A new report suggests that a failure to address financial difficulty in the main NHS talking therapies programme is holding back the recovery of tens of thousands of people with depression and anxiety. A quarter of people with ‘common’ mental health conditions like depression or anxiety are also in problem debt, which is likely to be holding back their recovery. New analysis by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has revealed that the recovery rate for people with both depression and debt who are in the Government’s main talking therapies programme is likely to be just 22%, less than half that of those who have depression but are not in debt (55%). For those with anxiety and debt, the analysis suggests the recovery rate in the programme is likely to be just 38%, compared to 52% for those with anxiety but no problem debt.
Despite this, the Government’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme does not recognise the damaging link between debt and mental health. Only 6% of people who were in debt and being treated by the programme were signposted for support with their money.The IAPT programme has been struggling to meet its target of 50% recovery rates since its inception in 2008. Today’s analysis from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute suggests that financial difficulty may be the missing link holding the service back, with recovery rates of 53% and 52% possible for anxiety and depression respectively if effective identification and support for people in financial difficulty is added to the programme. The report, The Missing Link, recommends that the IAPT programme introduces simple one-question screening to identify those in financial difficulty and refers them for specialist debt advice. Based on the increase in recovery rates, this change would save the NHS at least £2.4 million and generate at least £105 million in additional economic benefits.Commenting, Polly Mackenzie, Director of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said “If you get home from your latest therapy session to find another overdue bill on the door mat, or to another threatening call from the bailiffs it’s no wonder that recovery takes longer. A quarter of people with mental health problems are in problem debt, and the failure of the NHS to acknowledge and address that fact is keeping people ill for longer. The Government’s Talking Therapies programme has changed the lives of thousands of people by providing access to much-needed support. The next step is to hit that 50% recovery rate target by addressing the problem debt that is holding back recovery.”

Caroline Siarkiewicz, Head of Debt Advice for the Money Advice Service said “This report demonstrates why a holistic approach to resolving health and debt problems together is vital. Over half of people who use our debt advice services have a diagnosed mental health issue – a figure that has been consistent over a number of years, which reinforces earlier research from the Royal College of Psychiatrists and Mind. The report is right to highlight that mental health issues can make the impact of debt much greater; 39% of our clients with mental health issues have received a court summons and 18% have had a phone service cut off. There are important opportunities for organisations delivering the Government’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme to talk to people about their money and direct them to free debt advice that can really make a difference to their health and wellbeing.”



Read the full report here.