Charities launch new guide to help water companies support customers with mental health and debt problems

Posted: Tuesday 3rd March 2020

A new guide has been published to help water companies — and other essential services providers — better understand and support customers struggling with both debt and mental health problems.

Research by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute shows that half of all people in problem debt in England also have a mental health problem, which can affect their ability to manage and earn money, and to communicate with their creditors.

Further research by the Personal Finance Research Centre shows that during a single year in debt collection, a frontline staff member will receive over 140 disclosures aboutcustomer mental health problems.

Money and Mental Health, in partnership with the Money Advice Trust — and with support from UK Finance — have producedThe Need to Know, a free new guide to help creditors support customers affected by debt and mental health problems.

The guide, written by Money and Mental Health and the Money Advice Trust, is aimed primarily at staff working in debt collection teams in essential services firms (3). It features detailed information about how specific mental health conditionsmay affect a customer’s ability to manage and earn money.

The guide also offers practical advice on improving support to customers affected by these issues, including:

· How to get the best out of conversations with customers about their experience of mental health problems

· When it is appropriate to ask for further evidence about a customer’s mental health problem, and when this may be the wrong course of action

· How to interpret and make sense of any evidence the customer provides

· How best to support customers going through mental health crisis situations.

Katie Alpin, Interim Chief Executive of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said:

“If you work in a debt collection team, it’s likely that each week you’ll talk to a number of customers experiencing mental health problems. Getting those conversations right can make a huge difference in helping those people resolve their money problems and avoid unnecessary distress. We hope this guide can equip creditors with the information they need to better understand how a customer’s mental health can impact on their financial situation, and to improve the support they offer in those circumstances.”

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