Imaan Wright, External Affairs Intern, Money and Mental Health

Event recap: launching Always on your mind

28 March 2024

  • To launch our latest report, Always on your mind, we held a panel discussion to explore how the next government can break the link between long-term money and mental health problems. 
  • Our panellists shone light on the barriers towards effective money and mental health support, which include siloed government working, ineffective signposting and a punitive benefits system. 
  • However, there are also many positive examples of joined-up working across government departments and organisations. These should be used as a blueprint for further collaborative work.

Last week we published our latest report, Always on your mind, which explores the long-term impact of money and mental health problems. 

To launch this research, we hosted a panel discussion in Westminster, bringing together speakers and attendees across government, health services, money advice and essential services, to explore how the next government can break the toxic link between long-term money and mental health problems. 

Kicking off

The event began with a welcome from our Interim Chief Executive, Conor D’Arcy, followed by introductory remarks from Katie Pawson on behalf of Barclays, which sponsored the report. She highlighted how Barclays were using the report’s findings to inform a new approach to customer interaction, encouraging customers to disclose, identifying vulnerable customers and understanding triggers to better support them through financial difficulty. Drawing on the research, she highlighted the need for a joined-up approach across organisations to improve support and outcomes for those of us struggling with our mental health. 

We then heard from Chris Lees, our Senior Research Officer and co-author of Always on your mind, who presented the research. The research found that between 2019 and 2022, those of us who experienced an extended struggle with either our mental or financial health had an increased likelihood of one of these factors adversely impacting the other. Nearly 800,000 people aged 25-54 in the UK experienced persistent money and mental health problems during that time, with a further 3.4 million at risk of falling victim to this cycle without urgent intervention. 

Grounded in experience

We were privileged to hear from Rob Smale, a business consultant and member of our Research Community. Rob compellingly detailed his own journey of navigating poor mental health and significant financial challenges on a long-term basis, and the difficulties this has presented for him at different stages of his life.

Rob called for a whole-government approach and better systems to help people experiencing money and mental health problems. This included data sharing between organisations, so that people experiencing vulnerabilities only have to disclose once, and routine questions within mental health services about finances.

Joining up support

What followed was an insightful panel discussion on what can be done to prevent and break the long-term cycle posed by money and mental health problems. The discussion was chaired by Conor D’Arcy and we were delighted to be joined by Andy Bell, Chief Executive of the Centre for Mental Health, Luciana Berger, Chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, Clare Moriarty, CEO of Citizens Advice, Becca Stacey, one of our Senior Research Officers and a co-author of the research report, and our expert by experience speaker Rob Smale.  

Among the panellists, there was a general consensus that supporting people to find good quality work is key to improving their financial wellbeing. But the panel highlighted the barriers posed by a punitive benefits system which does not support people to move from a period of unemployment due to ill health into employment which suits their circumstances and skills. 

Despite these challenges, examples of positive initiatives were shared. Andy Bell cited the success of the Individual Placement and Support programme, an employment support service integrated within community mental health teams, and called for it to be extended. Luciana Berger also pointed out some historical precedents for effective cross-government working to tackle complex issues at both the national and local level, such as SureStart. Positive contemporary initiatives in local government, such as the integration of mental health services within local housing teams, or having dedicated mental health champions who scrutinise policies solely for their impact on mental health were also mentioned. These were pointed to as cost-effective but impactful ways to provide holistic support to those of us with mental health challenges.

Going beyond signposting

Clare Moriarty made the salient point that whilst signposting between services can be effective, it is ineffective to signpost to organisations which lack capacity. Therefore, it is vital to understand where expertise and capacity lies in the system. 

This point was echoed by Becca Stacey, who explained that for many people with mental health problems, signposting isn’t enough – and many people experience significant barriers to making the most of services to which they’re signposted. This is a key theme in the report and one which Becca has expanded upon in her recent blog.

So what needs to change?

Central to the discussion was the need for provision of support services to move beyond crisis care, and to have a much stronger preventative focus to help people avoid reaching crisis point. Rather than focusing on reactive measures, there was a call to focus on strategies that can keep people well. 

Rob Smale emphasised the ability to disclose as key. He suggested asking all customers whether they have a vulnerability that their service provider should be aware of as best practice. The importance of early years intervention and the impact of childhood poverty on our mental and financial health was also acknowledged as a key area to focus preventative support.

Continuing the conversation

While there are challenges when thinking about breaking the link between long-term money and mental health problems, there are solutions on the table. We’re seeing beginnings of those solutions already across organisations – in the health service, money advice, local government, financial services – recognising the link between money and mental health and going the extra mile to join up their services. 

We want to thank all our attendees, panellists and contributors for helping to make this event a success and we look forward to seeing how these conversations develop to help break and prevent the cycle between long-term money and mental health problems.