Guest authors: Sam Thomas, Policy Manager at Making Every Adult Matter and Ruth Wallbank, Systems Broker at Voices of Stoke

Making every adult matter


Support with finances is vital for those with the most complex needs
There is a close relationship between financial problems and mental ill health, and this is particularly true for people whose mental health problems are linked with other difficulties, which might include homelessness, substance misuse or contact with the Criminal Justice System.

The Making Every Adult Matter coalition brings together three national charities – Clinks, Homeless Link and Mind – in recognition that people with these multiple problems often fail to get the support they need from mainstream services, particularly when it comes to their mental health. In our work with local areas across the country, we’ve seen that financial problems form a significant part of this challenge.

Many people with multiple needs receive benefits, but the welfare system can be difficult to navigate, and people often don’t claim support they’re entitled to. What’s more, practitioners report that people who are sleeping rough or staying in hostels are particularly vulnerable to financial exploitation, or pressures from peer groups to give money for drugs or alcohol.


Providing support with finances and debt where it’s most effective
Voices, a voluntary sector partnership in Stoke-on-Trent which is part of the Big Lottery Fund’s Fulling Lives programme, has taken a bold and successful approach to supporting its customers who are experiencing financial difficulties. For the last two years, specialist advisers from the local Citizens Advice Bureau have worked directly with the service, providing hands-on advice on benefit claims and related financial issues.

For instance, John believed he would be entitled to some benefits to help him pay his utility bills but his social anxiety meant he was intimidated by the idea of visiting his local Citizens Advice Bureau and Job Centre, or even making a phone call to them. Through the scheme, John was able to meet with a specialist through his service coordinator – someone who he already had a trusting relationship with – in an environment where he felt comfortable: his own home.

John is now receiving his full benefit entitlement and has been able to use some of the money to begin working on his garden, a hobby that reduces his anxiety and has helped him to get out of the house. He has also built a relationship with the adviser, and his confidence has increased such that he will contact her directly if he is unsure or worried about financial issues.

Kelly has also benefited from the scheme. She was not claiming benefits and had no contact with any support services; she had become depressed, isolated and was overwhelmed by mounting piles of bills and demand letters. Kelly had stopped opening her post, and was increasingly concerned that she would be evicted and return to homelessness.

VOICES were able to offer an intervention from a specialist benefits adviser immediately, and Kelly was able to reinstate her housing benefit and gain access to a fund which meant her arrears were cleared. Since having this fresh start she has engaged with the support services she needed and is maintaining her tenancy with the help of her service coordinator.


Helping people move towards independence
Bruno Ornelas, Service Manager at VOICES, explains the big difference the partnership has seen: “Having the Citizens Advice Bureau on site has been an absolute blessing and enabled us to support customers a bit better. They’re engaging better not just with us but with other services – they can afford things, pay their bills and not be completely out of pocket. They can do things they’re interested in.”

John and Kelly’s experiences show why it’s so vital to support people in managing their finances effectively: not only does it address a significant source of stress and worry, but it also provides a solid base from which people can achieve their wider goals and aspirations. Support with finances should be a key part of the appropriate, flexible and personalised support that MEAM champions for everyone with multiple needs to help them move towards independence.

We look forward to supporting the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute as it continues to campaign on these important issues, and hope to encourage more areas to consider how they can support people to manage their finances effectively.

Some names have been changed.