ExcludedUK CIC, Allia Future Business Centre, London Road, Peterborough PE2 8AN
Registered Company Number: 12635856
Open letter to:
Rt Hon Gillian Keegan MP
Minister of State for Care and Mental Health
Department of Health and Social Care
39 Victoria Street
SW1H 0EU 24th December 2021
Thank you for your email apology, dated 2nd December 2021, via your diary manager Harriett Evans, for the delay in responding to my correspondence to your predecessor, Rt Hon Nadine Dorries, of Friday 27th August 2021.
I must admit I had pretty much given up hope that anyone would reply, especially since you have been in post almost 3 months, since September, so thank you for acknowledging my correspondence. However, I must say that I am extremely shocked and disheartened to receive the response “Regrettably due to diary pressures we are unable to offer a meeting, however wanted to thank you for this invitation.”
I would ask that you re-visit this decision in the light of some updates from the correspondence I sent on 27th August below:
My name is Jennifer Griffiths and I am the Director of Member Welfare for ExcludedUK.
ExcludedUK is a grassroots organisation, established in May 2020 in response to the financial challenges faced by individuals and businesses entirely or largely excluded from government Covid-19 financial support.
ExcludedUK have provided counselling support to our members by fundraising as many have either been turned away by their doctors when asking for mental health support or, when they have finally got through for assessment, have been told there is nothing that can be done as the root cause of the issue is financial and not emotional.
So far we have lost 25 members to suicide that we know about but we know there will be so many more as we only have around 50,000 members from the 3.8 million taxpayers who were excluded from government support.
I have also been dealing with the children of parents who are excluded who are feeling the knock-on effects of their lives being turned upside down through no fault of their own, for example losing friends having had to move schools as houses are sold before they are at risk of repossession. One dreadful example is a 9-year-old boy who has tried to overdose twice and his mother has been told by CAMHS that, as their resources are so stretched, they are only seeing children who have attempted to take their own lives three times! I am sure you agree that this is wholly unacceptable and distressing but is just one example of many I could give you.
I really would like to give hope to our members that this situation will improve and would really appreciate a brief zoom meeting so I can let our members know that you were generous enough to put time aside to talk to me and listen to their concerns. If this is possible I will move my diary around to accommodate your time as I know just having a brief conversation would encourage our members to feel that they are being listened to.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Thanks and regards
Since writing this letter we have sadly heard of at least 5 more member suicides, bringing the total to at least 30. I am sure you can appreciate that 1 life lost is too many, so the knock-on effect to our members is terrible.
ExcludedUK Member Welfare team can now boast fully qualified counsellors, mental health first aiders and welfare support team members. However, we have seen a huge increase in referrals to our free counselling service, which has meant we are now having to recruit more counsellors to meet demand. We have raised thousands of pounds to pay for this free service as most of our members are beyond broke and the situation with NHS mental health referrals has only got worse. There seems to be a postcode lottery as to how long it takes from GP referral to initial NHS assessment by the mental health teams. We believe this timescale to be around 18-20 weeks, although one of our members who lost his wife to Covid was told it would be a 2 year wait for bereavement counselling. This is inhumane!
We are very proud that we have managed to organise a system where our members are contacted within 48 hours of self-referral and their first counselling session is usually within the week.
We have also set up the ExcludedUK Boost! Grant scheme, where members can apply for up to £500 to help get them back on their feet. As this is usually due to issues with Universal Credit or other benefits, I have copied in Rt Hon Thérèse Coffee MP, as being Secretary of State for Work and Pensions it would be beneficial if we could all meet on a zoom call together so I can run through a few examples, so you are able to see what remedial action you can take to mitigate this happening to others in future.
If you could see your way to a zoom meeting in the very near future, it would be very much appreciated by our Member Welfare team, as well as the ExcludedUK members we support.
Director of Member Welfare
cc. Rt Hon Thérèse Coffee MP