To mark Social Prescribing Day, Sir Hector Sants, Chair of the Money and Pensions Service reflects on their work with partners to support financial wellbeing through social prescribing 

During the last year the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) has been delighted to collaborate with the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP) on the new Thriving Communities Programme.

The growth and investment in NHS social prescribing services, supporting wider person-centred needs alongside access to health services, resonates strongly with our work.  As the body of government responsible for providing guidance and help to people to – as our vision statement says – make the most of their money and pensions, we seek to frame the financial wellbeing agenda.  Our particular focus is on helping the financially vulnerable and those in financial distress.

The development of Thriving Communities coincided with the launch and activation of the UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing, which MaPS will coordinate, bringing together a wide range of partners and stakeholders from financial services, the advice sector and health services.

The aim of the ten-year UK Strategy is to significantly improve the nation’s financial wellbeing. Specific goals include children and young people having better access to financial education; people of all ages being supported to save where they can; people having access to credit products they can afford access to debt advice when people need it; and people supported to prepare for later life and retirement. We know that financial wellbeing can be affected by a range of social and health factors too, so delivery of the UK Strategy also aims to ensure that the whole strategy works well for people with mental health problems.

In England nearly half (46%) of people in problem debt also have a mental health problem, according to the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute.  This can be a source of vulnerability for people who face both money and health problems. Anecdotally we believe that the mix of money and health issues that social prescribing link workers across England are supporting is becoming increasingly visible.  While the links between money and health problems are not new, the Covid-19 pandemic has shone an even stronger light on them.

We are now actively working with a range of stakeholders at the health system level nationally, including NASP, to explore how we can better collaborate and synchronise the financial wellbeing and health agendas.  This can include embedding the principle in policy, guidance and commissioning frameworks that recognise that financial wellbeing, for many people, is also a health matter and vice versa. As the NHS and a wide range of public services seek to ‘build back better’ in the light of the pandemic we are seeking to join the dots more visibly and firmly between health and financial wellbeing.

MaPS takes a place-based approach by working closely with social prescribing services through NASP’s new regional support structure, to ensure that our free money support tools and resources are easily and systematically available through their link worker to people who need them.  We’ve already partnered with Mental Health UK and NASP to produce a new and free Mental Health and Money Toolkit for distribution through social prescribing.

We hope that our work together with NASP and other health stakeholders in England, and across all of the three devolved nations of the UK, will go from strength to strength to support people where their money and health concerns coincide.

Sir Hector Sants, Chair, Money and Pensions Service Sir Hector Sants, Chair, Money and Pensions Service