Consumer Action’s financial counsellors and lawyers speak regularly to individuals experiencing mental health issues. These individuals are commonly trying to deal with a range of consumer problems including excessive debt, essential service disconnection, multiple payday loans and rejected insurance claims.
Australian and international research has found clear links between poverty, mental illness and debt and it is evident that mental health issues can exacerbate consumer and debt problems and be a factor that contributes to why these issues arise in the first place. It is also critical to consider how people experiencing mental health issues can access appropriate support services and how increased funding of financial counselling services will assist. We urge the Victorian Royal Commission into Mental Health to examine these issues.
Consumer Action recommends the Commission:
- Significantly boost funding for financial counselling services as an important gateway to mental health services and also as an adjunct to those services to better address underlying financial and debt issues.
- Expand or replicate innovative partnerships between legal and mental health services, particularly to help address underlying legal problems for people experiencing mental ill-health.
- Consider the establishment of a specialist research and advocacy body to help address the link between financial difficulty and mental health problems.
- Help essential service firms, including banks, lenders and utility suppliers, better understand the challenges that customers with mental health problems face, through the development of universal design or mental health standards.