better at managing his condition, and he’s happy. He wants to continue the many conversations he’s started about how we can change the stigma around mental health.

Chris Young was born and grew up in Corby, Northamptonshire. After completing a degree in psychology in London, he moved to Edinburgh, where he completed a Masters in Social Work at Edinburgh University. He lived in Fife before returning to Edinburgh, and now lives in Warwickshire with his wife.

For further information, please contact Katrina Power, katrina.power@yahoo.com, 07963962538

The journey so far … 

Edinburgh, South Queensferry, North Queensferry, the Fife Coastal, Dalgety Bay, Burntisland, Kirkcaldy, Buckhaven, Anstruther, Crail, St Andrews,Tentsmuir forest, Dundee, Monifeith, Carnoustie, Arbroath, Montrose, Lunan Bay, Stonehaven, Aberdeen, Balmedie, Peterhead, Crimond, Fraserburgh, the Moray Firth, Macduff, Banff, Portsoy, Cullen, Buckie, Speyside Way, Egin, Forres and Nairn, Fort George, Inverness, The Black Isle, the Beauly Firth, Redcastle, Jemimaville, Avoch, Fortrose, Rosemarkie and Cromarty, Nigg, Tain, Dornoch and Golspie, Bora, Helmsdale Dunbeath, Wick, John o’ Groats, Dunnet Head, Thurso and Bettyhill, Tongue, Loch Eriboll, Durness, Rhiconich, Scourie, Kylesku, Unapool, Ullapool, Sheildag, Poolewe, Applecross, Kishorn, Kinlochewe, Strathcarron, the Kyle of Lochalsh, the Isle of Skye, Armadale, Malaig, Knoydart, Eigg, Arisaig, Ardnamurchan, Kilchoan, Tobermory, the Isle of Mull, Craignure,  Oban, Tarbert, Claonaig, Newton on the Isle of Arran, Brodick, Ardrossan, Glasgow, Port Glasgow, Greenock, Gourock, Wemyss Bay, Largs, Ardrossan, Irvine, Prestwick, Ayr, Maybole, Girvan, Ballantrae, Stranraer, the Mull of Galloway, Port William, the Isle of Whithorn, Wigtown, Gatehouse of Fleet, Kircudbright, Dalbeattie, Castle Douglas, Dumfries, Annan, Gretna, Longtown, Carlisle, Silloth, Maryport, Workington, Egremont, Seascale, Millom, Barrow in Furness, Peil Island, Ulverston, Morecambe Bay, Lancaster, Fleetwood, Blackpool, Latham St Anne’s, Kirkham, Preston, Southport, Formby, Liverpool, The Wirral, Birkenhead, Wallasey, New Brighton, Neston, Connah’s Quay, Wales, Prestatyn, Rhyl, Colwyn Bay, Llandudno, Conwy, llanfairfechan, Bangor, Anglesey, Caernarfon, the Llynn Peninsula, Bodermid, Aberdaron, Abersoch, Llanbedrog, Pwllheli, Criccieth, Porthmadog.

Chris will return to Porthmadog in the Spring to continue his journey around the UK.  

Links to Buy the Book

Walk a Mile: Tales of a Wandering Loon is available to preorder in the United States here

And in the UK here

The Shaw Mind Foundation and Trigger Press

Psychologist Lauren Callaghan, together with former OCD sufferer Adam Shaw, are the founders of specialist publishing company Trigger Press, which publishes a range of books about different mental health issues.

Lauren and Adam are also the founders of The Shaw Mind Foundation, a mental health charity aimed at reducing stigma of mental health problems and providing assistance to people with mental health problems and their families and carers.

A percentage from the sale of every Trigger Press book sold goes to the Shaw Mind Foundation.

http://www.trigger-press.com

http://www.shawmindfoundation.org

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14/11/17 Walk a Mile: Tales of a Wandering Loon – Press Release

Walk a Mile: Tales of a Wandering Loon

Chris Young

paperback, £11.99, published 28 November 2017 by Trigger Press

Walk a Mile: Tales of a Wandering Loon is the story of how one man’s normal, nurturing childhood turned into one of neglect, alcoholism and sexual abuse following his mother’s death. His story explores how this, combined with a little faulty brain wiring, lead Chris to a severe and enduring mental illness. It is also the story of how he’s tackling mental health stigma, one step at a time.

As a kind, chatty, and good-humoured man with a zest for life and a passion for helping people, Chris Young adored his job as a social worker. But things fell apart when, in 2008, he was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, the symptoms of which include vivid, horribly imaginative thoughts of violent self-harm, long or short periods of dissociation in which the world around him doesn’t feel real, difficulties maintaining healthy relationships and inappropriate or uncontrollable anger.

His illness brought about the end of his job, the failure of his marriage and the loss of his home.

Desperate for help, he undertook group psychotherapy and slowly learned to understand, accept, and better manage his condition.

Along the way, he realised that he wanted to give something back. His work in social care had shown that even some mental health professionals were prejudiced against borderline personality disorder. Chris Young wanted to change people’s perceptions of mental health and prove that people, no matter their background, race, age, or political affiliation, could be fabulous, hospitable, interested and interesting and eager to talk about mental ill health.

He came up with Walk a Mile in my Shoes – an awareness campaign in which he would walk around the edge of the UK, representing the edge of society, where many people with mental health problems feel they are. In the style of the Jain monk Satish Kumar, who walked from India to Pakistan in the 60’s to share his views on nuclear arms, Chris Young would make his Walk a Mile trek with no money, relying solely on the kindness of other people for food, water, shelter and compassion. He would go only with a backpack full of supplies and a head full of ‘what if’, bringing people together to discuss mental health and the issues surrounding it.

And so in 2011, 34 years to the day after his mum’s death, Chris embarked on his journey. He was joined along the way by members of the public, as well as celebrities such as Sir Chris Hoy, and the adventures shared on his blog soon captured public and media interest throughout the country.

Walk A Mile is the story of Chris Young’s struggle to reach an understanding of his own mental health, looking back at the traumatic events leading up to his diagnosis and treatment. He also shares tales of his eye-opening, heart-warming travels around the UK, and the many wonderful people he met along the way who shared their stories.

He’s since joined with See Me Scotland, a Scottish programme to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination, to bring people together at #LetsWalkAMile events throughout Scotland to talk about mental health, literally walking a mile in each other’s shoes. He has also founded the Walk a Mile in My Shoes charity, with the aim of bringing the events to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Chris knows he’s not going to ‘get better’, but he is getting better at managing his condition, and he’s happy. He wants to continue the many conversations he’s started about how we can change the stigma around mental health.

Chris Young was born and grew up in Corby, Northamptonshire. After completing a degree in psychology in London, he moved to Edinburgh, where he completed a Masters in Social Work at Edinburgh University. He lived in Fife before returning to Edinburgh, and now lives in Warwickshire with his wife.

For further information, please contact Katrina Power, katrina.power@yahoo.com, 07963962538

The journey so far …

Edinburgh, South Queensferry, North Queensferry, the Fife Coastal, Dalgety Bay, Burntisland, Kirkcaldy, Buckhaven, Anstruther, Crail, St Andrews,Tentsmuir forest, Dundee, Monifeith, Carnoustie, Arbroath, Montrose, Lunan Bay, Stonehaven, Aberdeen, Balmedie, Peterhead, Crimond, Fraserburgh, the Moray Firth, Macduff, Banff, Portsoy, Cullen, Buckie, Speyside Way, Egin, Forres and Nairn, Fort George, Inverness, The Black Isle, the Beauly Firth, Redcastle, Jemimaville, Avoch, Fortrose, Rosemarkie and Cromarty, Nigg, Tain, Dornoch and Golspie, Bora, Helmsdale Dunbeath, Wick, John o’ Groats, Dunnet Head, Thurso and Bettyhill, Tongue, Loch Eriboll, Durness, Rhiconich, Scourie, Kylesku, Unapool, Ullapool, Sheildag, Poolewe, Applecross, Kishorn, Kinlochewe, Strathcarron, the Kyle of Lochalsh, the Isle of Skye, Armadale, Malaig, Knoydart, Eigg, Arisaig, Ardnamurchan, Kilchoan, Tobermory, the Isle of Mull, Craignure,  Oban, Tarbert, Claonaig, Newton on the Isle of Arran, Brodick, Ardrossan, Glasgow, Port Glasgow, Greenock, Gourock, Wemyss Bay, Largs, Ardrossan, Irvine, Prestwick, Ayr, Maybole, Girvan, Ballantrae, Stranraer, the Mull of Galloway, Port William, the Isle of Whithorn, Wigtown, Gatehouse of Fleet, Kircudbright, Dalbeattie, Castle Douglas, Dumfries, Annan, Gretna, Longtown, Carlisle, Silloth, Maryport, Workington, Egremont, Seascale, Millom, Barrow in Furness, Peil Island, Ulverston, Morecambe Bay, Lancaster, Fleetwood, Blackpool, Latham St Anne’s, Kirkham, Preston, Southport, Formby, Liverpool, The Wirral, Birkenhead, Wallasey, New Brighton, Neston, Connah’s Quay, Wales, Prestatyn, Rhyl, Colwyn Bay, Llandudno, Conwy, llanfairfechan, Bangor, Anglesey, Caernarfon, the Llynn Peninsula, Bodermid, Aberdaron, Abersoch, Llanbedrog, Pwllheli, Criccieth, Porthmadog.

Chris will return to Porthmadog in the Spring to continue his journey around the UK.

The Shaw Mind Foundation and Trigger Press

Psychologist Lauren Callaghan, together with former OCD sufferer Adam Shaw, are the founders of specialist publishing company Trigger Press, which publishes a range of books about different mental health issues.

Lauren and Adam are also the founders of The Shaw Mind Foundation, a mental health charity aimed at reducing stigma of mental health problems and providing assistance to people with mental health problems and their families and carers.

A percentage from the sale of every Trigger Press book sold goes to the Shaw Mind Foundation.

http://www.trigger-press.com

http://www.shawmindfoundation.org

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#42Days A #HungerStrke in protest against #UniversalCredit Day 13

I thought I’d start today’s blog with this – people who claim benefits aren’t other people – they’re not scroungers and skivers – it’s that government and media rhetoric that has likely led to £billions being left unclaimed each year – no, these are people – people like you – people like me – people who rightfully believe that, when they stumble, the safety net of the state will be there.

OK, it’s time to get down to the brass tacks of Universal Credit – how much do people actually get from this benefit?

Well, it’s £251.77 a month if you’re under 25 – which is £58.10 a week

and £317.82 a month if you’re over 25, that translates to £73.34 a week.

We’re being repeatedly told that people can claim for crisis payments while they wait 42 days for any money to come through.

But what does that mean? What are crisis payments?

First of all, thousands of people in this situation are completely unaware of the availability of crisis payments – it’s an absolute lottery.

Secondly, it’s important to stress that these are loans that come off any future benefits.

So what do people actually receive?

If you’re under 25, if you’re found eligible after an interview by Department of Work and Pensions staff, you’ll receive

£125.88 a month – that’s £29.05 a week – if you’re under 25, and, if you’re over 25, you’ll get £158.91 – that’s £36.67 a week

What does this mean when you’re under 25 in the UK? How far will that £29.05 take you?

Average fuel bills in the UK are £592 for electricity and £752 for gas over a year.

That’s £25.85 per week on average.

Or, let’s be generous to the government, let’s say it’s £10 for electric and £10 for gas. Although we already know that these utilities are disproportionately expensive for people on a low income, who pay using prepayment cards.

That leaves £9 for food.

What about your existing debts?

Your phone?

Your broadband that’s actually needed to apply for Universal Credit?

Heat or eat?

What would you do?

They spend all their money on cigarettes on alcohol.

‘All’ their money? How much is that exactly?

Think before you judge.

These people are you, these people are me.

It’s time to stop the rollout of this Draconian, punitive system.

I’ve found, on my hunger strike, that one of the side effects of malnutrition is that I feel the cold much more. I’m lucky, I can warm myself with the luxury of central heating and a hot bath.

People in state sponsored poverty are at real risk of hypothermia.

Hypothermia in the UK today. Let that sink in. Hypo-fucking-thermia

Think about that.

Please contact your local councillor and/ or MP to demand that we stop the rollout of Universal Credit until it’s fit for purpose.

It’s like that we’ll hear that the waiting time will be reduced to 28 days at the budget this year.

That’s nowhere near good enough.

A recent panellist on Question Time argued that we should pay people in advance, because the cost of borrowing for the government (around 0.25%) is far less than the cost to folk on a low income (anything between 50% and 1500%)

Common sense really. Pay people when they need it – not weeks afterwards.

I really believe that, together, we help our government to make that change.

Walk a Mile

Chris

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#42Days A #HungerStrke in protest against #UniversalCredit Day 8

On Monday, I went down to the Houses of Parliament to support the fine people of the Shaw Mind foundation and Heads Together as we watched a debate on whether mental health education should be made mandatory in schools. 

They had secured this debate by securing over 100 thousand online signatures – a great achievement. You can read my thoughts on the debate here

It was great to meet up with so many like minded folk, all with a story to tell, all keen to hear about what I was up to.

It was also a hard day. We met in a pub – while I had a glass of water, I watched and more importantly, smelled the fish and chips being happily devoured by the pub dwellers around me. 

My poor body, misreading the information, prepared my stomach for the scrummy munchiness of the meal – resulting in rather painful indigestion for the rest of the day. 
By the time I got back home, I was absolutely fucked. In an agitated, disgruntled state, I couldn’t decide whether lying down or sitting up, or standing up was the way ahead. 

That said, I was soon fast asleep.

I woke up yesterday, still feeling the weight of fatigue. It felt like my Duracell batteries had been replaced by those really shit ones from IKEA. 

I really had nothing in the tank. I didn’t feel unwell – just knackered. 

I understand my liver is tasked with turning my fat stores into sugars that can be used by my body. The results are much slower than the usual, eat carbs and sugars and away you go system that we all know and love. 

Today, I feel absolutely dandy – IKEA batteries fully charged and away I go. 
The thing is, I still know that I’m approaching this from a position of privilege. 

We don’t have the extra super expensive electricity that’s provided through power cards. I don’t have the fear that the electricity will run out. For many, that will have already stopped and they’ll be living under duvets while the days get darker and colder. 

It’s like something out of Dickens.
There seems to be a steady trickle of people dying because of these cuts…I can’t fathom why the life of some appear to be so meaningless to this government, whilst the deaths of others require an immediate COBRA meeting and widespread media coverage. 

I’m not suffering the astonishing boredom of poverty – I have the luxury of TV, my iPhone, I’ve got a mountain of books to read.

Imagine having none of that. You’ve got a mental health problem and you’re waiting the 42 days for something to happen.
You’ve heard from friends that the 42 days is the minimum you have to wait – you know there are some who’ve waited over 12 weeks, with still no endpoint in sight. 
I’m keeping myself safe by taking a-z vitamin pills and electrolytes, ensuring my body continues to function. A luxury that’s not available to thousands. 

I saw on Monday that the government won’t do anything without robust data. Somehow, I feel they won’t be collecting information on the devastation they’re meeting out on our fellow citizens NOW – TODAY. 

Any other information, from people in the middle of this shitstorm, their friends and family, will be marked down as word of mouth, anecdotal. 

We really need to crank this up a notch or two. For those of you who have shared this story, thank you. For those who haven’t, why not? 

Please share this and/ or the first video and/ or blog with anyone and everyone. 

Contact your local councillors and local MP’s today. Demand a pause in the roll out of this deliberately punitive system until it is fit for purpose. 

Walk a mile

Chris

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07/11/17 Yesterday’s Parliamentary debate on whether mental health education should be mandatory in schools

Yesterday I bowled down to the Houses of Parliament, along with a number of other mental health enthusiasts, to watch the debate on whether mental health education should be mandatory in schools. 

This debate was triggered by the fine folk of the Shaw Mind foundation, supported by Headspace, who obtained over 100 thousand signatures online, gently nudging the government in the right direction. 

My thoughts…

The debate was ably opened by the MP for Newcastle North, Catherine McKinnell, who effectively outlined that the current system wasn’t fit for purpose. 

I was delighted by…

There was a cross party group of MP’s who were all, essentially singing from the same hymn sheet, acknowledging that things had to change. 

As a group they were able to identify that this must be a whole school approach – that mental health education shouldn’t be confined to Personal, Social and Health education, and that it should be taught to all pupils, with peer support and mental health first aid being paramount. 

There was a running theme that there should be be mental health education on all teacher training courses. That way mental health, over the years, will become embedded in the system. 

There was an acknowledgement that schools should have firm links with CAMH’s (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services).

One of the MP’s put forward the case for preschool child and parental support, since he felt that many issues were often ingrained in those early years.

I was also pleased to see that the information gathered in the debate would be put together to form a green paper. In case you’re wondering…

Green Papers are consultation documents produced by the Government. The aim of this document is to allow people both inside and outside Parliament to give the department feedback on its policy or legislative proposals.’

So it shows that, as well as talking about it, the debate will lead to some actual action. 

Where I feel they stumbled though…

A great deal of focus was put on building resilience in children – concentrating on the ‘treatment’ of individuals. There was little acknowledgment of the stresses of the school and the wider world and how that can and does have an impact on our young folk. I’ll expand on this later. 

One MP seemed to imply that mindfulness was the panacea for all ails. I believe if this is the route the take the treatment will be, at best, ineffective, at worse, damaging to many young people for whom mindfulness may be the wrong treatment at the wrong time. 

The MP who, rightfully, identified that support for pre school children and their parents would be beneficial sadly didn’t mention the swingeing cuts to the Sure Start scheme, that did exactly that before 350 centres closed following a 47% cut to their budgets. 

The MP who seemed to be responsible for feeding back to the minister stated that before moving forward they required ‘robust’ data on the issues. 

One set of data, in my opinion, was a complete red herring – they seem to want specific information on how the cuts to school budgets have impacted on the mental health of pupils..

What I think should happen…

Please forgive me for blatantly stealing from Neil Thompson’s PCS model on prejudice and discrimination. 

The Goverment should adopt an altogether holistic approach to this issue…

On the PERSONAL level

Yes, let’s look at building resilience in younger folk – but we must tread VERY warily here. No level of resilience can help young folk deal with some of the terrible circumstances they find themselves in. 
Yes, mindfulness may be effective for some, but let’s not fall for a ‘one size fits all’ culture. 

There are a a wide range of mental health problems with a wide range of treatments to match. 

It’s essential that all teachers develop a level of confidence to work with pupils with/ without mental ill health, and that they learn to acknowledge that they already have skills in identifying psychological distress and supporting young people with it. 

On a CULTURAL level 

Schools must look beyond doing to and doing for young people with mental health problems. This, I believe, is just a start. 
Young people must be involved in the development of mental health policies within the school – for example…

Is what’s suggested by the school an effective way of supporting the young people? 

Is there a review system embedded in what the school is offering? 

Is the school focusing on the development of all pupils in the area of mental health? 

Does the system look at all aspects of school life and how that might impact on the individual? 

For example – how does it fit around the bullying policy? 

How does the school deal with exam stress? 

How does the school deal with teacher stress? 

Are there flexible mechanisms in place to liaise with families? (Bearing in mind, for some, home life may be the root of a person’s issues) 

How will the school work with CAMH’s? 

Will the school have a counsellor? Can they afford one? 

Who will provide what training? 

Personally, I think they should bring in people with a lived experience of mental ill health, who’ve already been through the system. 

It’s essential that mental health education is integrated in such a way that teachers don’t think, ‘Oh my God, not another bloody thing’

On a STRUCTURAL level

All of the above must be considered within the structure of the society in which the school sits.

The MP’s in the debate acknowledged that regular OFSTED assessments cause teachers significant stress that they will invariably pass onto the pupils. They spoke about it as if this was a fait accompli.

If this system has such a negative effect on everyone, it must be reviewed/ changed

The socialist in me wonders why, when we claim to live in a meritocracy, why is it ok to allocate (on average) a third of the funding for each state school pupil that their fee paying counterparts receive? 

We must deal with poverty more effectively. Children and young people often feel the bite of exclusion because of the punitive austerity regimes imposed by our government. Including the benefit cap on having more than 2 children (which, quite unfairly, came into being long after people had already had their children); the bedroom tax; and the ubiquitous Universal Credit which has a 42 day delay before any money is awarded – often resulting in long term unmanageable debt – in addition, if parents have a long term disability or mental health problem, their income has been cut by £40 per week. 

On the subject of disability and mental ill health, we must, once again, invest in services to ensure both parents and their children have timely access to services. 

We’ve already established that the return of investment is around £32 for every £1 invested. It really is crazy not to put that money into the system. 

One of the MP’s in the debate suggested that money had been allocated to mental health systems within the NHS – it’s just taking its time. I’m not entirely sure if that’s the case…

At any rate, any money allocated to mental health services MUST BE RING FENCED, otherwise it’ll just evaporate into other services. 

Whatever happened to the £Billion that Jeremy Hunt promised earlier this year? 

Concerned we don’t have money for this? Stamp down on tax evasion and avoidance. 

Step 1 in this process is to stop the proposed cut of 8000 employees at HMRC – the very people tasked with collecting taxes. 

Yes, I appreciate I’ve banged on, and that this may be flawed in a number of ways, but it would be lovely to hear your thoughts.

Walk a Mile

Chris

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#42Days A #HungerStrike in protest against #UniversalCredit Day 5

Today I’ve been looking at the more structural – political angle of Universal Credit, and why on Earth we’ve developed a system that takes from the poor whilst seemingly lining the pockets of the wealthy. 

Last year, the wealthiest 1000 people in the UK and their families increased their wealth by 14%. That’s an increase in their wealth of around £85 Billion in one year.

We also hear that tax avoidance and tax evasion costs the UK in excess of £100 billion a year. That’s a ball park figure, but it roughly equates to the total cost of the NHS.

A report by the BBC today shows us that the use of Tax havens has grown at an alarming rate.

And, somewhat bizarrely, we hear that Theresa May intends to cut 8000 staff from the HMRC – the very people tasked with collecting taxes.

And yet…and yet we still continue to punish our most vulnerable at a time when they’re most vulnerable. 

What goon thought it would be ok to have an inbuilt delay of 42 days between the application and the award of Universal Credit? 

42 days with no money? How is that supposed to provide a safety net? 

I’m trying to make sense of this. I know, from my campaign, Walk a Mile in my shoes, where I’ve walked, so far, around the edge of Scotland, Northwest England and North Wales, that people are fabulous. I left Edinburgh with no money, and a simple belief that people would look after me, a man with a severe and enduring mental health problem, on my endeavour. 

People have been fabulous – hospitable – interested and interesting – and generous, oh so generous. 

I haven’t had a single bad experience from folk during my walk. 

So people are 100% fabulous. I find it so hard to consolidate that with the minds that must have come up with such a deliberately punitive system. What can their rationale be? 

Are they so distanced from folk who aren’t exactly like them, that they feel it’s ok to deprive them of their basic needs? Do they see them – do they see us – as less than human? 

I don’t know the answer. I can’t, for the life of me fathom how we got to this point. 
If we think further down the line, we have the people who implement this hateful and harmful system – the employees at the Department of Work and Pensions.

I still stand by my belief that people are fabulous – so what makes them continue with this system? 

I guess at a basic level, they’re just doing their job. 

Their job that involves an inbuilt delay of 42 days for folk with no money. 

Add to this the Draconian system of benefit sanctioning where people have their benefits stopped for anything between 3 days and 3 years…imagine…

People who work at the department of work and pensions implement this cruel and unusual punishment on people who’ve committed the heinous crime of not completing a form correctly, or missing a meeting.

These are often people they already know have serious disabilities and/ or mental health problems. Instead of finding out, compassionately, what went wrong, these people are arbitrarily punished. 

Could you do that? What enables them to do that? 

It sounds like a lesson in conformity that Stanley Milgram would be proud of. 

Make no mistake, these people are meting out massive harm to benefit claimants, their families and, often, their children. 

Punishment without due legal process. People are being fined massive amounts without getting anywhere near a court. 

People with mental health problems are hugely over represented in the sanctioning system. Which makes the recent report by Mind, where they found that over 300 thousand people lost their jobs due to mental ill health last year. 

People like you and me, people who are one roll of the dice away from a mental health problem or a physical health crisis. 

And we hit them with services that have been pared back to the bone, and a 42 day delay before they get any money. 

We are a wealthy country. Let’s use some of that wealth to do the right thing.

I’ve said this many times – we live in a democracy. You can contact your local councillor and/ or MP to tell them enough’s enough. 

If you talk about this on Twitter, instagram or periscope, please use the hashtag #42Days

Walk a mile

Chris

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