Alice Rose, Head of Programmes, Money and Mental Health

What’s next for Mental Health Accessible in 2021?

25 February 2021

It’s been a year since I started leading the Mental Health Accessible programme and it’s not been the year I expected – plans changed, things got cancelled and priorities shifted. But, 12 months on, I’m feeling proud of what we’ve achieved despite the circumstances, including our very first Mental Health Accessible accredited company, Lloyds Bank, and launching a new suite of consultancy products to extend how we work with firms. But what I’m really excited about is what’s to come in 2021.  

Working with new partners

It’s been great to see companies continue to prioritise their vulnerable customers and commit to making improvements for them in 2021. We’re excited to be working with three new companies in the first half of the year: Monzo, Halifax and Bank of Scotland. And, with the FCA’s guidance on vulnerable customers published this week, we are looking forward to partnering with even more banks and credit providers to help them work towards this.

Getting it right for all

The pandemic has reinforced the idea that anyone could need additional support and have different accessibility requirements at some point, especially with regards to mental health and financial difficulties. I’m pleased to see a shift in view from many companies who are starting to see vulnerability as something people move in and out of over time.

Companies are also stepping away from prescriptive approaches for specific issues and instead looking at what they can do to get it right for all, looking at what the common harms are for customers rather than their specific vulnerabilities. This is hugely relevant to our approach with Mental Health Accessible, as we know many customers either won’t disclose a mental health problem, or might not know they have one. So, we work with companies to help them make improvements we know will make their services more accessible for all their customers, not just those who disclose or engage with a vulnerable customers team.

Inclusive design

Already this year we’ve seen fantastic new guidance from the Money Advice Trust and Fair by Design focusing on the importance of lived experience when creating new products and services – something we hope essential service providers take on board. This is also a big part of our Mental Health Accessible programme. We work with our Research Community of 5,000 people (as of April 2021) with mental health problems to provide feedback to firms directly on their services. This provides companies looking to improve their accessibility with real insight into how people with mental health problems interact with their services. User engagement is a huge part of our Mental Health Accessible programme and the work we do on research and campaigns.

Energy and telecoms

Finally, I’m excited to see more involvement from the energy and telecoms sectors this year. With firms starting to see more and more customers struggling to pay their bills, and both Ofcom and Ofgem continuing to put the fair treatment of customers at the heart of their work, now is the perfect time for these firms to start to invest more into their vulnerable customer strategies.