People with mental health problems failed by companies, Citizens Advice finds - Citizens Advice
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People with mental health problems failed by companies, Citizens Advice finds

24 May 2018

Citizens Advice research reveals limited, inconsistent and patchy support for people with mental health problems. Energy and telecoms were rated the worst sectors for customer service and additional support, while water companies were seen most favourably.

The number of people with mental health problems seeking advice from Citizens Advice on utilities and communications issues has soared, at double the pace of people overall.

Citizens Advice found:

  • People with mental health problems are 4 times more likely to have gone without essentials, such as food, to pay their landline, broadband or mobile phone bill

  • 13% of those with mental health problems have had their landline, broadband or mobile service disconnected once or more due to lack of payment

  • Cases of people being promised extra support with things like meter readings from their energy provider and never receiving it

Citizens Advice is calling for minimum standards to be set for mental health support across all essential service providers. The government recently published its green paper “Modernising consumer markets” in which it called for standards to be introduced.

Citizens Advice says people with mental health problems should be able to expect:

  • Access to well trained, specialist customer support

  • Priority repairs of faulty or broken equipment

  • Not to be prematurely disconnected due to lack of payment

  • Any arrears or debts will be dealt with in-house, rather than being sold on, taken to court or dealt with by a third party.

Citizens Advice is also calling for companies across different markets to develop ways of safely recording information about vulnerable customers’ needs in order to provide better support.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice said:

"If you’re suffering with a mental health problem, dealing with everyday concerns like your energy bill or broadband signal may be particularly difficult.

“Companies need to help their customers with mental health problems rather than adding to their struggles.

"We found that support to manage essential services is either non-existent, hard to find or sub-standard, varying widely between sectors and companies. People with mental health problems deserve the same levels of extra care as any other vulnerable group, like the physically disabled or the elderly.

“Stronger standards would make sure they have access to sympathetic customer support and don't have their mobile or energy suddenly cut off because of a missed payment."

Extra support that is currently available includes:

  • Priority Services Register: support from energy suppliers and network operators to people who are of pensionable age, disabled, chronically sick or have a long-term health condition (including mental health problems)

  • Warm Home Discount: £140 off energy bills for people receiving Pension Credit Guarantee Credit, some people on certain means-tested benefits. People with mental health problems will not be eligible unless they meet the other criteria.

  • Watersure: Caps water meter bills for people on certain benefits, and are either responsible for children in full-time education, or have a medical condition (including a mental health condition) that requires greater use of water.

  • Ofwat Special Assistance: additional customer service available for people with mental health problems

Notes to editors

  1. Citizens Advice commissioned a nationally representative survey of 3,031 people, half of whom had mental health problems, carried out by ComRes. Citizens Advice interviewed over 30 of its own advisors across England and Wales and almost 50 people with mental health problems. Fieldwork was carried out between 15th-22nd March. ComRes are a member of the British Polling Council and abide by its rules. 
  2. Data also comes from a nationally representative survey of 4,178 adults, carried out by YouGov on behalf of Citizens Advice. Fieldwork for this survey took place between 22nd-26th March. YouGov is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
  3. Citizens Advice is made up of a network of local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and the national charity Citizens Advice. 
  4. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers.
  5. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  6. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk 
  7. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
  8. Last year we helped over 2.7 million people face to face, by phone, email or web chat. For full service statistics see our monthly publication Advice trends.
  9. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 23,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.
  1. Citizens Advice commissioned a nationally representative survey of 3,031 people, half of whom had mental health problems, carried out by ComRes. Citizens Advice interviewed over 30 of its own advisors across England and Wales and almost 50 people with mental health problems. Fieldwork was carried out between 15th-22nd March. ComRes are a member of the British Polling Council and abide by its rules.

  2. Data also comes from a nationally representative survey of 4,178 adults, carried out by YouGov on behalf of Citizens Advice. Fieldwork for this survey took place between 22nd-26th March. YouGov is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

  3. Citizens Advice is made up of a network of local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and the national charity Citizens Advice.

  4. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers.

  5. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.

  6. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk

  7. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.

  8. Last year we helped over 2.7 million people face to face, by phone, email or web chat. For full service statistics see our monthly publication Advice trends.

  9. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 23,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.