Iris Kapelouzou, Manager, Financial Inclusion & Capability, UK Finance
It is Mental Health Awareness week in the UK and there is no better opportunity to reflect on the inter-relationship of mental health and financial services as an industry.
We have come a long way towards recognising the reality of things for people with mental health issues and how these might affect their friends, family, but also society at large – including their interactions with money and financial services.
We are only starting to realise, however, that mental health, mental capacity and other decision-making limitations – or indeed behavioural variations – are an integrated component of a firm’s workforce and customer base.
Thanks to the research and work of expert organisations – Alzheimer’s Society, Money and Mental Health Institute, MALG, Mind, Mencap, Money Advice Trust, and many more – it has become possible for people to not only speak openly about mental health issues, but also the capability challenges of dealing with money which can tag alongside these.
The financial services industry has also been proactive in finding ways to support colleagues and customers in vulnerable circumstances, continuing to improve on the good work that has already been done around lending, debt collection and mental health. For example, helping to identify vulnerability in debt collection practices (Vulnerability: a guide to debt collection – 21 questions, 21 steps), and also extending the support offered to a range of customers beyond just those suffering with debt. The industry has worked to implement the Financial Services Vulnerability Taskforce principles, which include making it easier for friends and family to support and to also reach industry alignment in a number of areas.
UK Finance has been working with members, alongside consumer groups and other experts, to design a framework for supporting third party delegation for banking and savings products – this includes a minimum standard for a third-party mandate, and the circumstances in which it could be applied. This framework could support friends and family when there is a need to assist or reach out to the financial service provider for help during emergencies such as hospitalisation or other short-term situations of need – all those unplanned circumstances which might require the assistance of a trusted party to help in paying the bills.
A toolkit for financial services staff that builds understanding and brings to life approaches that can be used to aid consistency in the treatment of customers with mental health, mental capacity or other decision-making limitations is also under way. We continue to embrace wider proposals which would help to further support those with mental health conditions, such as allowing customers in receipt of mental health crisis care to be given a “recovery period” over which they would not be subject to debt collection.
Whilst Mental Health Awareness Week is always an excellent opportunity to make more people aware of existing propositions and toolkits within our industry – and also the public at large – it is not the end of the conversation. Here at UK Finance we will continue to work towards facilitating better mental health for all, alongside our members, experts and consumer groups, each and every week.