Kate Langston, External Affairs Officer, Money and Mental Health

General election 2019: Making money advice available as part of NHS care

20 November 2019

With all the major parties promising extra funding for health services if they are victorious on 12 December, the NHS is set to become a key battleground in this election. This should come as little surprise, given the central role the health system plays in so many aspects of our lives – whether that’s the reassurance we get from a one-off visit to our local GP, the life-saving support we receive in an emergency, or the long term care we need to help us manage a chronic condition

It’s for similar reasons that the NHS is also a key focus for our own 2019 manifesto. While not everyone experiencing mental health problems will access NHS support, there are many who will. And given the strong link between poor mental health and financial difficulty, we believe these points of contact present a valuable opportunity to ensure people who are struggling with their mental health also receive the help and advice they need with their finances. We’re calling on the next government to make the most of these opportunities, and commit to making money advice more widely available alongside NHS support for mental health. Read on to find out more:

Integrate debt advice into mental health services

People experiencing mental health problems are three and a half times as likely to be in problem debt. The additional stress and worry that this can create can have a serious impact on someone’s prospects of recovery, with people experiencing both depression and problem debt over four times more likely to still have depression 18 months later, compared to people without financial difficulty.

However, our research suggests that offering people support with their finances alongside treatment for their mental health could significantly improve recovery rates. Our report on the benefits of offering debt advice through the Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme, found that giving people access to this kind of support could more than double the likelihood of recovery for people with depression and financial difficulty (from 22% to 48%), and would increase recovery rates for those with anxiety and financial difficulty from 38% to 50%.

We’re calling on the next government to make integrated debt advice available across NHS mental health services. This could not only transform the lives of those struggling with their mental health and debt, but also allow health professionals to focus on providing clinical support.

Task health professionals with offering preventative support

But we also know that offering advice to people who are already debt only addresses part of the problem. In an ideal world, we would want to ensure the right support and information is in place to help people with mental health problems avoid getting into financial difficulty in the first place. Our newest report, due out next month, suggests primary healthcare professionals could play a crucial role in this, by giving people who come to them about a mental health problem advice about how this could impact their finances and where they can go for further support. This would not only help people who are struggling with their mental health take steps to protect themselves from financial harm, but would also help to ease pressure across NHS services.