Brian Semple, Head of External Affairs, Money and Mental Health

General Election 2019: Reforming Power of Attorney

11 December 2019

Most of us rely on family and friends for help with managing our finances from time to time. And when you’re struggling with your mental health, that support can be the difference between staying on top of your finances or falling into serious debt. Common symptoms of poor mental health such as reduced memory or increased impulsivity can make money management extremely difficult.

It’s not surprising then that people with mental health problems are twice as likely to want help from friends or family with paying bills and managing their budget, as our report ‘A little help from my friends’ shows. The problem is, however, that many people are struggling to get this help.

Putting people at risk

That’s because existing tools for sharing financial decisions aren’t working for people with mental health problems. That includes the Power of Attorney system, through which people can appoint someone to help them make decisions, or make decisions on their behalf. People in our Research Community tell us that Power of Attorney is too complex and expensive to use, and involves giving up too much autonomy and privacy.

As a result, many people with mental health problems are resorting to risky quick-fixes to get support from friends and family, which are leaving both them and their carers vulnerable to fraud or legal difficulties. Our research shows that one in five people with mental health problems in the UK are resorting to letting others use their credit or debit card on a weekly basis, and 15% regularly allow others to log in to their bank account. And this is a problem for carers too, with 60% of the carers we spoke to through our Research Community telling us that the way they support a loved one with money management puts them both at risk.

Putting people at risk

To tackle these problems, we need firms to give people more tools to share financial decision-making – including options such as ‘carers cards’ or third party notifications on spending and bank balances. 

But we also need the next government to take steps to make it easier and safer for people with mental health problems and their carers to share financial decision-making. That’s why our Money and Mental Health manifesto is calling on the next government to reform the Power of Attorney system, to give people and their carers a clearer variety of options for supported decision-making that do not involve giving away full financial autonomy. These changes should come as part of a broader strategy to improve support for carers. 

You can read more about the reforms we want to see in this blog. By fixing this broken system, the next government can make a huge difference in improving the lives of millions of people with mental health problems – and their carers – across the UK.