A project has helped North Tyneside residents with mental health difficulties get on top of their finances, saving them thousands of pounds.
Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) and North Tyneside Citizens Advice (NTCA) have worked together on a project evaluating the impact of early debt management support on mental health and wellbeing.
The 10-month pilot aimed to improve access to early intervention advice for people using mental health services, providing timely and effective support and helping to reduce stress and anxiety in a potentially vulnerable population.
Participants of the project were residents of North Tyneside accessing support from CNTW where issues with debt and benefits had been identified. The mental health service users were referred to NTCA and were contacted by phone within 48 hours to begin the process.
Dr Selma Ebrahim, Associate Director of Psychological Services in CNTW, said: “People experiencing debt are more likely to experience mental health problems and having mental health problems makes it harder for people to earn, manage their finances and seek support so are often stuck in a vicious cycle.
“Practical issues like finances can be overwhelming for people having difficulties with their mental health. This project has shown the benefits of linking up mental health services with financial advice agencies such as Citizens Advice.”
Overall, the project has been successful in enabling timely access to effective advice for people with mental health problems experiencing financial difficulties.
Many of the participants said they found the benefits system too difficult to navigate and feared they would get something wrong when filling in forms. After meeting with staff from NTCA, participants said they were given peace of mind and felt able to manage their money better.
The service was praised for being respectful, supportive and understanding of mental health problems. Support was described as person-centred, enabling people to make choices and develop skills to help them in the future.
Overall, the project helped 26 people gain and increase their benefits and helped people deal with over £40,000 in debt. On average, this works out at a total of £91,562.60 income gained per year.
100% of participants rated their overall experience as positive or very positive, with 100% also saying they found the service easy to access and would recommend it to others. 68% said they were more able to make up their mind about things with 58% saying they felt more able to deal with their problems.
Dr Ebrahim added: “We are really pleased with the success of the project. The team at NTCA worked hard to engage with people and to offer personalised support which led to them feeling more positive with reduced levels of anxiety which is great.”
Mark Almond, Director at NTCA, said: “The project showed the value of early intervention in providing advice on benefits and debt that stabilises people’s finances. There are considerable problems with Universal Credit and PIP claims processes which people with mental health issues can struggle to navigate.
“This support solved practical problems and enabled clients to focus on their mental health and wellbeing.”
Thanks to the success of the initial pilot, the two organisations are looking to roll it out across the region.
Although the pilot has finished the services are still available. If you need help with your finances, please contact North Tyneside Citizens Advice at https://www.ntcab.org.uk/