Mental health services unprepared
for looming personal debt crisis


basicNew research from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has revealed that the mental health system is ill-prepared for growing levels of personal debt driving ever-increasing demand for services. Freedom of Information Requests have uncovered that only 4% of local mental health commissioners in England (Clinical Commissioning Groups, or CCGs) are taking a systematic approach to tackling financial difficulty, from assessing need to providing and evaluating a service. No Welsh Local Hospital Boards were found to be systematically addressing the link, while 10% of Scottish NHS Trusts and 33% of Northern Irish Health and Social Care Trusts did so.

There are over three million adults in the UK with both mental health problems and financial difficulties, and this number is growing as the economy slows. People in problem debt are twice as likely to develop major depression, and research shows it dramatically reduces their chances of a swift recovery. Growing levels of personal debt present a looming crisis for mental health services, increasing demand and reducing recovery rates, yet services themselves are failing to act.

The new investigation by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute found that, even in areas where services are provided, people with mental health problems and in debt crisis are not being identified, leaving thousands going without support. Only 17% of local commissioners in England (CCGs) require their mental health service providers to routinely ask service users if they are struggling with their finances. Research shows that those who aren’t asked are unlikely to volunteer the information, leaving many suffering in silence, worsening both their mental health and their financial situation. The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute is calling for joined-up action across the system to tackle this growing issue.


Commenting, Polly Mackenzie, Director of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute said:


“Pressure on wages, unemployment and rising levels of personal debt should be ringing alarm bells for health policy makers, commissioners and service providers everywhere. Yet the mental health system is failing to respond, leaving thousands struggling without the right support. We want to see mental health system leaders taking this seriously, asking people if they need help, providing support for those who do, and collecting the right data to know if it’s working. Mental health services are already buckling under the pressure of increased demand: failing to tackle the looming crisis of growing personal debt risks them being completely overwhelmed.”


Read the full report here


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  • Notes to Editors
  • The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute was set up by Martin Lewis in spring 2016, registered charity number 1166493.
  • It will conduct research and develop 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.
  • Polly Mackenzie is the Director of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute. She was previously Director of Policy for the Deputy Prime Minister, working in Number 10 and the Cabinet Office, from 2010-2015.
  • Money and Mental Health sent Freedom of Information (FoI) requests on 29 and 30 September to all Clinical Commissioning Groups in England, 63 NHS Trusts in England, Public Health teams in England, Local Hospital Boards in Wales, NHS Trusts in Scotland and Health and Social Care Trusts and the Health and Social Care Board in Northern Ireland.
  • Responses were received by the deadline from 97% of CCGs, 87% of NHS Trusts, 67% of Public Health teams, 100% of Welsh Local Hospital Boards, 71% of Scottish NHS Trusts and the Northern Irish Health and Social Care Board and 80% of Northern Irish Health and Social Care Trusts.
  • For a full methodology see
  • The figures about disclosure of financial difficulty to mental health professionals are drawn from a large-scale survey of 5,413 people with lived experience of mental health problems carried out by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute in March 2016.