Big Issue Vendor

Campaigners team up to fund mental health support for forgotten freelancers

After an estimated three million people found themselves excluded from financial help to get them through the pandemic, a new initiative will help Samaritans provide support for those left stranded without an income

A campaign group formed to support people who fell through the cracks of the Government’s pandemic support schemes is working to raise £1 million for Samaritans.

ForgottenPAYE was set up to call for change on behalf of largely self-employed people who are taxed at source on more than half their income and so are excluded from Government crisis support.

Now they’ve launched Mind the Gaps, a fundraising appeal that they say will help up to 200,000 people whose mental wellbeing has been affected by their experiences of trying to make ends meet without support.

The group is teaming up with fellow campaigners New Starter Justice, who want the Government to fix the loophole that meant anyone starting a new job after February 28 was ineligible for furlough; Maternity Petition, fighting for an extra three months’ paid maternity leave to be given to new mothers so they can socialise with their babies after lockdown; ForgottenLtd, working to help struggling small business owners, and the BBC PAYE freelancers’ support group.

Celebrities like Denise Welch, Brooke Vincent, Catherine Tyldesley and Rebecca Ferguson have already thrown their support behind the cause.

ForgottenPAYE spokesperson Ellie Phillips said: “We have seen rapidly increasing numbers of excluded taxpayers experiencing a steep decline in mental health.

“The same themes run through their cries for help: severe financial worries, worthlessness, confusion, hopelessness and feelings of being a burden on those around them.

“While the ExcludedUK APPG has brought together record numbers of MPs, who are working to help find a solution to the financial exclusion, we felt it imperative that support be readily available now to help those whose mental health has already been affected.

“The Mind the Gaps campaign has a target of £1 million, with all funds raised through our JustGiving page going directly to Samaritans. Donations made will help Samaritans to continue to provide much-needed emotional support to those struggling during this difficult time.”

The campaigners said just £5 could enable Samaritans to answer one call for help.

It is paramount that we do all we can to signpost the immediate support available for them, right here and now

Jamie Stone, MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, set up the ExcludedUK APPG alongside more than 240 other MPs to look into how the Government can better help the estimated three million people who have been missed out from support schemes.

“The mental toll that being excluded from support has taken on millions of people across the UK is unfathomable,” he said. “Nobody should have to deal with an unprecedented global pandemic followed immediately by a loss of income.

“This Mind the Gaps fundraising appeal for Samaritans is absolutely crucial to helping people find a way out of what is, for so many, any extremely difficult period.

“I will keep working on the political side with the ExcludedUK APPG, but campaigns like this are invaluable to finding solutions on the human side of this huge issue.”

New Starter Justice’s Adam Chan said the group got on board with ForgottenPAYE‘s campaign with “no hesitation”.

He added: “Having witnessed first-hand the turmoil that those abandoned by Government support measures are going through – it is paramount that we do all we can to not only represent those left behind, but to signpost the immediate support available for them, right here and now.”

Call Samaritans for free on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org or visit www.samaritans.org for useful resources and advice on coping during this difficult time.