People with mental health and addiction problems might be tempted to give up hope in the face of the cost of living crisis – especially when so many well-meaning voices rehearse all the bad news but don’t offer practical ideas about what people can do about it.
The trouble is that many vulnerable people are torn between on the one hand asking the government to do more to help and on the other trying to work out what to do for themselves. I would like to suggest a comprehensive approach which does both…
Earlier this month Jane Hutt MS, Minister for Social Justice, launched Time to Take Control – Adferiad’s nation-wide, summer-long campaign to help people with mental health and addiction problems take action on the crisis. The campaign includes events in every county of Wales and at the Royal Welsh Show and National Eisteddfod plus on-line activity celebrating the campaign and sharing ideas and information.
So what action are we inviting people to take? Two things:
- Campaign to get the UK and Welsh Governments and others to improve support for vulnerable people
- Take control of their own situation by dealing with money and debt problems, energy costs, food shopping and other challenges
What does that look like in practice? Let’s start with campaigning…
Government isn’t just one thing in Wales: broadly speaking the UK Government decides on the level of benefits provided, taxation, and the rules surrounding those; they are also responsible for supporting people into work. Meanwhile the Welsh Government, together with local authorities, are responsible for providing mainly non-financial support, care and treatment for vulnerable people who are among those most affected by the crisis. We need action from both.
With help from our clients, we have identified and published ten ambitious but realistic actions for the UK and Welsh governments and others to take. These are all things which would make a real difference to individuals and families including reintroduction of the vital Universal Credit top-up which ended after the pandemic and ensuring that care and treatment plans for people with a mental illness cover how money and debt problems will be addressed: for the full list follow the link at the end of this article.
Early days but one win already: we joined in the UK-wide campaign to extend the Energy Price Guarantee and that got a positive result. We are hopeful of further progress during the campaign, but we are in this for the long haul and will pursue these objectives into the years ahead.
On the self-help side of the campaign, we have made a great start with our own Mental Health and Money Advice Service providing a clinic at all our events and our Cyfle Cymru project is also helping our clients get onto the training and employment ladder so that they can make their own way out of poverty.
This campaign depends on taking a cooperative approach. That means not just our stakeholders working together but also collaborating with other organisations including Carers Wales and the St Giles Trust. We are also very pleased to have support from the Department for Work and Pensions who are attending our events to discuss people’s problems with benefits, training and employment.
But above all we are delighted that the campaign is developing a life of its own. In every county of Wales our clients, staff and guests are joining together in activities such as:
- Researching affordable shopping options for food and household items including price-checking, testing “own brands”, and checking offers
- Learning about healthy but affordable food options
- Practical experiences in food preparation and cooking – including budgeting and checking cooking fuel costs
- Setting up a lunch club including budgeting and food preparation
- Practical experience with “green gym” and other zero or low-cost exercise opportunities
- Researching fuel saving and insulation options
- Researching and sharing experience about money management and managing debt
- Developing mutual support networks for those who depend on benefits
- Developing work experience opportunities
Examples of these activities and others will also be showcased at our local events and we are sharing their ideas and experiences on social media.
And of course, this isn’t just about practicalities. Isolated and vulnerable people are making new friends through the campaign and supporting one another.
And what about you? Why not follow and support the campaign and make use of the advice and ideas yourself. And if you want to help others then supporting those around you can make a big difference, whether that means donating to a food bank or helping an individual or family whom you know.
Information on the Time to Take Control campaign can be found at https://adferiad.org/
Article by Donna Chaves, Director of Impact & Insights at Adferiad, originally published in the Western Mail on Monday, 29 May, 2023.