UK honours grassroots campaigners

Posted on 31/05/2019


Ten grassroots campaigners have been honoured at a UK-wide awards ceremony for the impact of their work.

Each year, the Sheila McKechnie Foundation (SMK) celebrates the best campaigns and campaigners working in social enterprises, charities and individuals.

Winners of this year’s awards include Recovery Space which helps the tens of thousands of people in the UK who
experience a mental health crisis while also struggling with debt. This campaign set out to help by ensuring they were included in the Government’s Breathing Space debt respite scheme.

The scheme originally only applied to people seeking advice for problem debt – offering a six-week break
from further fees or collections activity.

But many people experiencing a mental health crisis find seeking debt advice an impossible task and cannot manage their money alone. As a result, they are left at risk of financial difficulty as fees and charges mount, while also receiving calls and emails from creditors. These can cause acute distress, sometimes leaving people feeling suicidal.

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute worked with a 5,000-strong research community of people with lived
experience of mental ill health to tell their stories. As a result, the Government committed to changing the scheme so that anyone using NHS mental health crisis services gets respite from escalating debts and collections activity for the duration of their care.

Other winners included Kenny Murray who is tackling negative media portrayals of people who are in or have grown up in care. He wants them to be portrayed in a balanced, accurate and fair way – at the moment, in both news and entertainment media, they are not.

Often, portrayals of care experienced people tend to use their experience of care as a shorthand for ‘troubled’
or ‘damaged’.

Kenny set up a club for care experienced people to review portrayals of their lives in TV shows, books, comics and
movies. He has created opportunities to challenge famous authors in person, and led a media campaign to tell a new
story of care.

His work has overturned advertising campaigns, received the backing of leading authors such as JK Rowling and
Jacqueline Wilson, received support from Hollywood actors and directors and he has worked with the First
Minister of Scotland to raise the profile of the issue.

Another Scottish campaign group was also honoured for its work to create LGBT-inclusive education.

TIE believe that LGBT history, role models and equalities should be taught within schools in order to tackle prejudice and bullying. They deliver services to achieve this and, so far, have reached over 25,000 young people with their LGBT and Allies school services.

In 2017, the Scottish Parliament endorsed TIE’s proposals for LGBT issues to be taught in schools, and the Scottish Government began to work with the charity to develop policy recommendations.

This post first appeared on Grit Daily and in a modified form on The Rooftop.

Image from SMK.