Alice Rose, Head of Programmes, Money and Mental Health
It’s time for more firms to become Mental Health Accessible
27 August 2020
Today, we’re delighted to announce that Lloyds Bank has become the first firm to reach the Essentials level in our Mental Health Accessible programme, which aims to make essential services easier to use for people with mental health problems.
We launched Mental Health Accessible last year after previously publishing research which shows that experiencing mental health problems can make it extremely challenging to use essential services (such as banks, energy or broadband suppliers and water companies). Things like picking up the telephone or opening the post can fill someone with such overwhelming anxiety, that they become impossible tasks. Mental Health Accessible aims to help essential services providers to better understand and address these challenges, and to improve the service they offer to customers affected by mental health problems.
Making real changes to help people with mental health problems
Lloyds Bank is the first bank to take part in the programme and to achieve the Mental Health Accessible accreditation, which was no easy task. The Mental Health Accessible programme is tough: we challenge companies to show a real commitment to customers with mental health problems and to make tangible improvements. This is exactly what Lloyds Bank did. Over the past year, we have carried out a comprehensive assessment of how accessible Lloyds Bank’s services are for customers with mental health problems, and where improvements could be made.
Lloyds Bank then spent eight months implementing key changes to improve their services to create a much better experience for people with mental health problems. That includes making its website easier to navigate, including improving content to support customers experiencing mental health problems. It also improved signposting to sources of support for customers with gambling or mental health problems, and introduced the option to save webchat conversations, to help those with reduced memory and concentration. And beyond achieving the Essentials level (the first of three levels) they are ready to continue on their path of improvement and go further for vulnerable customers.
Other essential services firms must take action
So today I am celebrating the first bank to be accredited in the Mental Health Accessible programme, but in the back of my mind I am deeply concerned that one bank reaching this standard simply isn’t enough. That’s especially true as we approach the ticking time bomb of safety-nets such as the furlough scheme being removed, and mass redundancies kicking in. The fact is, in a few months’ time there will be thousands of people struggling to pay their mortgages, or their gas bills or their phone bills.
This a stressful situation for anyone, but customers struggling with their mental health may find contacting their essential service providers a particularly upsetting and anxious experience. For some, it will be so distressing they simply won’t be able to reach out for help, their debt will build, and they will fall further into financial difficulty while they find themselves without a comfortable way of communicating with their provider.
Essential service providers can’t fix the pandemic, and they can’t fix people’s mental health problems, but they can do more to minimise distress and financial difficulty. They must consider the growing number of vulnerable customers and ask themselves if their services are good enough. For example, do they have a variety of different ways that people can access their services and are they offering effective spending controls for those who need them?
If you work for a bank, energy supplier, water company or broadband provider, get in touch with us today to find out how you can join the Mental Health Accessible programme.It could make a huge difference to the one in four of your customers who are experiencing a mental health problem.