Martin Lewis: This is why I set up a charity…
Last week I got an email with the board papers for the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) charity trustees board meeting (which I chair). I set up the charity in 2016, and have funded it since, with its aim to come up with policies and ideas to break the marriage made in hell between mental health problems, money and debt.
Within the board papers was our great chief executive Helen Undy's report for the year. She leads the 11-strong team of analysts, researchers and passionate advocates who work for the charity. As I read it, I started to smile, and thought "that's why I did it". Setting up a new charity is always a gamble, you hope the idea works. Now I know this one has.
So with her permission, I wanted to share some key bits of her report with you...
Despite many of our key stakeholders focusing on the Covid-19 response, the team has still managed to achieve significant impact. Notable highlights include:
- A win for our Stop the Debt Threats campaign, with the Government agreeing to change the 'prescribed content' of the most intimidating debt letters. This followed high-profile media campaigning on the issue, alongside concerted influencing engagement with the Treasury, Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), and other key stakeholders behind the scenes.
- The Financial Conduct Authority also reviewed the factsheets that are sent alongside some of these letters.
- The regulations were laid out in Parliament to make the new Breathing Space scheme a reality from May 2021, including our hard-won extension to people in mental health crisis. [ML – this means all 23,000 people in NHS crisis care automatically get breathing space from their debts, so we see an end to horrid tales like people returning home after being hospitalised for anxiety only to be greeted by bailiffs at their door.]
- Lloyds Bank became the first firm to achieve an 'Essentials' rating as part of our Mental Health Accessible programme. We have provided Lloyds with an action plan so that they can take further steps to make their services more accessible. [ML – 'Mental Health Accessible' is where MMHPI audits essential service providers for how well those with mental health can engage with their functions, then suggests change.]
- Ofcom's new guidance on the treatment of vulnerable consumers included many of our recommendations and cited our research.
- Lloyds Banking Group introduced new 'trusted person cards' and cited our research as a major influence.
- NatWest introduced a new gambling block on their cards with a 48hr cooling-off period, and Barclays introduced a 72hr cooling-off period to theirs. [ML – the original proposal for gambling blocks on cards, now adopted by many firms, was in an early MMHPI paper.]
- The link between money and mental health featured as a key theme in the Government's Covid-19 winter mental health plan. We were given advanced sight of the paper by the DHSC, who thanked us for our work during the pandemic and said that many of our insights and recommendations shaped the plan. A cross-Government ministerial group has been set up to focus on the long-term impacts of the pandemic on mental health, and we have been asked for our input to steer this work.
- Mental health has been made a cross-cutting priority in the Money and Pensions Service's (MaPS) decade-long financial wellbeing strategy. MaPS credited our work as a key influence in its decision to have mental health as a central cross-cutting priority, and we now sit on the key groups established to guide the implementation of the strategy.
- Finally, this is confidential for now... [ML – I've obviously had to delete this bit, but it's good, let me tell you!]
[ML – for brevity, I've not included further details from Helen on the six major policy papers published, meetings and conferences organised, and the huge influencer work done with regulators and politicians. They will pay dividends with actions in the future, so I will report on them when they do. Though there's more info on the MMHPI site.]
Finally, I'm aware that as trustees you don't always get the direct feedback about the impact you have on people's lives as part of our team, and this feedback from a member of our research community was so lovely that I wanted to share it with you too:
It will always be one of the best experiences of my life and the privilege to be a part of that is never lost on me...
Struggling with my mental health has always had the ability to strip from me any feelings of worth or usefulness, leaving in its place me as an empty frame of a person with nothing to give, nothing to offer and just not capable of anything.
Working with your wonderful team challenged all those thoughts I had about myself and made me rethink them. I can't put into words that experience nor put a price on it. I felt valued, respected, understood, useful, even loved. A wonderful experience with wonderful people in a wonderful team... doing lifesaving and life-changing work.
The MMHPI research community are a group of a few thousand volunteers with lived experience of mental health issues (either themselves or their loved ones) who share their experiences with us, and who we pass many of our policies and proposals through to get real world thoughts and impacts. We can't do without them and we'd love more, so if you fancy it, please click the link.
Hopefully, having read this, you can see why I started smiling.
Thanks to the great team past and present, all our research community, our advisory board and the trustees for all that's been achieved.