Help to save
Government consultation on “Help to Save” scheme
Last week we submitted evidence to the Government on its plans for a “Help to Save” scheme, to support people on low incomes to build up savings for a ‘rainy day’. We saw this as a good opportunity to make sure that the voices of people with mental health problems are heard and that this new financial product is as useful as it can be for all of us.
The Government’s plan is to develop “Help to Save” bank accounts and to pay account holders a bonus of 50% on savings they put in, up to a total of £25 bonus per month. While the exact details are still being developed, you can find out a bit more here. Our response to the consultation focused on making sure that the scheme is accessible for people with mental health problems, so that nobody has to miss out because of their mental health, and that the model doesn’t disadvantage people whose mental health affects their financial management.
What did you think?
Much of the evidence we drew upon in our response came from a survey about savings behaviour that we sent to our research panel.
The findings were clear: most of the people who responded save nothing, or only a small proportion of their income, but almost everybody wanted to save more.
So what could be done to help?
People told us that savings accounts are often confusing, that they would prefer an account that is simple and clear, that offered guidance with account management and provided tools, so that they could track their savings.
“[I want] Simple information, tailored to my need.”
People also asked for an account that could protect their savings from themselves when they aren’t well. They wanted to be allowed to take out money from time to time, but prevented from making frequent withdrawals and impulsively eating away at their savings.
“[I’d like] a savings account that you can’t keep taking your money out of regularly and…limits on withdrawal so that I can save money rather than just taking out the money as and when I feel like it.”
What did we say?
Our main message was that lots of people with mental health problems would like to save more, and that they would like clearer, more supportive financial systems to help with this.
We also made a number of technical suggestions about the design of the Help to Save scheme. Mental health problems can often influence what kind of access people need from a bank account; some people struggle with telephone or face-to-face contact, so prefer to use online banking, whilst others are only comfortable dealing with a local branch. So, we recommended that Help to Save accounts have a full range of access options, and that people are able to choose how their bank contacts them. For example, someone could choose not to be contacted by letter, if this is something that they find particularly stressful.
“I need to see a person. I can’t cope with all this online banking stuff.”
“I find that I am able to use online facilities, but not the phone”
Here are some of our key recommendations:
Information about Help to Save accounts should be presented in a clear and straightforward way, so that people can understand how the accounts work.
Additional support should be offered, to help users through the application process and with their account management.
Help to Save accounts must have a full range of access options, including both online and in-branch support.
Help to Save customers should be able to choose how they are contacted, and this choice should be followed wherever possible.
Help to Save customers should be able to put withdrawal limits in place, so that they can’t impulsively spend all of their savings when unwell.
The Government will take some time to look at our evidence, as well as evidence from other organisations, before reporting back with its plans. We hope that our recommendations will be taken on board, and that the plans will be inclusive, so that people with mental health problems are not left out
The aim is for Help to Save accounts to be available by no later than April 2016, but this may be subject to change. We will keep you updated and will let you know how the Government responds to our evidence.
Finally, I’d like to personally thank everybody who took the time to respond to our survey, more than 200 people got back to us in just a few days. Our research panel is a key part of our policy work, so If you’re not part of it and you either have personal experience of mental health problems, or care for someone who does, please do get involved.