You are here: Home - Household Bills - News -

Rise in people with mental health issues in council tax debt

Written by: Emma Lunn
A mental health charity has called for urgent support for an estimated 2.8 million people with mental health problems who fell into council tax arrears during the pandemic.

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI), which was set-up by founder Martin Lewis, found that people with mental health problems are three times more likely to have fallen behind on council tax payments compared to the wider population (18% compared to 6%).

It found that two in five suffering from poor mental health experienced a drop in income during the pandemic, with three in 10 having to cut back on essentials, such as foods and heating, to make ends meet.

The MMHPI said that common symptoms of mental health problems, including memory loss and reduced concentration, can make it difficult for people to understand issues around council tax as well as engaging with local authorities.

The charity’s research also highlighted that people with mental health problems face significant barriers to accessing support with council tax bills.

It found that a worrying number of people with mental health problems missed out on pandemic-related financial support measures. While 18% of people with a mental health problem fell behind on council tax bills, only 5% used a repayment holiday. Many people said they found the application process too difficult, or were unaware that this support was available.

Survey respondents reported that disclosing a mental health problem to councils can be extremely difficult and stressful. People said that they often have to disclose their mental health problems several times to different council teams, because information sharing between council departments is inconsistent.

When people do disclose a mental health problem, many do not receive additional help. More than one in three (37%) people who disclosed a mental health problem to their council said they were not offered any additional services or support.

The MMHPI is calling on central government to increase funding to local authorities, to help them provide improved financial support to residents struggling with council tax payments. The charity is also calling on councils to make it easier for people with poor mental health to get support with council tax.

Helen Undy, chief executive of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said: “People with mental health problems have been among the hardest financially hit by the pandemic. Staying on top of council tax payments has become a real struggle for many, but instead of getting support from their local authority, too many people are being left to fall further behind. That’s leaving vulnerable people exposed to threats of court action and bailiff visits, at a time when they are already facing enormous financial and psychological challenges.

“More funding from central government is needed to help local authorities support residents who are struggling with bills. But councils can also make a big difference by being more proactive in reaching out to those who are struggling, and by making it easier for people to access the discounts and other support that do exist. With council tax bills likely to rise further, and many people facing a growing cost of living crisis, it’s vital that councils act now to prevent more residents falling into debt in the coming year.”

There are 0 Comment(s)

If you wish to comment without signing in, click your cursor in the top box and tick the 'Sign in as a guest' box at the bottom.

Autumn Statement: Everything you need to know at a glance

Yesterday Chancellor Jeremy Hunt made his first fiscal statement in the role, outlining a range of tax measure...

End of Help to Buy: 10 alternatives for first-time buyers

The deadline for Help to Buy Equity Loan applications passed on 31 October. If you’re a first-time buyer who...

Moving to an energy prepayment meter: Everything you need to know

As households struggle with the soaring cost of energy, tens of thousands of billpayers are expected to move o...

What will happen if rates change

How your finances will be impacted by a rise in interest rates.

Regular Savings Calculator

Small regular contributions can build up nicely over time.

Online Savings Calculator

Work out how your online savings can build over time.

DIY investors: 10 common mistakes to avoid

For those without the help and experience of an adviser, here are 10 common DIY investor mistakes to avoid.

Mortgage down-valuations: Tips to avoid pulling out of a house sale

Down-valuations are on the rise. So, what does it mean for home buyers, and what can you do?

Five tips for surviving a bear market mauling

The S&P 500 has slipped into bear market territory and for UK investors, the FTSE 250 is also on the edge. Her...

Money Tips of the Week