Martin Lewis: Money and Mental Health charity 2021/22 – Covid & cost of living hell...
It's hard to believe the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) charity is now six years old. In that short time, it has established itself as the go-to place for politicians, regulators and firms for help on how to divorce the marriage made in hell that is debt and mental health issues.
I'm proudly and happily still funding the charity (see my £10m to charity? blog for more on that), and chair the high powered trustee team (who I learn a lot from). Which means each year I write the foreword to the annual report – and today the 2021/22 annual report is out, so I thought I'd blog my formal chair's foreword here.
MMHPI Annual Impact Report: Chair's foreword
It's been another awful year. 2021 brought more Covid, more lockdowns and the start of the cost of living crisis – which is fast becoming the worst hit on people's personal finances since I began as the Money Saving Expert in 2000.
All that leads to widespread societal uncertainty and stress with a toll taken on people's mental health, income and employment. For those who were already experiencing mental health problems, a 'cost of living crisis' is nothing new, and they were more at risk of financial hardship during the pandemic than the wider population.
That's why the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute's vision of breaking the link between financial difficulty and mental health problems has never been more vital.
Despite the past year's upheavals, and in some ways because of them, I am incredibly proud of the impact that the charity continues to have in reducing the harm caused by the pandemic, and securing changes from government, regulators, and firms that make a difference to people's lives. These include...
- The new Breathing Space debt relief scheme coming into place in May 2021. Thanks to our campaigning, people receiving NHS mental health crisis services will not be chased or charged fees and interest on their debts for as long as they are receiving that treatment (and for 30 days after).
- Changes to out-of-date laws on debt letters, following our successful Stop the Debt Threats campaign. From the summer of 2021, creditors were no longer forced to send intimidating debt letters to people who are seriously behind on payments.
- Raising the alarm about planned cuts to face-to-face debt advice – plans that, thanks to our research and campaigning alongside an army of debt advisers, were later dropped.
- Working with a number of big high street banks to ensure they are more accessible for those with mental health issues – bringing direct impact on the day-to-day issues.
- Publishing state-of-the-nation research into the financial and mental wellbeing of people across the UK during the pandemic.
- Helping to lead a cross-sector coalition that successfully persuaded the Government to crack down on scams in the Online Safety Bill.
- Persuading the Government to make improvements to the benefits system, which will give people more channels to take part in health assessments.
- Bringing together experts from the worlds of business, politics and healthcare for the Mental Health and Income Commission, which highlighted the stark income inequalities people with mental health problems face and how they can be addressed.
This is an impressive list of achievements in a year, especially for a small charity that is only six years old. Many factors help us punch far above our weight, but I'd like to draw special attention to our incredible Research Community of 'experts by experience', whose stories and ideas are at the heart of everything we do.
We owe them a huge thanks for their tremendous support in sharing their experiences and feedback to help others, and highlighting where changes need to be made.
There are many others deserving thanks for their crucial contribution to our work. They include vice-chair Richard Lloyd (who is now moving up or down – you decide – as interim chair of the Financial Conduct Authority) and all my talented fellow trustees for their continued support, expertise and stewardship, and our Advisory Board for their experience and guidance.
Finally, I want to repeat my annual thanks to the whole Money and Mental Health team, and in particular Helen Undy, whose passion, leadership and enthusiasm has enabled the charity to have such great impact.
Of course 2021 was bad, 2022 is looking no better. The cost of living crisis is in full swing, these are dire times for many people's pockets – which has a direct effect on their mental wellbeing. As ever, we will do everything to come up with more practical solutions to reduce the psychological and financial harm this could cause, and to tackle the longstanding inequalities which drive the toxic link between money and mental health problems.
Founder and Chair, Money and Mental Health Policy Institute