Martin Lewis issues health warning to those struggling with money

Survey finds nearly 19% of people with mental health problems in the past two years are behind with one key bill

Vicky Shaw
Tuesday 18 July 2023 07:20 BST
Related: Martin Lewis’ advice for Britons struggling to pay mortgage

People receiving support for their mental health should be able to “walk down the corridor” and get money advice too, consumer champion Martin Lewis has urged.

The founder said swift action is needed to ensure people struggling with their mental health and finances receive the support they need.

He made the call as the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute said there is an urgent need for more joined-up mental health and debt support.

Mr Lewis, who is also founder and chair of the institute, said: “The cost-of-living crisis shows no sign of abating, and even if it does the fallout will last years.

“Financial problems and mental health issues are locked together, it’s about time treatments were linked too.

“We’d urge the government and NHS to take swift action to ensure those struggling with their mental health and finances get the support they need – and cut costs for the state at the same time.”

The institute argued that the reforms could save money for the public purse, by reducing demand on health services and helping more people with mental health problems to move into employment.

It commissioned YouGov to survey more than 2,000 people across the UK in June about their experiences of money and mental health during the cost-of-living crisis.

Nearly one in five (19 per cent) people with mental health problems in the past two years are behind with one key bill, the survey indicated.

This is around three times the six per cent of people who have never experienced mental health problems who said they are behind with at least one major bill.

Six in 10 (60 per cent) people with recent mental health problems said they have felt unable to cope due to rising costs, yet only nine per cent have received money or debt advice since the start of the cost-of-living crisis, the survey found.

The charity is calling for the government and NHS England to provide money advice alongside NHS talking therapies – an initiative which can help people with common mental health problems.

The charity said everyone receiving support from NHS talking therapies should be asked about their financial situation when they are initially assessed for the programme and money advice services should be located on the same site as talking therapies services.

Co-locating both support services could make money advice much more accessible for people who are struggling with everyday tasks due to their mental health, it argued.

Where co-location is not possible, or where people prefer telephone or online advice, professionals working in talking therapies services should actively book appointments on behalf of people, the institute said.

Mr Lewis added: “For many years, therapists, mental health nurses and social workers have told us they often spend substantial, valuable clinical time helping people with their finances. It makes more sense to leave debt help professionals to do that and take some pressure off the NHS, letting clinicians focus on helping people get better.

“This isn’t about big changes, it’s a case of ensuring that when someone goes for support for their mental health, they can walk down the corridor and get money advice too. Or if they’d prefer to get money advice online or via telephone, removing the stress of having to book appointments.

“That would make a huge difference in helping people to deal with mental health and debt issues, and to get on with their lives.

“And when you throw in the potential economic gains of helping more people with mental health problems back into work, these reforms are a no-brainer.”

A government spokesperson said: “Our network of employment advisers provide money guidance to clients with depression and anxiety already receiving treatment from NHS talking therapies services. We’re working with the Money and Pensions Service to integrate further signposted sources of financial advice.

“We’re investing £2.3bn of extra funding a year by March 2024 to expand and transform mental health services in England, to treat an additional two million patients.

“We’ve also helped nearly two million people out of absolute poverty since 2010, and provided a £94bn support package – worth around £3,300 per household – to help those most in need.”

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