|Jeremy Hunt hints at willingness to scrap controversial debt and mental health doctor’s note charge.|
Today Martin Lewis, Chair of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, was joined by cross-party MPs to deliver a letter from 2,000 people calling on Jeremy Hunt to stop the controversial charge for essential mental health paperwork.
People with mental health problems and debt are being charged up to £150 for a doctor’s note required by their creditors to prove that they have a mental health condition and should receive extra support. The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute revealed last month that one in three people who ask for the Debt and Mental Health Evidence Form are being charged. This is resulting in people going without support or racking up more debt just to pay their GP. As the momentum behind the campaign grows, the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, has issued a statement indicating his willingness to tackle the issue.
Martin Lewis, Chair of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute said:
“If you need a GP to sign a form saying you’re entitled to a council tax exemption because of mental illness there’s no charge. Yet the same person being chased for council tax debt, something which in itself can worsen their condition, has to pay. This is a nonsense. We must remove all barriers to those with mental health conditions getting appropriate debt help.
However, there’s no bad guy here. It’s the system that’s broken and needs fixing. And it’s only through the work of the Policy Institute in building a network of 1,000 people with lived experience, who want to share it to aid others, that’s enabled us to start to spot issues like this, put them under the nose of people in power to get them fixed.”
Johnny Mercer, Member of Parliament for Plymouth Moor View, sad:
“In a time of financial strife, when you are dealing with a mental illness, that last thing you need is potentially having to come up with up to £150 on hoof.
“Two thirds of GPs are already not charging for this form so we just need to help find a situation where we get the other third in line with the majority practice.
“It’s great to see the Money & Mental Health Policy Institute already identifying issues and seeking to provide solutions to make it easier for those with mental health illnesses and I am proud to be a member of their Advisory Board.”
Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health, responded:
“I am very grateful to the Institute for raising this – people experiencing debt crisis need affordable mental health support. I have asked officials to look at how to resolve this issue so that no one has their mental health condition made worse while trying to get vital help. I hope to be able to update on progress shortly.”
One in four people with a mental health problem is also in problem debt, and research shows that mental health problems can make it harder both to earn and to manage money. Many banks recognise this and are willing to offer extra financial support, freezing interest payments or even writing off some debts when people are struggling. But to access this help customers are often asked to provide evidence of their mental health problem, signed by a doctor.
Since 2008, this has usually been done via a single form used by the credit industry, advice agencies like Citizens Advice and others.
The investigation by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute revealed that one in three people who asked their GP for this note were charged for it – some as much as £150, but typically £20-£50. Charges were found right across the UK and the vast majority of those charged had incomes of less than £300 per week; 4 in 10 had incomes of less than £200 per week.
As this isn’t an official NHS form the current rules do allow GPs to charge, just as they do for certification that a patient is fit to fly on holiday. However, Money and Mental Health is calling on the UK Governments to re-categorise the Debt and Mental Health Evidence Form as an NHS form, making it exempt from charges, just like a fit note for an employer or the forms that certify a patient has a health condition that makes them eligible for council tax reductions.
Leading mental health and debt charities including Mind, Rethink Mental Illness and StepChange have lined up to back the campaign, and over 2,000 people have signed the letter to the Secretary of State.
Further details about the campaign at www.moneyandmentalhealth.org/stopthecharge
• Letter delivery to the Department of Health: http://bit.ly/2eB40az (Left to right: Martin Lewis, Chair and Founder of Money and Mental Health, Norman Lamb MP, Polly Mackenzie, Director of Money and Mental Health, Johnny Mercer MP, Paul Scates, who has personal experience of being charged, Luciana Berger MP)
• Martin Lewis, Founder and Chair of Money and Mental Health: http://bit.ly/1OfYfez
• Polly Mackenzie, Director of Money and Mental Health: http://bit.ly/2dglRQU
Notes to Editors
• The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute was set up by Martin Lewis in spring 2016, registered charity number 1166493. It is led by Polly Mackenzie and conducts research and develops policies to change the way banks, lenders, regulators, the health service and government operate, to help people with mental health problems protect themselves from financial difficulties and get out of debt.
• Money and Mental Health conducted an online survey of nearly 5,500 people with mental health problems in spring 2016. Respondents told us that:
◦ Three in ten (30%) of those who were asked to provide evidence of their mental health problem who had seen a healthcare professional in the last 24 months were charged by them to provide this evidence.
◦ 7 in 10 of those charged had incomes of less than £300 per week; 4 in 10 had incomes of less than £200 per week.
◦ Charging was evident right across the UK, including in each of the devolved nations.
• Money and Mental Health conducted a follow-up survey with 275 people who had been charged by their GP for the Debt and Mental Health Evidence form in the last 24 months. This survey revealed that charges for the form ranged from £10 to £150.
• The letter delivered to the Secretary of State has 2,044 signatures.
• Polly Mackenzie is the Director of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute. She was previously Director of Policy for the Deputy Prime Minister, working in Number 10 and the Cabinet Office, from 2010-2015.
Martin Lewis OBE, Money Saving Expert, is an award-winning campaigning broadcaster, newspaper columnist and author. He founded MoneySavingExpert.com in 2003 for £100 and remains its Executive Chairman. It is now the UK’s biggest money site, with more than 14 million monthly users. Martin has his own prime-time ITV programme – The Martin Lewis Money Show – and is resident expert on This Morning, Good Morning Britain and BBC Radio 5 Live’s Consumer Panel, among others.