Rich Taylor, External Affairs Intern, Money and Mental Health

Time flies when you're having fun

17 August

By the time this is published, my internship with the External Affairs team at the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute will be over, and the old adage that ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ exemplifies the last 6 months.

Starting and completing this role throughout a global pandemic has also brought with it new challenges but all things considered, I am extremely grateful for the experience. Everyone in the team has been incredibly kind and generous with their time whilst I was learning the ropes, finding my feet and settling into the rhythm of life at a small but fiercely dedicated charity.

The day-to-day of an intern

I was familiar with Money and Mental Health’s work after joining their 5,000 strong Research Community (as of April 2021) a number of years before starting the internship. The Research Community is composed of people with lived experience of difficulties with both mental health and finances, and their input is at the core of everything Money and Mental Health does. My prior knowledge gave me a solid foundation, understanding the space the charity operates in, but learning more about how the Research Community helps to steer the direction of Money and Mental Health’s ongoing and future projects has been a privilege.

A big project that I contributed to was the launch of Money and Mental Health’s Set Up To Fail campaign, focussing on the difficulties that people with mental health problems face when trying to get help from loved ones and professionals to manage their Universal Credit account. It was heartbreaking to hear people’s personal experiences with this issue – the impact of this problem is devastating. I was responsible for stakeholder engagement to gain support for the campaign and I’m really proud of how many leading mental health organisations I brought onboard.

My day-to-day work also consisted of ad-hoc tasks, jumping into Zoom calls to discuss plans, working with other internal teams and generally getting stuck in and helping out where needed. One aspect of the internship I was particularly intrigued by was the work involving Parliament. Whilst MPs get a lot of stick (sometimes for completely justifiable reasons), it was refreshing to see how many MPs truly care about the people they represent. I helped draft letters to MPs and Cabinet ministers and also monitored and reported on activities in Parliament – like All Party Parliamentary Groups and Select Committees – for opportunities to influence key decisions and policy with our research.

Leading the way in accessibility, empathy and work/life balance

I landed this internship the second time I applied, and this has been a professional and personal experience that I will carry with me for many years to come. It was immediately apparent that all the staff genuinely care for each other’s wellbeing, and that’s reflected in the policies, culture and ethos at every layer. One thing that surprised me (in the best possible way) was how much value was placed on my opinions and ideas by everyone from my line manager to the CEO. I felt comfortable enough to challenge things in a respectful way, which was met with openness and curiosity.

Personally, I am grateful beyond words to the External Affairs and Senior Management teams for their proactive management of my reasonable adjustments and support when I felt acutely unwell with my own mental health. I appreciate that this is not always the case in other organisations, but wellbeing, accessibility and flexibility are at the core of the work the charity does, externally and internally.

Goodbye, for now

Admittedly, I am very sad to be departing from Money and Mental Health. Their work, core values and vision all align with my own passion to make society a better place for those of us who struggle with mental health difficulties.

I will be taking all of the fantastic experience, knowledge and insight I’ve gleaned here wherever I go next. I feel like my time at Money and Mental Health has also given me such a deep personal insight into what’s important to me – not only in the work that I want to do – but the kind of place I want to work. To everyone at Money and Mental Health, all that’s left to say is thank you. I will be forever grateful for this opportunity, and I hope that this is not the last time that I get to be involved in such a remarkable place of work with wonderfully kind people.