Foreword by the President
I write this foreword, like much of the nation, still working from home. The coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing financial crisis means that the twin problems of mental health issues and financial distress have never been greater or greater. So it is with pride that I look back on the achievements of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute during the year that led to the changing world.
The Institute has made significant progress towards its vision of a world where the link between financial hardship and mental health problems is broken.
We have seen the result of our ‘Stop the Charge’ campaign take effect in England, launch new initiatives like the exciting program for accessible mental health, and even envision the future of the Institute with an ambitious strategy on how to get it. more change. And since the onset of the coronavirus, we’ve been quick to define the impact it could have on people’s mental health and finances, the solutions needed, and have provided policymakers and regulators with help.
Our work in 2019/20 was guided by three ambitious organizational goals:
- Fewer people are disadvantaged due to their mental health or experience psychological harm when choosing, using or paying for essential servicesOur research shows that many people with mental health issues are effectively excluded from services such as banking, energy and telecommunications, due to difficulties making phone calls, opening mail, or filling out complex forms. . To address these issues, we launched the Mental Health Accessibility Standards, an innovative new program aimed at directly helping businesses take practical steps to make their services work better for clients with mental health issues. We were delighted to partner with Lloyds Bank on a pilot of the program and look forward to rolling it out in more essential service businesses in the years to come.
We’ve published groundbreaking research exploring how financial companies can use customer data to spot signs that people are at risk of debt and step in to offer support. Another key report highlighted the challenges people with mental health challenges face when sharing financial decision-making with loved ones, and steps government and essential service companies can take to make this process better. easier and safer.
In a new venture for us, we have also had the pleasure of launching an exciting work program with the Gambling Commission, to engage Financial Services in efforts to reduce gambling-related damage.
Finally, we were delighted that our research, analysis and policy proposals feature extensively in new regulatory guidance from the Financial Conduct Authority and Ofcom, on how businesses should treat vulnerable customers.
- Fewer people have a poor standard of living due to mental health issuesThis area aims to make the benefit system more accessible to people with poor mental health, an issue that has become even more urgent during the pandemic. We’ve released a guidance document outlining the barriers people with mental health issues face in accessing benefits – including difficulties filling out complex forms and losing support from loved ones during the lockdown.
We also led a coalition of national mental health charities by writing a joint open letter to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, MP Thérèse Coffey, calling on the government to take urgent action to ensure ensure that people with mental health problems do not miss out on support for life-saving benefits during the coronavirus epidemic. The government then took action on some of our key claims, including easing the requirements for receiving benefits and extending the processing time for claims.
- Support services become more effective in helping people with both money and mental health challengesIn October 2019, we were delighted to see our successful ‘Stop the Charge’ campaign come into effect in England, ending GP fees in England for the Proof of Debt and Mental Health form. These are documents that people with mental health and debt issues may be asked to provide to creditors in order to receive additional support. We will continue to work to end these charges in other parts of the UK in the years to come.
In January, we were delighted to see our work cited in the new 10-year Financial Wellbeing Strategy of Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), the government body to promote better guidance and better financial reporting. MaPS called our work a key influence in its decision to make mental health a central cross-cutting priority in the strategy.
Finally, we’ve also published research on how healthcare professionals, government agencies, employers, and essential service companies can help prevent financial problems associated with mental illness.
The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute is a small charity that strikes well above its weight. This is only possible with the support of our research community of 5,000 experienced experts, whose ideas, stories and insight are at the heart of everything we do. We warmly thank them for their immense support in sharing their experiences and perspectives to help others, and for showing us where changes need to be made.
There are many more who need thanks for their crucial contribution to our work. They include Vice President Richard Lloyd and all of my talented fellow Trustees for their ongoing support, scrutiny and stewardship, as well as our Advisory Board for their insight and guidance. Finally, I would like to thank the entire Money and Mental Health team, led by Helen Undy and currently Katie Alpin, whose passion, energy and dedication have allowed the association to have such a great impact.
In normal years, I would sign with the confidence that next year we can go even further in breaking the toxic link between money and mental health issues. This year, with the extraordinary events due to the coronavirus outbreak, a sincere hope is to limit the damage where we can.
Martin Lewis OBE
President and Founder, The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute