Charity calls for action as millions with mental health problems are ‘locked out’ of essential services

New research by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has found that millions of people with mental health problems are left unable to effectively use essential services due to difficulties with tasks like making telephone calls, opening the post or navigating complex online forms. The research found that:

  • Over half of people with mental health problems (54%) have serious difficulties using the phone to carry out essential admin (compared to 32% of people without mental health problems).
  • Four in ten people with mental health problems have severe ‘admin anxiety’, causing symptoms like breathlessness, sweating or shaking.
  • A significant number said dealing with essential services providers, like banks, energy companies or internet providers when they are unwell can lead to panic attacks and even suicidal feelings.
  • The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, founded by Martin Lewis, is developing the UK’s first set of accessibility standards for mental health.

And the research found that it’s not just people with mental health problems who stand to benefit. Many people who have never had a mental health problem also find call centres, complex application processes or raising complaints difficult:

  • Over three quarters (78%) of UK adults experience at least one sign of anxiety when carrying out essential admin.
  • 20.5m UK adults struggle to use the phone to contact essential service providers, finding it distressing or difficult.
  • A quarter of adults (23%) have such severe ‘admin anxiety’ that it is indicative of at least a mild phobia of this situation – this equates to more than 11.5m UK adults.

The new research, which was made possible by funding from DCMS, the Cabinet Office and support from Nesta, aims to highlight the need for essential services to cater for those who have mental health problems, in much the same way they do for customers with physical health issues.

Money and Mental Health is developing these new standards through the Government’s Inclusive Economy Partnership. The initiative aims to bring together government, big business and civil society to tackle tricky social problems. Essential services firms have faced increased pressure from the government to meet the needs of people with mental health problems, which was highlighted in the recent Consumer Green Paper.

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute is inviting firms to come forward and help with the development of the standards, as well as their implementation.


Martin Lewis, Founder and Chair of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute said: “There are twelve million people with mental health problems in the UK. Yet while essential services will, rightly, adjust the way they work for those customers with a physical or sensory condition – such as braille letters, ramps or speaking ATMS – there are few solutions offered for those with a mental health condition.

And this failing, especially for firms who provide vital services like water, electricity, banking or the internet, puts people at real risk of harm. For example, if someone has a clinical condition that means they can’t make calls, alternatives should be offered.

To be fair though, it hasn’t always been clear what firms can do to help. That’s why the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute is developing the UK’s first set of mental health accessibility standards – to help willing firms help their customers.”


Steve Crabb, Director of Consumer Vulnerability at British Gas, said: “I can’t overstate the importance of this work by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute. Millions of people in Britain experience mental health challenges each year, and we know from talking to British Gas customers that it can have a serious impact on their ability to communicate with us when they need our support. The better we understand the challenges our customers face, the better we will be able to understand their needs and develop innovative new ways to help them when they need it most. This report has really helped to move this understanding forward.”


John, who has personal experience of mental health problems, said: “My mental health problems can make it impossible to do things like call a bank or switch energy providers. It can take days to work up to making a phone call, and then I often find I can’t make myself understood, or I can’t remember what they tell me. After a difficult phone call it wipes me out for the rest of the day, I just have to go back to bed. Post is no better, when my mental health is bad I just get so anxious that I can’t bring myself to open the letters. I feel like these companies don’t have systems that work for me.”


Read the full report at 




Helen Undy, 07827917829, [email protected] for all media enquiries including interviews with spokespeople. CASE STUDIES AVAILABLE.


Notes to Editors

  • About the research:
    • Statistics around the prevalence of difficulties engaging with essential services providers and ‘admin anxiety’ are derived from a national survey of 2,000 UK adults over 18, weighted to be nationally representative, carried out by Populus on behalf of Money and Mental Health. Populus is a founding member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. See for more details.
    • Estimates of the number of people affected across the UK are calculated using this nationally representative data and the Office for National Statistics 2016 mid year estimates of the population of the UK.
    • ‘Admin anxiety’ is measured by adapting questionnaires developed by the American Psychiatric Association to assess the severity of social anxiety disorder and specific phobias. The screener contains ten questions, each scored on a scale between 0 (never) and 4 (all the time), and an average score greater than one indicates the potential presence of a specific phobia or anxiety.
    • For further information on this screener and scoring, or other methods used,  please contact Katie Evans, Head of Research and Policy, [email protected].



  • About the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute:
    • The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute was set up by Martin Lewis in spring 2016, registered charity number 1166493.
    • It conducts research and develops policies for banks, lenders, regulators, the health service and government to help people with mental health problems protect themselves from financial difficulties and get out of debt.
    • Martin Lewis OBE, Money Saving Expert, is an award-winning campaigning broadcaster, newspaper columnist and author. He founded in 2003 for £100 and remains its full-time Editor-in- Chief. It is now the UK’s biggest money site, with more than 14 million monthly users. Martin has his own prime-time ITV programme – The Martin Lewis Money Show – and is resident expert on This Morning, Good Morning Britain and BBC Radio 5 Live’s Consumer Panel, among others.