Leia Ben Naceur, Research Community Officer, Money and Mental Health

Third-party access and managing money: what do carers and people with mental health problems want to see?

25 October 2023

  • Some people with mental health problems often rely on support from a friend or family member to help manage their finances
  • Financial services have developed tools to enable a third party to access and help manage finances, such as helping people set budgets and setting restrictions on spending
  • People with mental health problems and people who care for them can find these third-party access tools useful, but to truly understand what people wanted, we asked our Research Community
  • It’s vital third-party access tools balance control and flexibility, and centre lived experience in their development and design

Two years into rising living costs, budgeting is becoming an increasingly difficult task for many people. But for people with mental health problems, these challenges can be much harder. Juggling tight budgets while experiencing the cognitive and psychological effects of mental health problems – such as reduced memory, concentration and difficulties with clarity of thought – can make managing money extremely challenging.  

To help prevent and mitigate financial harm during periods of poor mental health, people often rely on support from someone else to manage their money. Financial services are well aware of these challenges and try to support people by having systems in place that facilitate third-party access – which means account holders can delegate authority to a third party, such as a friend or family member, to help them manage their account. 

But we’ve often heard how these systems can feel too formal or restrictive and therefore are ill-suited to the needs of people with mental health problems. 

The help people need

To understand what banking tools and products would be useful for people who’d like third-party support, we asked members of our Research Community for their thoughts. People told us how they wanted a loved one to be able to talk to a firm on their behalf. Others wanted options that allow firms to share bills and statements with their nominated third party, and others still wanted loved ones to be able to approve spending for large sums of money to prevent them from excessive spending during a period of acute ill health. But often the way firms implement these tools can make them blunt instruments that give third parties complete access and authority, stripping people of autonomy and independence.

“The main thing I would find useful in terms of helping me manage my finances is if it was made easier for me to nominate a trusted person to speak to company’s/banks etc if I have an issue that needs sorting out. I find it almost impossible to speak on the phone myself and this is often my only option. It’s made it quite difficult to nominate someone and ensure this info is recorded correctly.” Expert by experience

Firms have begun to design tools to specifically enable a third party to help with financial management – but what they do can differ from provider to provider. The most common functions include notifications sent to the third party about payments the account holder has made, or giving the third party the ability to block payments to certain places. We asked our Research Community about the different options available and members generally found them very useful. However, a number of people expressed some concern about the amount of control a third party is given.

Although they could be enormously useful, I fear I would not be happy allowing another person to control my card!” Expert by experience

For some people, experiencing a mental health problem can be accompanied by the feeling of losing control – so it’s understandable that people can feel conflicted about any restrictions in this area. When someone is struggling with their mental health and feeling a lack of control, having an expense blocked could compound these feelings.

The combination of control and flexibility

For third-party tools to be successful, and really meet the needs of both the person being cared for and their carer, they must balance flexibility and control. This might look like an app-based tool for carers, which enables them to view and manage parts of a person’s account, or tools that allow an account holder to grant and withhold granular access permissions to their account. Crucially, anyone developing third-party tools must consider how they will be used and experienced by the people they’re designed for, rather than simply what they’re able to do.

In a world brimming with innovative technology, there are endless possibilities. By listening to the feedback of potential customers, like our Research Community, we hope that financial technology and essential services firms will develop more inclusive tools to support people with mental health problems and those caring for them. Putting lived experience at the heart of their development and design is the best way to ensure services really work.