In hospital, being treated for depression, and believing she did not have a future, Suzanne Hoddy started spending money on family and friends.
It was the 33-year-old’s second hospital admission, having experienced periods of acute mental health problems.
She was spending her savings on gifts and treats for family and friends, so her parents tried to intervene.
But her bank refused to block payments. Now, she wants the system changed.
“I was a patient in a mental health unit and they were my next of kin. I gave them all my bank details, they tried to put a stop to the payments, but the bank said it was not allowed to do it,” she said.
She said she felt that it was simply an automated decision, which took no account of the circumstances.
Worse was to come for Suzanne. When she returned home from hospital after treatment, she discovered a court summons for non-payment of a council tax bill that she had missed. An extra £1,000 of charges had been added to the bill.
Having spent her savings, and only receiving sick pay as income, she was forced to get a credit card to pay the bill.
Now, she wants to appoint her parents as power of attorney, so they can completely manage her money and property if she loses the mental capacity to do so.
However, she has found the process to be complex and difficult.
The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute said that Suzanne’s experience was common and has called for the system to be reformed.
It has estimated that one in five people with mental health problems in the UK has resorted to letting others use their credit or debit cards on a weekly basis.
Symptoms such as reduced memory, increased impulsivity or difficulties weighing up complex information meant many with mental health issues were forced to rely on family and friends to help with money management.
The institute said the power of attorney system failed to reflect the fluctuating nature of mental health, and wants government and industry action.
“People [with mental health problems] want to share some decisions, some of the time – without feeling as though they are giving away total control. Faced with a system that doesn’t meet their needs, people are relying on risky workarounds to access this support, like sharing PINs and passwords, which expose them to fraud and abuse,” said Helen Undy, the institute’s chief executive.
“We want to see firms themselves offer a greater range of tools to help people share financial decisions, from carers’ cards to more options for third party billing and notifications. This technology exists, it is about time it was used where it is really needed.”