By comparing experiences with fellow self employed people and business owners, Anneka realised that there were huge numbers who weren’t entitled to any support for various reasons (as someone who went full-time freelance when I lost my job at the start of the pandemic, I’m one of them!)
In May 2020, Excluded UK was born. “I had a vision of people sharing their skills and experiences to help each other,” Anneka says. Excluded UK and its various campaign groups created an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) with the backing of 270 MPs and daily media coverage.
Realising the Impact
As the pandemic continued, the situation began to get more and more dire. As well as the thousands of tragic deaths from COVID-19, there was a spate of suicides due to the loneliness, depression, anxiety, and economic insecurity caused by the pandemic.
Anneka describes members of her team virtually hand-holding with people who were close to the edge. Inevitably, this takes a toll on people – especially people who are not trained mental health professionals.
I realised I’d spent seven months distracting myself from what was going on with me and my business
“I was doing press and media appearances, but finding it increasingly difficult to talk about the mental health element of what was happening to people in our community,” she says. As an organisation, Excluded UK decided to put some of their volunteers through a mental health first aid training course. It was during one of these courses that Anneka realised how badly the situation was impacting her personally.
“I realised I’d spent seven months distracting myself from what was going on with me and my business,” she says. “I realised how broken I really was and I had to take a step back, to be honest. I pushed myself to such a limit that at the end of November, I told the team that I needed to take a couple of weeks completely off.”
Anneka did an LBC interview during which she broke down emotionally while talking about members of the community who had died by suicide, and that clip was replayed throughout the day along with the Chancellor’s response.
Behind the scenes, Excluded UK was working with various professionals including counsellors and psychotherapists, trying to mobilise a support system to help the people who were in crisis. They fundraised and succeeded in rolling out fully-funded, free-at-point-of-use mental health support for all members within 24 hours. With the current wait for talking therapy on the NHS sitting at a minimum of 16 weeks, this offer has been a lifeline to many Excluded UK members.