Skip to main content
Economic Justice

Money and Mental Health Policy Institute report calls for ‘breathing space’ scheme to be extended to 23,000 people with mental health problems

New analysis of national data by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) estimates that 23,000 people in England were struggling with problem debt last year whilst in hospital for mental health problems.  According to the ‘Recovery Space’ report this group is likely to be receiving calls and emails from banks, credit card companies, local authorities and other creditors whilst in acute distress, and possibly feeling suicidal. Thousands more were in a similar position whilst receiving mental health crisis support in the community.

MMHPI has brought together a coalition of leading mental health and debt organisations to call on the Government to extend the proposed ‘breathing space’ scheme to cover people in mental health crisis.

Under current government proposals out for consultation, people in problem debt would be given a fixed period without fees, charges, interest or collections activity if they seek debt advice. This would allow time to get on top of debts before they spiral out of control, but would not support the tens of thousands of people in mental health crisis who are too unwell to either manage their finances alone, or to seek debt advice.

The broad coalition of organisations, including Mind, Rethink, StepChange and Carers UK, led by MMHPI are today calling for the government to extend ‘breathing space’ to people in mental health crisis. Without this, MMHPI’s research has found, tens of thousands of people are trapped in a spiral of escalating debts and worsening mental health. The charity found instances of people who had:

  • Received a court summons for debts whilst they were in hospital, finding letters on their doorstep when they were discharged
  • Missed payments for bills whilst in hospital and unable to access their account, which then led to escalating fees and charges
  • Attempted suicide after receiving contact from bailiffs about escalating debts whilst receiving emergency mental health support.

The extension of the Breathing Space scheme would apply to anyone accessing psychiatric inpatient care, or the care of a Crisis Resolution Team.

A quarter of people with mental health problems are also in problem debt. ‘Recovery Space’ is the first in-depth study of the financial experiences of people in mental health crisis and their carers. Read the full report.