Money and mental health organisations across the UK are backing a new guide that shows creditors how to offer more support to customers in difficulty. ‘Mental Health and Money’, a new guide released by the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), was created after detailed consultation with experts in both fields.
It’s being supported by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, Mind, Rethink Mental Illness and Citizens Advice, along with Adferiad Recovery in Wales, MindWise in Northern Ireland and Scottish organisations Change Mental Health and Citizens Advice Scotland.
Money and mental health are strongly linked, with research from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute showing one in five people (18%) living with a mental health problem are also in problem debt.
The guide outlines six ways in which creditors in financial services, utilities and the public sector can do more to support those who are struggling. These include equipping staff to help, extra consideration when chasing payments and making it easier for people to get in touch when they need help. Others include allowing affected customers to involve third parties in managing their account, more forbearance and proactively referring them to external support.
The guide also suggests how creditors can put the techniques into practice, lists resources they can use and reminds them of the relevant FCA duties that may require it.
Research from MaPS, published in October 2022, shows that people experiencing mental health problems are around one and a half times as likely to struggle with bills and credit commitments (74% compared to 50% of all UK adults). MaPS also found that half of people with a mental health problem have less than £100 in savings, while over a third have none at all, leaving them without a crucial safety net if they do fall into financial difficulty.
According to MaPS, people who find themselves in financial difficulty should seek the help and guidance they need as soon as possible. The guide aims to show creditors how they can assist their customers with that journey.
Sarah Murphy, Mental Health Policy Lead at the Money and Pensions Service, said:
“Money and mental health problems are closely linked and one can quickly lead to the other. Dealing with either can be tough enough, but having to cope with both at the same time can become overwhelming.
“This guide aims to show financial services, utilities and public sector organisations what they can do to help customers who are struggling, because the right support at the right time can be absolutely life-changing.
“By working together with creditors, we can help them make the changes they need to ensure no one goes through this difficult situation alone.”
Conor D’Arcy, Head of Research and Policy at the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said:
“The vicious cycle of money and mental health problems can have devastating consequences. And with the rising cost of living, more people than ever are struggling with that terrifying reality. Creditors have a crucial role to play in easing some of that strain, and reducing the worry and distress that can come alongside financial difficulty.
“By taking the steps set out in the guide, such as making their communications around debt more supportive and ensuring staff have the right training, creditors can make a huge difference in making sure their customers get the help they need. This will go a long way in improving support for struggling customers during these difficult times and beyond.”
Laura Peters, Head of Mental Health & Money Advice, Rethink Mental Illness, said:
“When people are struggling with money and debt, the admin and the stress associated with it quickly begin to pile up, so it’s important that we maximise every opportunity for support to be offered. This guide should support improvements to the help that people struggling with their money and mental health receive, but we also hope it will empower creditors to play a more active role in helping to ensure their customers are better supported with the challenges they face.”