Merlyn Holkar, Senior Research Officer, Money and Mental Health

Time to Act: The Equality Act, essential services and people with mental health problems

This report examines the legal duties that essential services firms — such as banks, energy companies and water providers — have towards customers with mental health problems, under the Equality Act.

It reveals many essential services providers are likely to be failing to meet legal duties set out in the Equality Act 2010, which requires them to anticipate and address the needs of customers with mental health problems.

Our findings show that: 

  • Only three in ten (29%) people with mental health problems say that essential service providers usually anticipate and meet their needs, as required under the Equality Act
  • Less than a third of people (32%) with mental health problems say they have been asked by most of their essential services providers if they have any needs that would affect their ability to use services. 
  • Around one in three people with mental health problems said they were not offered any reasonable adjustments even after telling an essential services firm that they had a mental health condition, as required for those protected under the Equality Act

Key recommendations:

Essential service providers should:

  • Offer at least a basic set of adjustments to address the most common challenges that customers with mental health problems face
  • Improve their processes for encouraging and managing customer disclosures of mental health problems.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission should:

  • Make essential service provider compliance with the Equality Act a priority
  • Build a simple reporting tool for people to log suspected breaches of the Equality Act.

Sector regulators should:

  • Work in partnership with the EHRC to improve Equality Act oversight in their sector
  • Systematically remind regulated providers about their legal duties under the Equality Act
  • Collect data on the experiences and outcomes of protected groups in their markets, to inform a data-led approach to improve equality of opportunity

The government should:

  • Increase funding for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, so that it is better able to meet its responsibilities and ensure compliance with the Equality Act.

Read the full report here.

This report was supported by Impact on Urban Health. It represents the research and views solely of the authors and of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute and does not represent the views or experiences of Impact on Urban Health.