Last year the Personal Finance Research Centre organised a series of workshops to explore practical ways to help people in financial difficulty who have mental health problems or are in other ‘vulnerable situations’. Today, for Mental Health Awareness week, we reflect on the series and the positive changes that can emerge from events like these.
Our 2017 workshops were arranged around three key themes: suicide and debt; gambling and debt; and money, mental health and ageing. They brought together more than a hundred experts from different fields and disciplines with an interest in these areas. These experts included health practitioners, academics and researchers, financial services providers and commercial organisations, people working in the advice sector, regulators, and others who support and campaign for people in vulnerable situations. They included both senior stakeholders and individuals who are community-based and working ‘on the ground’. Crucially, some of our speakers and participants were ‘experts by experience’ — bringing to the table the indispensable perspectives of people with lived experiences of mental health problems and other vulnerable situations.
As we’re all aware, the role of experts has had a notoriously bad press in recent years. But our experience of this type of event — i.e. those that bring together a broad range of professional and interested parties — is that they help to push forward thinking in a particular area and to drive positive, practical changes. These workshops proved to be no exception.
At two of the workshops we asked people to fill in ‘commitment cards’ with one small action that they would take after the event based on what they had learned. We followed up participants to see whether they had fulfilled their commitment, and this showed a wide range of impacts, both big and small, that a workshop series can achieve. You can read more about the workshop series and its impact in our booklet which is available to download here.
The positive developments that can emerge from this kind of event were further highlighted this week when we learned that Monzo, one of the participants at our September Gambling and Debt workshop, is working on a feature that lets people block transactions to gambling sites from being made on their account. As you can see, my colleague Jamie Evans was particularly excited to hear about this:
We were delighted to learn from Monzo that the workshop discussions helped shape their ideas for this feature. But, of course, the workshop is just one part of a much bigger picture. The development of this self-exclusion feature will also have been informed by an army of expert voices, including our colleagues at the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, organisations like GamCare, the Gambling Commission, and of course the team of financial difficulty and vulnerability experts at Monzo, their developers and the Monzo community forum.
Workshops such as these provide a valuable platform for people to collaborate and share experiences with others working in related fields, to reflect on practices and to learn from each other and think about new or different ways of working. They also offer an opportunity to bring in the perspectives of experts who haven’t written anything down, but who nonetheless have important contributions to make. This particular series also served to remind us that we are just one part of a much wider community of engaged professionals and interested individuals who are passionate about improving situations for those living with mental health problems and other vulnerable situations.
So, what’s next?
How about considering if there is a small step you or your organisation could take to improve the way you engage with people facing mental health problems or other vulnerable situations?
We are grateful to the ESRC for providing funding for the workshop series.