If you are in the middle of a mental health crisis, or experiencing anxiety or stress, probably the last thing you want to think about is money. But bills still need to be paid. And stuff has to be bought. However much we cut down none of us can survive without the basics of food and shelter. Yet what are the odds it’s not actually the best time to go on a mega spending spree either, whether you have loads of £££ in the bank or hardly any cash at all to line your pocket.
Money and mental health has been in the news recently. So we thought we’d take a look at some of the thinking, support and resources that are out there to help people, particularly when they are distressed or stressed, for whatever reason. It is tailored to help people in Powys, but if you land on this blog post from outside our county a lot of the information will still be of use.
1. Money and Mental Health charity launched
First of all, there’s a brand new charity out there – the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute – set up especially to support people experiencing money difficulties during periods of poor mental health. The charity’s chair is the well-known money expert Martin Lewis: “award-winning campaigning broadcaster, newspaper columnist and author, as well as the founder of Money Saving Expert”. In a Telegraph article he writes about why he was prompted to set up the new charity: "I’ve had some very dark days. During one of the worst of those, where I struggled to cope with leaving the house, I felt so fortunate that I wasn’t paid by the hour, struggling to make ends meet”.
With the help and support of a number of mental health charities, Martin has produced a new guide: 'Mental health & debt 2016: help, info, guidance & support for individuals & carers'. Martin’s key message is that “no debt problems are unsolvable... no matter how bad it seems, while it may not always be easy or quick, there is light at the end of the tunnel.” The guide includes chapters on getting free debt advice, working with the banks, and finding out how friends, family and carers can help. Whether your money problems are low level or potentially very serious (what do you do when the bailiffs call…?), Martin has signposted at every stage to key professionals who can help. There are also some very readable case studies. Basically the guide is packed full of useful information, and is a must-read on the subject!
The new charity is keen to find out your views on money and mental health. It has opened an online survey: In Control – a consultation on regulating spending in periods of poor mental health – “we set out the psychological drivers of increased spending and explore a range of possible solutions, along with a series of questions to which we invite those with expertise in financial services, retail and mental health to respond”.
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3. Powys Citizens Advice - Money Advice Service
Sometimes the best advice comes face-to-face and on your doorstep! Here in Powys we are lucky that CAB provide two Money Advisors – Holly Sissons and Natasha Arthurs – who cover the entire county from Machynlleth in the North down to Ystradgynlais in the South. You can ring or email to make an appointment, tel: 01686 617667, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
“The Money Advice Service provides free, impartial money advice tailored to individual needs and circumstances. This is done in 45 minute face to face sessions delivered in venues across Powys.
From insurance to pensions, mortgages to borrowing, if people need help putting together a budget or understanding tax and welfare benefits, the trained Money Advisers will go through the options and help draw up an action plan.
Money Advisers are impartial, and won’t try to sell anything but will give clear, in-depth information.”
The service is open to absolutely anyone – it isn’t means tested. And, if even more specialised help is needed, Natasha and Holly can refer people to other areas within CAB for ongoing support, such as the Energy Project, which looks at ways of reducing bills through energy saving measures and tariff switching.
4. Credit Unions in Powys
Credit Unions are different from banks (although they are sometimes called community banks): they are owned by their members. These non-profit-making money cooperatives encourage members to borrow from pooled deposits at low interest rates. They promote thrift, support community development, and aim “to serve people not profit.” Budgeting advice and other financial services are also available to members.
Members are encouraged to save as well as take out loans – it’s all about developing a healthy relationship to cash, and retaining money locally in the community. Most credit unions have volunteer teams, made up of members, who contribute hugely to the day-to-day running of their organisations.
Powys is covered by four credit unions.
- Hafren Credit Union (North Powys) has recently merged with North Wales Credit Union to become the biggest credit union in Wales – Cambrian Credit Union.
- The Red Kite Credit Union in Builth Wells: “Save regularly, borrow wisely, repay easily!”
- Brecon & District Credit Union: “Jasper was fed up with call centres. So he called Brecon & District Credit Union!”
- Neath Port Talbot Credit Union operates in Ystradgynlais out of the local Mind centre (see below).
Mid Powys Mind holds regular Managing your Money sessions at its Llandrindod Wells base. The next is on Monday 15 August, 1 – 2.30pm. Powys Citizens Advice Bureau advisors (probably either Holly or Natasha – see above) attend and Mid Powys Mind members can access confidential advice in a familiar place. Do call to book a slot if you are interested, tel: 01597 824411.
The mental health charity Ponthafren Association ran these sessions at the Centre’s Newtown base earlier this year. No dates are currently planned, but if this is something that would interest you please get in touch with staff or volunteers at Ponthafren and further sessions can be arranged.
Ystradgynlais Mind taps in to money surgeries provided by Neath Port Talbot CAB, whilst also hosting the local credit union – Neath Port Talbot Credit Union - which is run by its members.
And money advice sessions at Brecon & District Mind are also on the cards, please ring the Centre to register your interest.
So there is a huge amount of support out there!
If you have any tips or ideas for managing money, particularly if we are struggling because of poor mental health, then please leave a comment in the box below. We would love to hear from you!