Many people with mental health issues ‘will be harder hit by economic shock’
People who have experienced mental health problems are three times as likely to run out of money within a week if they lost their main source of income as those who have never had issues, research suggests.
The research, from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, also found those who have experienced mental health problems have a typical household income which is £5,700 lower than the rest of the population.
The institute, which was set up by consumer champion Martin Lewis, commissioned a survey in May of more than 2,000 people, of which around a third (32%) said they had experienced mental health problems.
It found the average household income before tax for people with experience of mental health problems is £30,000, compared with £35,700 for those who have never experienced mental health problems.
The research found that people with experience of mental health problems would be three times as likely to run out of money within a week if they lost their main source of income.
Around one in seven (13%) people with experience of mental health problems could not make ends meet for even one week in that scenario, compared with one in 25 (4%) of people who have never experienced a mental health problem.
Various temporary Government schemes are in place to support households who have suffered income shocks due to the impact of coronavirus.
Money and Mental Health found that the pandemic has already affected the finances of many people with experience of mental health problems – with nearly two-fifths (38%) having seen a fall in income since the outbreak started.
Nearly a third (31%) say they have cut back on essentials such as food and heating to make ends meet during the crisis.
The charity said it wants to see the Government increase the scale and timeliness of financial support for people facing financial difficulty during the pandemic.
Katie Alpin, interim chief executive of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said: “The coronavirus crisis has exposed the serious financial disadvantages that some sectors of society face, and that’s particularly true for those affected by mental health problems.
“Many people in this group were in a more precarious financial situation before the current crisis began, and will be hit harder by the economic shocks resulting from it.
“The Government needs to go further to reduce the risk of hardship for those with mental health problems.
“That means making sure that people don’t end up further in debt while they’re waiting for support from the benefits system, and that workers with mental health problems don’t lose out when the furlough scheme is wound down.”
The charity is also launching the Mental Health and Income Commission, to explore how people’s mental health affects the income they receive through work, benefits or other sources.
The commission will publish reports throughout 2020.
Money and Mental Health said the commission will look at “what a fairer labour market and welfare system would look like for people with mental health problems”.
A Government spokesman said: “Our wide-ranging support package is one of the most comprehensive in the world – with generous income support schemes, billions paid in loans and grants, tax deferrals and more than £6.5 billion injected into the welfare safety net.
“We’re committed to supporting the most vulnerable in society throughout the outbreak and beyond – recently announcing an extra £4.2 million in funding for charities working to support mental health and wellbeing.
“We’ve also launched the £200 million Coronavirus Community Support Fund to help maintain and enhance services for vulnerable people affected by the current crisis and are providing practical advice for people to help manage their mental health.
“We’ve also taken action to support low-paid families such as raising the living wage and uplifting benefits by inflation.”