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Wednesday, 20 June 2018

People with longstanding mental health problems more likely to be in poverty

Written by Vicky Shaw

Many adults with mental health problems could find themselves significantly more likely to end up in poverty than those without longstanding health issues, a report suggests.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said that among 25 to 54-year-olds, 28% of those with a longstanding health problem and 40% of those with a mental health problem are in relative poverty - meaning they have an income below 60% of the median average income after deducting housing costs.

This compares with around 18% for those without longstanding health problems.

The findings come in the IFS's report, Living Standards, Poverty And Inequality In The UK: 2018, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

It said that in 2016-17, 27% of 25 to 54-year-olds reported having a longstanding illness, of whom 18% reported having a longstanding mental health problem.

The report also found that, in the same age group, people with a longstanding illness are much less likely to be in employment, especially if they have a mental health problem.

Around 88% of the healthy population are in paid work. But only 53% of those with a mental health problem were in paid work in 2016-17, the report said, adding that, among those in paid work, those with a longstanding illness tend to earn less.

Tom Waters, a research economist at the IFS and an author of the report, said: "People with a longstanding illness are significantly less likely to be employed than those who are healthy.

"Only half of 25 to 54-year-olds with a longstanding mental health problem are in work compared with nearly 90% of the healthy population."

The report was released as the StepChange Debt Charity said one in every five clients it helped in 2017 had an additional vulnerability on top of their problem debt.

Among the charity's vulnerable clients, the most common reason for their vulnerability was a mental health difficulty, followed by physical disability, cancer and poor general health.

StepChange said debt problems are closely associated with certain forms of vulnerability, particularly illness - and 77% of clients with a terminal illness, and 68% of clients with cancer, cited illness as the main cause of their debt problems.

Among those with mental health issues, 40% said illness was the main reason for their debt.

StepChange's vulnerable clients were more likely than other clients to be in arrears on household bills such as rent, utilities, or council tax. And they spent an average of 70% of their income on essential household bills and food, compared with 65% among other clients.

StepChange Debt Charity chief executive Phil Andrew said: "While there has been progress, it's clear that the finance sector, regulators and the debt advice sector could all still do more to help break the link between being vulnerable and being significantly worse off."

A Government spokeswoman said: "Supporting people with mental health conditions is a top priority for this Government, which is why we've commissioned two expert-led reviews and are investing more in mental health than ever before - spending a record £11.86 billion last year.

"We know that good work is good for health and that people are less likely to be in poverty if they are in employment.

"That's why we provide a range of support to help recruit and retain people with mental health conditions including Disability Employment Advisors, our Disability Confident scheme, and have increased the support available through Access to Work by over a third to £57,200, which has a dedicated Mental Health Support Service."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Dave Cheskin / PA Wire.