Money and Mental Health’s Mental Health Accessible programme supports essential services providers – such as banks, energy or broadband suppliers and water companies – to better understand and address the challenges that customers with mental health problems face using their services.
Money and Mental Health created the programme after publishing research which shows that more than half of people with mental health problems face serious difficulties using the phone to carry out essential admin, and four in ten have severe ‘admin anxiety’ — leaving them unable to effectively use essential services.
These problems also have a huge psychological toll — with more than one in five (22%) people with a recent mental health problem saying that they have had a panic attack as a result of dealing with an essential services provider.
Today, Money and Mental Health has announced that Halifax and Bank of Scotland have become only the second firms to receive the Mental Health Accessible accreditation, after Lloyds Bank received the first accreditation in 2020.
Halifax and Bank of Scotland received the accreditation following an in-depth evaluation by Money and Mental Health of how accessible their services are for customers with mental health problems.
Based on recommendations from Money and Mental Health, both banks have taken significant steps to ensure their services are more accessible and supportive for vulnerable customers. These include:
- Supporting customers to know what to expect when they contact the bank with money worries, by including more online information and guidance.
- Offering colleagues a specialist tool, so they can signpost customers to external organisations who can help them with financial and mental health problems.
- Making their communications to customers with debt problems more empathetic.
- Giving customers a range of ways to manage their accounts such as telephone, webchat, email and letter, to provide greater choice and flexibility. This will particularly help customers who struggle to use some communications channels.
- Offering customers a “Trusted Person Cards”, through which they can allow a third party to withdraw cash and make purchases on their behalf in a secure way.
In recognition of these steps, Money and Mental Health has awarded Halifax and Bank of Scotland an “Essentials” rating, the first of three progressively more demanding levels which firms can achieve when taking part in the Mental Health Accessible programme.
It has also given Halifax and Bank of Scotland an action plan to help them make further improvements — for example, making it easier for colleagues to support customers with mental health conditions by providing them with additional tools and information.
Money and Mental Health has also renewed Lloyds Bank’s “Essentials” accreditation (awarded in 2020) for another year, to reflect the bank’s continued commitment to improving the accessibility of its services.
Now Money and Mental Health is calling on more essential services providers to join the Mental Health Accessible programme, and to take steps to make their services easier to use for customers with poor mental health.
Helen Undy, Chief Executive of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said:
“Dealing with essential services providers can be difficult for anyone. But for the 12 million people across the UK experiencing mental health problems, it can feel like an impossible task. This leaves people effectively locked out of services which are critical for everyday life, and can create serious distress for people who are already struggling.
“We’re delighted that Halifax and Bank of Scotland have recognised the barriers that people can sometimes face, and taken serious steps to address them through the Mental Health Accessible programme. It’s a big achievement to receive the “Essentials” level of our accreditation — but now we want to work with both banks to make further improvements that will ease the strain for vulnerable customers using their services.
“We're also urging other businesses to work with us to ensure their services are as accessible as possible. With more people facing financial worries as the furlough scheme ends, and rates of depression having increased during the pandemic, it’s more important than ever that everyone can access the services that we all rely on.”
Fiona Cannon, Group Sustainable Business Director for Lloyds Banking Group, said:
“As we continue to play our part in helping Britain recover it is important that we continue our work to be a more inclusive organisation. The Mental Health Accessible accreditation demonstrates our continued commitment to raising mental health awareness and has enabled us to drive improvements that better support all our customers.”