How to keep money under control
These pages give information on different sources of income, how medication can affect your money and how, if necessary, you can give others control over your money if you become particularly ill.
Sources of income
Work provides people with more than just an income. Many people associate their identity with their work and employment can increase a person's sense of achievement, satisfaction and self-esteem. Being in employment can help give a structure and purpose to each day. Although not the primary purpose of work, employment allows for social contact with others and for many people is a place where they make friends.
“I did some permitted work recently which has helped me to pay off a credit card. And I feel a lot better…in more control” – Mind focus group participant
Unfortunately people with mental health problems who want to work still sometimes experience stigma and discrimination. Mind's Taking Care of Business campaign has practical advice for both employers and employees about reducing stigma and avoiding workplace discrimination.
Financial issues and employment
Paid work usually gives more financial security, but for some people being in paid work can mean becoming worse off financially due to benefits and other support reducing or stopping. Mind is campaigning about these issues.
If you would like to find out if you would be better off in employment or on benefits then talk to a welfare benefits adviser explaining, if necessary, how your mental health impacts on your ability to work. Your local JobCentre Plus will be able to help.
When considering whether you should try to get a job, you will want to consider the total income you will have. Remember to include:
- Any benefits that you will still receive when working
- Money from friends and family
Benefits can be a useful source of income for many people experiencing mental health problems. The work environment might trigger symptoms or you might be too unwell to carry out the tasks required by a particular role.
If this is the case for you, you may be entitled to access Social Security benefits. The Directgov benefits and financial support website can help you work out what you are entitled to.
The government is changing the way that people are assessed for benefits, and the types of benefit available. Mind is campaigning to ensure that the welfare system supports everyone who needs it. Further information is available on the benefits and welfare reform campaign page.
Welfare benefits advisers can be found at some local Mind associations, Citizen's Advice Bureaux, other voluntary and charitable organisations, independent advice centres, local authorities, health services, law centres and housing associations.
Family and friends
Many people get some financial support from friends and, particularly, family. Remember to include this income when you are looking at your financial circumstances.
Medication and money
Some medication for mental health problems may have side effects that affect your income or ability to manage money.
Mind's information on treatments provides further information on the effects of medication. While most people will only experience some, or even none, of these side effects, they can include:
- Problems with sleeping – either too much or too little - making it hard to work full time
- Reduced co-ordination or tremors
- Drowsiness – limiting your ability to concentrate
- Nervousness – making you less likely to want to talk to strangers
It is useful to talk to your GP or prescribing doctor about the side effects of your medication. It is possible that some of the symptoms might be short-term, or that medication can be reduced to get the balance between reducing unwanted symptoms and experiencing unpleasant side effects.
You could also consider contacting your bank or financial institution to alert them to the issues that you are experiencing and ask if they have options to help if you have problems signing, or using 'chip and pin' or cash machines. Many banks will be able to put you in touch with staff who are trained to help customers with mental health problems.
Small, practical steps like timing your shopping or banking for quieter periods so that you have time to sign or use the machines at your own pace can also be useful. If you are able, try a few different shops until you find supportive staff or a local shop where staff can get to know you.
Giving financial control to others
Giving financial control to others: making your choice
If you become very ill, you may need to give some control over financial matters to others. You may want to think about what you want to happen in these circumstances while you are well enough to do so.
Whether you have the capacity to make financial decisions depends not only on your mental health but the nature of the particular financial decision that has to be taken. For example, some people can make decisions on how they would like to spend small amounts of money, but not larger sums. Mind has produced a legal briefing on the Mental Capacity Act and on how the act can protect financial decisions.
Lasting Power of Attorney
If your capacity is significantly impaired, financial decision-making may be handed over to someone else. You may have already planned for this eventuality by creating a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA – known as Enduring Power of Attorney until April 2007). This is a legal document giving the person(s) of your choice the authority to deal with either all or some of your financial affairs, now or in the future; for example, if you go into hospital, or feel too ill to cope, and you want your attorney to take over your bills or other expenditure. LPAs are especially useful if your mental health fluctuates, with periods when you don’t feel able to cope.
The law recognises that some people have the capacity to create an LPA but not the capacity to manage their money if their affairs are complex or they have substantial assets. Creating the LPA gives you control as to the range of responsibility you wish to hand over.
We actually wrote to these companies requesting they do not send me any letters or phone calls because it was having a detrimental effect on my mental health. And almost overnight the phone calls stopped… And it’s been an enormous weight off my mind, it really has- A person experiencing mental health problems and their attorney
Court of Protection
If you have assets and are unable to manage your financial affairs, through lack of mental capacity, and have not executed an LPA, an application can be made to the Court of Protection (CP) for someone else (known as a receiver) to be appointed for this purpose. The Court will require medical evidence of your inability to manage your assets. The Public Guardianship Office (the CP's administrative branch) can provide help and representation for you, while the CP is involved in your affairs.
If you are a beneficiary under a trust then you should make sure that the trustees are aware of your circumstances as they have the power to release funds when you require financial support.
If your main income is from social security benefits then the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) may appoint someone to make claims, receive and spend benefits on your behalf. This person is known as an appointee.
If you are concerned about who will act as appointee in the future, then it is helpful to discuss matters in advance with someone you trust and ask them to put themselves forward to the DWP should it become necessary.
How the Mental Capacity Act can help people with mental health problems
Under the terms of the Mental Capacity Act Act people should be assumed to be capable of making a particular financial decision unless it is proved otherwise, and they should be offered all appropriate support to do so. It also gives you protection if someone has to make decisions for you.
The Act ensures that:
- It will be assumed that you are capable of making decisions about your finances unless it can be shown that you are not.
- You will be given as much support as possible in making decisions before any decision is taken that you are not able to make them.
- Any decision taken on your behalf should be in your best interests.
- Anything that is done for you should be the option that least restricts your rights and freedoms
The Mental Health Foundation provides information about how the Mental Capacity Act can help people with mental health problems as customers of banks or building societies and explains what you can do if you feel the law has not been followed.
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