Helen Undy, Director, Money and Mental Health

A transatlantic perspective on money and mental health problems

16 August 2018

We spend a lot of time at Money and Mental Health knee-deep in the detail of technical policy proposals, so it was a pleasure last night to be able to take a step back and a broader look at the system itself in our talk on US and UK approaches to money and mental health problems, hosted by Capital One.

我们有幸邀请到了耶鲁大学(Yale University)的安妮•哈珀(Annie Harper)博士,她介绍了自己的研究,主题是有严重心理健康问题的人如何应对贫困和财务困难,并特别关注美国金融服务和零售行业可以提供什么帮助。与英国的系统相比,有三个关键的区别立即凸显出来:缺乏免费的债务建议,预付卡市场的规模和广度,以及缺乏负担得起的医疗保健带来的持续财务威胁。我们的小组成员Monzo首席执行官汤姆•布洛姆菲尔德和Innovate Finance首席运营官珍妮•希尔特回顾了安妮的研究,以及英国金融科技行业可以从中学到的东西。

Debt advice

The discussion was a welcome reminder of how lucky we are to have a well developed and reliably funded debt advice sector in the UK. The sector has to work hard and innovate to meet demand, but the levy on the financial services industry to pay for this advice is a real game changer when comparing life in debt in the UK and America. Annie reflected on how mental health professionals are trying to step in to provide money advice to their service users in the States, something that has also been highlighted inour research on the UK– although more as a result of inaccessible services than a total lack of provision.

Pre-paid cards and current accounts

For people who either don’t have the credit file to open a current account, or who want to limit their exposure to the fees and charges that this can bring, prepaid cards are the main option in the States as there is no requirement to provide ‘basic’ bank accounts. Annie highlighted the very low proportion of the ‘unbanked’ population in America who opened current accounts when the law changed to state that benefits must be paid electronically, with most opting instead to have them paid onto prepaid cards. While it’s helpful that these products exist for those who want them, the panel discussed the challenges of high usage fees, and a lack of access to either good customer support or credit for those who need it. Tom Blomfield highlighted the false distinction between current accounts and prepaid cards, which rests on an assumption that current accounts have overdrafts, and that prepaid cards carry fees and come with poor customer support.

A ‘healthy’ credit score


The ‘health’ of your credit score then has even greater implications as it may dictate your access to health services, as well as being shared with future employers or landlords, affecting your potential for earning and securing decent housing. Perhaps partly as a result, the fintech solutions discussed in the States seem to focus much more on third party support – on cards that allow a third party to help set spending limits or approve particular types of transaction, or that allow ‘view only’ permissions for a third-party on accounts. Although no replacement for controls customers use themselves, we’d like to see options for third-party help with financial management more widely available in the UK. Tom revealed that Monzo is currently developing the option for these third party controls and we hope to see other banks following suit.

Fixing systems, not people