Be under no illusions. Mental health problems can cause severe debt, and severe debt can cause mental health problems. Debt isn’t just a financial problem. It causes relationships to break up, people to lose their homes and families to break down. No matter who you are, it can be hell.
For many living with mental health issues, debt is a common problem. The Debt and Mental Health Evidence Form (DMHEF) is a standardised form that can help debt advisers or creditors to collect medical evidence. This helps inform the decisions that advisers and creditors need to highlight a mental health problem to a creditor or debt adviser and the individual says that the mental health problem has impacted on their ability to manage their money.
But we are aware that certain health professionals- in the main this is GPs- will make a charge for completion of this form? A typical GP charge for filling out an evidence form is between £20 and £50, while the vast majority surveyed had incomes of less than £300 a week – four in ten had incomes of less than £200 a week. Some of course do not – this is a lottery – depending on where you live and who your GP is! This is not a criticism of GPs but another barrier for those with mental health. Although The Royal College of Psychiatrists has recently undertaken research into this issue, it is believed that the position of charging is likely to continue with a minority of health professionals.
Thankfully, charities have united in a new campaign from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, chaired by MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis, to stop NHS doctors charging people with mental health problems up to £150 to fill in a form crucial for them to get debt help. Urging a call for the government to take action against a charge that can plunge vulnerable people into even more financial hardship and today (as I write) it is being discussed – so watch this space.
The call is backed by Mind, Rethink, StepChange and other mental health and advice charities which together have written to the UK health secretaries to support Money and Mental Health’s campaign and to demand change.
One of its clients said: “I’ve known and felt there’s barely an ounce of compassion towards mental illness and the poverty it can cause. Empathy is missing entirely. Mental illness, even in its milder forms, it can be devastating to one’s life. Therefore, exemption from paying would assist greatly just as it does with other life changing conditions.”
My view – this topic is a financial minefield for both patient and GP and it needs sorting. If this service cannot be made free then it needs standardising, recognising and support given. The Health Minister needs to step in.
Check out : https://www.mind.org.uk for resources on this issue.