Helen Undy, Chief Executive, Money and Mental Health

Reasons to be cheerful

15 December 2021

So here we are again. Rounding up a year that has been anything but normal, and one in which the link between money and mental health problems has been exposed as potentially never before:

  • Household finances have taken a kicking, with inflation up, energy prices rising, the Universal Credit increase removed and the furlough scheme coming to an end. This has been particularly the case for those who went into the pandemic juggling debts or in a financially precarious position.
  • Rates of mental health problems are still above pre-pandemic levels, although down from their peak in 2020.
  • 精神健康问题患者是受疫情经济影响最严重的人群之一,依赖信贷或借贷来支付日常开支(例如食物或取暖)的可能性是其他人群的两倍多(26%比11%)。

It’s been a difficult year for all of us, and it’s easy to feel a sense of hopelessness about where we’re headed. So on a dark wintery day, I wanted to make note of a reminder thatwe *are* making progress. Reflecting back on where we were a year ago, largely unvaccinated, looking into the barrel of a long January lockdown, it’s frankly amazing how much we’ve all achieved. Here’s five things that did get better this year:

  1. No one in NHS mental health crisis care should be hit by interest, fees, charges or collections activity on their debts since May this year.The Breathing Space debt respite scheme began in the spring, including the provision that we campaigned to protect people receiving mental health crisis treatment.
  2. Tens of thousands of information leaflets and posters about money and mental health reached GP’s surgeries.Following our report on the power of information to help prevent financial difficulties for people with mental health problems, we partnered with our friends at Mind to support the development of a range of materials, funded by Barclays. Tag us on social media if you see one in the wild!
  3. Standard debt collection letters became less threatening, and included signposting for support.在我们的研究强调了恐吓性讨债策略和自杀之间的毁灭性联系后,今年6月开始引入了改进的信件。
  4. 现在90%的活期账户都可以控制赌博卡。Following our programme of work with financial services firms, funded by the Gambling Commission, and work with friends in the sector likePFRC– the ability to turn off gambling transactions on your debit cards is now available to nearly all UK current account holders, a radical transformation from where we were two years ago.
  5. People can now take part in benefits health assessment through a wider range of communication channels.We know that face-to-face assessments are not accessible for everyone with a mental health problem, and we’re pleased that DWP has responded to our evidence by making a wider range of channels available, including piloting an (optional) online PIP claims service.

And three signs for optimism for what’s to come in 2022:

  1. Our campaign to tackle online scam ads through the government’s Online Safety Bill is gathering huge momentum, backed by everyone fromcommittees of MPs and Peers, to the financial regulator, the City of London police and evenRichard Branson. The pressure on the government to respond is huge, and we’ll be keeping up the focus on this next year.
  2. Our ‘Set up to fail’ campaign – aiming to make it easier for people to get help navigating the benefits system, has also now been backed by 11 national organisations and heavily discussed in Parliament. We know DWP are looking into our asks, and we hope 2022 will be the year that Universal Credit becomes less of an opaque and confusing system.
  3. 监管机构正在倾听。今年,英国金融市场行为监管局(Financial Conduct Authority)公布了一项激进的计划,引入新的“消费者义务”(Consumer Duty),以提高所有消费者的标准,并为企业提供了关于公平对待弱势消费者的详细指导。这包括我们的建议,比如无障碍的沟通渠道,以及在设计产品时了解有心理健康问题的客户需求的重要性。如果得到充分实施和执行,这应该会给有心理健康问题的人带来真正的改善。

I’m always proud of our team – and by ‘team’ I’m including our staff, trustees, advisory board and the wider team in our Research Community who take part in our research and share their stories to support our work. But this year, I really am astounded by all you’ve achieved. Amid childcare chaos, intermittent isolations, family illness and bereavement, financial difficulty, mental health problems and the deafening pandemic anxiety that’s hard to ignore, you pulled out all the stops to make life better for people with money and mental health problems, which is more of us than ever.

Thank you from me, and on behalf of the millions that this work will touch. I know Christmas is tough for many people, but I hope you find time for a rest and to take a moment to feel proud of the part you’ve played – we’re going to need you next year.