Charity’s new accessibility standards help consumers with mental health issues

Lloyds Bank will be the first firm to be tested against a charity’s new standards to help essential service providers give better support to customers with mental health issues.

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, founded by consumer champion Martin Lewis, has launched the mental health accessibility standards.

They aim to help firms understand and address the challenges people with mental health issues face when dealing with them.

Lloyds Bank will help pilot the new standards, which will see the charity evaluate how accessible Lloyds Bank’s services are for customers with mental health problems, and make recommendations on how they can be made easier to use.

After the pilot is completed, Money and Mental Health hopes to extend the standards to firms across financial services, telecoms, energy and water providers.

The charity’s previous research suggests that four in 10 people with mental health problems have severe “admin anxiety” – leaving them unable to effectively use essential service providers.

It also released a new survey showing people who have had a mental health problem in the last two years are more than three times as likely to have cried while dealing with an essential services provider, than those who have not had one.

Nearly one in five (18%) said they have cried while dealing with an essential services provider, compared with 5% who have not had a mental health problem either recently or at all during their lives.

Martin Lewis
Consumer champion Martin Lewis is founder and chair of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (Steve Parsons/PA)

Money and Mental Health will be testing firms on three key areas.

These are: how well they train staff to support customers with mental health problems; whether they offer a wide range of communication channels; and what tools and support they offer to help people stay on top of their situation when they are unwell.

It said too often people are met with a lack of sympathy and understanding from firms, and staff also need to know how and where they can refer people with mental health problems for further support.

This could include further help from organisations such as the Samaritans, gambling self-exclusion tools and resources to help people budget.

The Institute also wants firms to clarify the way they communicate.

Common symptoms of mental health problems, such as reduced concentration and memory, can make it harder for people to read complex forms or statements and understand what they need to do.

The charity wants firms to do more to help people engage with their accounts on an ongoing basis by offering to send them messages or transcripts of their previous interactions, and reminders on how to help them follow through with any key action points.

Martin Lewis, chair of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said: “Dealing with essential services can at times be frustrating and difficult for all of us.

“Yet for some of the 12 million people in the UK with mental health problems, fear or difficulties navigating through the bureaucracy can lead to them being locked out, unable to use or pay for electricity, water, banking, the internet and more.

“Many firms already rightly make adjustments for people with physical or sensory conditions, yet until now they haven’t done the same for customers with mental health problems – leaving a significant number of people at financial disadvantage or at its worst a psychological risk.”

He said while the new standards should make a huge difference in ensuring essential services are more accessible to people struggling with their mental health, “it’s very likely to have knock-on effects for all customers – simplifying systems, and ensuring people can contact firms in the way that best suits them”.

Fiona Cannon, Lloyds Banking Group’s responsible business, sustainability and inclusion director, said: “We believe that with the right support we can help our customers and colleagues with mental health conditions to thrive.

“We are delighted to be the first company in the UK to have our services tested against these standards.

“We want to make a real difference to people’s lives and well-being and make our services accessible to all.”

Mims Davies, Minister for Sport and Civil Society, said: “Whether you have a problem with your physical health or your mental health, being able to access the key services which are essential to daily life is so important.

“I hope these important new standards will make a real difference and will eventually be rolled out to many more firms so the process can be made as stress free as possible.”

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