Counting on it - Cross sector minimum standards of support for people with mental health problems
Essential service markets are not working for people with mental health problems. Our previous research found that, where poor mental health reduces someone’s ability to carry out daily activities, they can incur costs of £1,100 - £1,550 each year as a result of inaccessible services, inadequate regulatory protections and lack of tailored support.
In its ‘Modernising consumer markets’ green paper, published in April 2018, the government instructed regulators to identify whether there are benefits to introducing cross-sector minimum standards of support that people with mental health problems can expect to receive from their water, energy, telecoms and financial services providers. This report evidences the necessity of such standards and sets out what form they should take in order to achieve better outcomes for people with mental health problems.
The minimum standards we want to see Ofcom, Ofgem, Ofwat and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) implement collectively are in the following areas:
Debt management: People with mental health problems can struggle to manage their finances due to cognitive or behavioural barriers. Falling behind on payments to providers can, in turn, make their mental health problems worse. Many providers aren’t offering enough tailored support or early enough interventions.
Minimum disruption: For some people, having a stable routine is vital to maintaining good mental health. Providers need to do more to warn and support customers when there is a planned energy or water outage.
Accessible service: Communicating with providers and retaining what was agreed during calls was a challenge we frequently encountered. Providers need to ensure customers have access to a communications channel they feel comfortable using and improve telephone support.
Safety net: Current third party support systems are too ‘all or nothing’. It should be easier for customers to involve a trusted third party in the management of their account. These systems need to be flexible enough to adapt to fluctuating conditions.